By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
APOLOGISING for the long delay in restoration in East Grand Bahama, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper gave an assurance that assistance for home repairs and critical government services and infrastructure will be mobilised within weeks.
He said the Disaster Reconstruction Authority would no longer use the old voucher system that was put in place by the former Minnis administration.
Three years after Hurricane Dorian, many homes are still in need of repairs. The residents felt they were being neglected and expressed their concerns and frustration to Mr Cooper while he attended a memorial service for Dorian victims in East End.
“The DRA launched a new Homeowner Assistance Relief Programme for roof, windows, siding, plumbing and electrical repairs, and with this you get supplies from DRA without need for the old voucher system,” Mr Cooper said. “And once this assessment is done and the Authority has given assurances, we will provide and procure necessary building materials.
“We know you lack critical government services and infrastructure, and we are looking to document the special needs that impact the community, and we should have assistance mobilised within weeks.”
He said DRA chairman Alex Storr has ordered his team to begin inspections soon to ensure an updated assessment on homes.
He indicated that they have plans for East Grand Bahama, and Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has “offered the highest commitment of the government to move forward with necessary work” in the East End area.
“This will require significant resources and Cabinet has committed those resources to make sure we make an impact immediately,” he said. “We are employing local people to do the work to get some home repairs outstanding done.
“We are going to be focused on all the areas that require (attention) in local government, NIB, police, Social Services, BTC, post office services,” said the DPM.
To date, Mr Cooper reported that police services have been restored in McLean’s Town.
Additionally, he stated that NIB services will come soon to East Grand Bahama two days a week as soon as suitable office space is provided.
“That is being sourced now, and we anticipate having service back in a few weeks, and RBPF will advance patrols in East Grand Bahama from McLean’s Town,” he said.
Mr Cooper also gave an update regarding restoration of facilities to resume public education in East End, three years after Dorian.
“Another important aspect of government that is missing is the school. I know right now children from K3 to grade 9 are transported by bus to Freeport. And if they come from Sweeting’s Cay, they add a boat ride as well, and we believe three years after Dorian this is unacceptable,” he said.
The district superintendent has identified adequate accommodations at St Cleveland Baptist Church in Freetown to host K3 to grade 1. He said the facility can house up to 30 students. Mr Cooper said that the district superintendent is seeking permission from the Ministry of Education to secure the facility.
“We expect to have them (the students) transferred in October,” he said.
Grades two to nine students, he said, will be placed at the high school in High Rock.
“We know that the facility is in need of major repairs and over the course of the next few weeks that will be done,” he said. “Students from Sweeting’s Cay and the settlements in East End such as McLean’s Town, High Rock, and Freetown will be accommodated in amalgamated school in High Rock, and as far as health services we know that the minister of health has reopened clinics in McLean’s Town and High Rock,” he said.
“I know you heard a lot of talk over the last two years, I am here to commit that the time for talking is over,” Mr Cooper said.