Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
WHILE Education Minister Jeff Lloyd could not confirm yesterday whether the government intends to buy the property for the proposed STAR Academy, he noted talks are underway with church leaders, stating that all parties are “committed” to resolving this issue.
His comments came after Works Minister Desmond Bannister told The Nassau Guardian the government would sink another $10 million into the project to bring it to completion.
The Students Transitioning Achieving and Refocusing Enrichment (STAR) Academy is a brainchild of the former Christie administration to develop a centre for at-risk youth. The facility is currently under construction at the former site of the Bahamas Academy of Seventh-Day Adventists school, located on Wulff Road.
In 2017, Mr Lloyd told the House of Assembly that the Christie administration invested $25.7m into the premises.
In June of that year — a few weeks after the general election — a Ministry of Education press release noted that despite a lease agreement being drawn up and two years of work being done, church officials had not been paid any rent or received any money.
When asked if the government is planning to buy the property for STAR Academy, Mr Lloyd told The Tribune: “I can’t say we’re planning to buy. I can say that we have considered several options that we have presented to the Seventh-Day Adventists’ new leadership team, very important for us to emphasise new leadership team.
“And they are considering, obviously, those options. And they want to have, when they have considered them, they want to have talks to as to how we can best address a resolution of this matter, because now it’s longstanding.
“It’s already cost us about $20m plus dollars and probably another $10m will have to be spent to complete the project.”
Mr Lloyd added talks have already begun.
“I only had one meeting so far with the new leadership team; I met with the secretary general…last week Wednesday. So I expect to meet with the full team, meaning their full team, shortly. And then we can see where we go from there. But this will be exploratory, because they are brand new.
“I don’t anticipate them being uncooperative. They have expressed to me, very sincerely and very firmly, and I believe them, that they are committed, not just intend to be cooperative, but are committed to having this matter resolved.They have expressed that, the previous administration, this administration, even more enthusiastically, even in my estimation more sincerely…They are committed. So let me take them at their word, they are committed to resolving it, we are obviously committed. As a matter of fact, we are mandated to resolve it.”
When asked if more funds could be pumped into the project, Mr Lloyd said “yes”, in order for the facility to be complete. This would bring the total cost to $30m, according to Mr Lloyd.
“I am guided by the Ministry of Works, whose minister estimates that possibly another $10m,” he said.
Last year, Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson criticised the government for the stall on the project in an interview with The Tribune.
“We’re still waiting to find out what is the status of that institution, when is that going to be prepared and ready, because that is supposed to be an institution for our at-risk students,” she said.