Thursday, August 13, 2020
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
The Disaster Reconstruction Authority has spent $30 million to date in debris removal on Grand Bahama and Abaco, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said on Wednesday as he announced the continuation of “intensified” debris clean up here on the island, in partnership with two major private entities in Freeport.
With an active hurricane season forecasted, he stressed that DRA wants to ensure that debris is removed from all settlements and communities in Grand Bahama.
“We are again in the middle of a very active hurricane season and prior to Isaias, we recognize there was still a lot of debris in communities in GB, in the government areas and private subdivisions. We started to intensify our program to ensure we get the debris removed so they will not be projectiles, and DRA, with its partners, will continue until all debris is removed.”
As a result of the partnership with Grand Bahama Port Authority and Sanitation Services, Mr Lewis indicated that tremendous headway has been made in debris removal since Hurricane Dorian.
He noted that Grand Bahama and Abaco are still declared as disaster zones. The minister indicated that they had initially received a proposal of $100m from foreigners to remove debris out of the country, but instead decided to hire Bahamian contractors at a cost of some $30m.
“In GB, we are still a disaster zone as well as Abaco. In GB, we are pleased to be able to partner with the GBPA deputy director and the City of Freeport manage Troy McIntosh, and Lou Carroll, of Sanitation Services. Without their partnership, we would not have realized the level of success that DRA has seen today,” said Minister Lewis.
“The DRA has ventured in areas that we are not even responsible for such as private subdivision, but as a government, it would have been very reckless for us to have debris sitting in areas that pose a threat to citizens.”
The Grand Bahama Port Authority, which manages some 23 private subdivisions in Freeport, has estimated that their cost in debris cleanup is “in the million.”
Said Mr McIntosh: “It is still being tallied, it is in the million I can tell you. It is much larger than we spent with Matthew when we would have spent half a million (dollars). We have passed that six months, ten months ago.”
He noted that, through their service provider Sanitation Services, some 25,000 truck-loads (100,000 tons) of debris had been removed and transported to the landfill, since early September.
Lou Carroll, general manager of Sanitation Services, estimates that the disposal of 100,000 tons of debris would have cost $2m to 3m, but rates were reduced to bring the cost down.
Minister Lewis said that the entire island is in a better state and asked residents to keep their communities clean and to report indiscriminate dumping.
McIntosh and Carroll hailed the partnership with the government as a huge success in returning the island to some normalcy, and look forward to a continued partnership.
“We want… to thank the minister for partnering with us to ensure private subdivisions are cleaned and debris removed. We know it has been a challenge for some developments within those areas, and so when he asked to partner with us, it was something that we welcomed.
“We thank you for this partnership it goes a long way and hope it is the beginning of many to come where we are able to with more help and assistance to see our city green and pristine as we move forward in trying to bring GB back to the garden city as we know it,” said McIntosh.
With construction underway on Grand Bahama, Mr McIntosh stressed that GBPA and LUSCO are not responsible for the removal of construction debris. He said residents are responsible and should ensure that contractors add it as part of their services to have debris taken to the landfill and discarded the right way.
Mr Carroll also noted that in addition to debris from Dorian, they are also seeing an increase in debris during COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since COVID-19 came around and a lot of folks have been asked to stay at home and many have decided to clean their yards and get stuff off their property, and we found that the quantity we have seen is 10 times more than what we normally get,” he said.
“We (Sanitation Services) would never be where we are today without DRA and GBPA. So, I think Freeport, in general, should be very thankful for the partnership we had over the last several weeks. It would have taken us months,” he said.
Mr Carroll believes that in another week or so GB should be “very close to normal”.