By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Disaster Reconstruction Authority’s Small Homes Repair programme will resume in a matter of weeks, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management, and Reconstruction Iram Lewis announced on Saturday in Grand Bahama.
This is “good news” for the 4,000-plus frustrated homeowners in Grand Bahama and Abaco registered with the Small Homes Repair programme.
The programme was suspended in September after the suppliers did not receive payments from the time the initiative was launched by the agency to assist with the repair of homes destroyed during Hurricane Dorian.
During a press briefing on Saturday at the Office of the Prime Minister in Freeport, Mr Lewis said that the funds have been released.
He said: “The good news is that the Small Homes Repair programme will commence in short order. The funds have been released, so we will be going into the second phase.
“The DRA will make a further announcement, but early in the next two weeks that programme will resume, and that speaks well for persons who have been waiting for a long time and who received a portion of the down payment.
“We do not have all of the funding we would like, but we are seeking more funding in short order to ensure that everyone we committed to with respect to home repair will be honoured and satisfied,” he said.
The assistance programme has 4,559 registered homeowners and 3,686 approved homeowners. Some $11m has been spent towards the initiative to date.
Mr Lewis has said that $13m was needed to complete the programme.
On the rebuilding of Rand Memorial Hospital, Mr Lewis said there would be a phased opening of the public health institution very soon.
He reported that there has been “great progress,” particularly in the lobby area, pharmacy, the female ward, the children’s area, and the operating theatre, which will be the first phase of the opening of RMH.
Once those works are completed, Mr Lewis said the planning of the hospital’s extension would begin.
“We are aggressively working along with our architects and planners with respect to the extension,” he added.
He noted that the multi-storied extension would be higher than the ground level of the existing hospital.
RMH sustained severe flood damage during Hurricane Dorian. A nearby tent hospital was later set up by Samaritan’s Purse while remediation work was carried out at the facility.
Mr Lewis explained that the government believes in a ‘building back better” concept concerning all capital works projects underway on Grand Bahama.
“We take that concept seriously, and if you look at the Fishing Hole Road causeway where Dorian exposed weaknesses in design and construction, we redesigned it and built it better,” he said.
He said that the same was done at the courthouse building and the public schools. He noted an additional $5 million was spent to ensure improvements in the construction process and management of the school repairs and construction.
Mr Lewis also mentioned the Smith’s Point seawall project and the road work projects undertaken in East and West Grand Bahama.
“While persons are frustrated because of timelines, we want to ensure that these capital projects are planned properly and build back better.”