WATER AND SEWERAGE CORPORATION Committed to Growth, Committed to Quality

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Presentation at the Long Island Business Outlook

Good morning

Firstly, let me express gratitude to Joan and The Counsellors for having this event here. 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my esteemed privilege and pleasure to serve as the Member of Parliament for Long Island and also in my capacity as the Executive Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation.  

I am pleased to proclaim that, after many years of stagnation, Long Island is on the move.

Is everything perfect? No. Are we steadily making progress? Definitely.

Indeed, the impact of COVID 19 has been felt throughout the world. Like the rest of the world, Long Island has also been impacted – medically, socially and economically.

I am a part of the local business community—I am a businessman and a member of the Long Island Chamber of Commerce.  Doing business in Long Island is a labour of love.

As a businessman involved in the car rental industry, I have suffered an 85 per cent loss in revenue in my car rental business this year. Like many of you, I am definitely feeling the pinch. This has been my worst year in business.

During this Government’s present term in office, substantial improvements have been made in Long Island, from the provision of potable water here in Long Island to ongoing and impending road works to surveys, architectural renderings and plans to construct a new airport to an on-island radar system to various small projects, etcetera. There are a number of upcoming projects that I have been discussing with the Ministry of Works and I expect to announce a few of them in short course.

I begin by noting that as a businessman and a proud member of the Long Island Chamber of Commerce.

Airport

Whilst I realize the challenges we face today, I am grateful to see headway being made towards the attainment of a dream that many Long Islanders have long yearned to see. I want to also thank Director of Aviation Algernon Cargill and his team as well as t architects and engineering team.

I want to commend the work of my friend Mr. Algernon Cargill who has been a greater supporter in our thrust to bring a new international airport to Long Island. We are well on our way.

Indeed, for many many years, Long Island has desperately needed an international airport that could cater to large local aircraft and direct flights from North America, South America and Europe—much like San Salvador, Eleuthera, Exuma, Abaco, etc.

The lack of airlift has held Long Island back. 

An international airport would greatly assist in the expansion of the tourism product.

The airport is the catalyst for Long Island’s growth.

This new international hub would represent the turnaround that the economy of Long Island desperately needs. The international airport would also lend to the further diversifying Long Island’s economy and support growth in agriculture, fisheries, entrepreneurship and manufacturing. Its construction would lead to an economic boom in Long Island, with construction activity likely picking up and new spin off businesses, from tour companies to restaurants and bars to straw and craft vendors to fishing to rental cars to hotels/motels/bed and breakfasts, etc. This is the stimulus that the Long Island economy needs. 

Given the above, I am pleased to note that architectural drawings, a survey plan and tender documents are being drawn for the construction of a new, $18-plus million dollar international airport. The tender for the new airport is expected to be published in December, 2020/January, 2021 and construction of the new airport is expect to begin early next year. I am extremely pleased about the progress thus far and look forward to the impact of this airport upon Long Island. The new, world class runway will be 6500 feet long, 100 feet wide; there will be a state of the art terminal, a crash fire and rescue building which is projected to have 2 fire engines and a utility building.

I won’t expand further as I do not want to preempt Mr. Cargill as he speaks to the progress of this development.

Over the years, I have seen that only a small percentage of high school graduates remained on Long Island after graduation.  Our most valuable resource is our people and I think that with opportunities, many of these islanders would readily leave New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Exuma.  The airport, and the socioeconomic impact that will undoubtedly flow from it, will encourage more people to stay and/or return to our island, to open small businesses and hire others. The airport would broaden the employment options; encourage more Bahamian and foreign investors to come to Long Island; and it would encourage more Long Islanders to become entrepreneurs.

Healthcare

Today, as we chart the course for our growth, I recognize that we must speak to the myriad of challenges that our island faces.

However, as Long Island moves from strength to strength, as we also improve our infrastructure to boost our economy, we must improve our health facilities. People won’t come to Long Island unless there’s adequate health care or they’re able to quickly evacuate.

I applaud our healthcare professionals on Long Island!

I continue to press for the establishment of a local medical lab (blood works, etc).

Given that, I am pleased to announce that a contract has recently been signed for infrastructural improvements to the Simms Community Clinic. Two additional contracts will soon be signed for infrastructural works at the Community Clinic in McKenzie’s and at the Doctor’s Residence.

In 2011, my dear uncle—Aaron Gibson— died after a horrific traffic accident. Like many Long Islanders, he was taken to the clinic on the back of a truck –a white, Chevy truck to be exact. That’s a thought that I still struggle with today. Just yesterday, my constituent Shirley Turnquest complained to me about how it pained her to see her sick husband, Martin, transported on the back of a truck in a wheel chair.

The indignity of transporting our sick and dead in the back of trucks has long grated me to my very soul.

Ever since my election, I have been striving to attain two ambulances, one for each of the major clinics. Today, I am pleased to note that I have attained one of the ambulances via a major corporate donation and that I remain hopeful of attaining another from the Ministry of Health.

Water

I remain adamant in my belief that our ability to attract even greater number of visitors, and investors to Long Island is directly hinged to the availability of world class infrastructure.   Central to this is our ability to provide an adequate supply of water to all users thereby improving the economic outlook for all of us. I am proud to have directed and overseen significant water supply expansions on Long Island during my tenure as the Member of Parliament.

In this regard, the Corporation’s Bahamas Water Supply Improvement Project funded by a $28.33 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) with $13.3 million in counterpart funding from the Government of The Bahamas and the Corporation, has greatly assisted in extending world class piped potable water around The Bahamas, inclusive of Long Island. 

The Central Long Island Water Supply System 18.9 miles of new water mains which will provide piped potable water to over 300 homes and businesses for the first time. This extension of pipelines northward to Thompson Bay, Lot 1, and southward to Lochabar, Lot 2, are both substantially complete. The only outstanding matter is the commissioning of the newly constructed booster station, which shall be executed before the end of the year.

 In November of 2019, we formally broke ground on the Lots 3 and 4 works.  These works consisted of 12.9 miles of new water mains extending the Simms Water Supply System northward to include Simms, Scrub Hill, Deals, Bunches and Millerton and southward including Bains, Morris’s and Wemyss. This will provide piped, high quality potable water to approximately 180 homes and businesses for the first time. The works in Lots 3 and 4 are substantially complete with pressure and chlorination tests underway. 

Our team is presently finalizing plans for Lot 5 works to supply the settlements of Seymours, Glintons and Burnt Ground.  I am closely following their planning work and I will have more to say, publicly, in due course.  I remain pleased, however, with the progress of all of the CDB worksand look forward to commissioning and turning on the water in lots 1 and 2 by the end of the year……taking water to settlements such as the capital (Clarence Town) and Salt Pond for the first time ever.

My grandparents are in their 80s and have never had running water. This will be a new day for them as well (even for myself).Beyond those works funded by the CDB, our in-house teams have also already completed or are in the process of completing several projects to improve the reliability and availability of potable water here on Long island.  These projects include: –

  1. The supply and installation of community water storage tanks for the communities of Dunmore & Gray’s, Berry’s, Roses, Mortimer’s and Wood Hill have been completed at an estimated cost of $175,000.  Some 800 feet of 2” PVC pipe was also laid in Wood Hill, and more than 1500 feet in Dunmore’s to service some 20 customers, in these communities.
  • We have completed supply and installation of a standby generator at our Simms Desalination Plant at a cost of $60,000. This system now ensures that our customers on the Simms Water Supply System will have an uninterrupted water supply, in the absence of BPL power.
  • In an effort to ensure our operations within the Central Long Island Water Supply System are as efficient as possible, the Corporation has completed both Phases 1 and 2 of a comprehensive non-revenue water project which proactively changed some 730 plus customer water service laterals in order to better manage water pressures in our distribution system. The budget of this project was $1.2Mn and now, at the end of the project, it has already begun to substantially reduce the volume of water loss to leaks and thereby have a greater supply of water available for our customers. These works will save costs on the purchase and waste of valuable RO Water, which remains very expensive. 
  • Since completing these works, the same aggressive NRW pressure management system deployed in New Providence has been implemented in Long Island.  In order to provide adequate pressure to the very highest hills on Long Island, excessive pressures are currently introduced into the system, in excess of 60 psi in places.  As per best practices, these will be reduced to 25 psi at peak, and mini booster stations are now being completed for the highest hills in Pettys, Deadman’s Cay, Cartwrights, Buckleys, and Greys in tandem with the completed installation of air valves to improve pressure and water flow.  This will allow us to reduce the overall system pressures and further minimize leaks during the peak hours of the day while especially minimizing pressures to the rest of the system at night. This is a global best practice to optimize levels of service, and is now being implemented in Long Island as well.  This will further reduce NRW to world class levels, while maintaining satisfactory customer service levels.
  • To service the remaining customers not now connected to a distribution system, two new water tankers were procured, and are in active duty.   A further Tanker has also been procured and will arrive in Long Island shortly. This will provide a more reliable supply of tankered water to our customers.
  • Works have been completed in Scrub Hill, which included some 4,200 linear feet of 4” PVC piping and some 6 services, have been completed at a budget of some $86,000.
  • Works have also been completed in O’Neil’s, which included some 9,600 linear feet of 2” PVC piping for some 10 services, have been completed at a budget of some $145,000.
  • WSC has proceeded with the completion of a new $60,000 operational base and stores compound to better service customers on Long Island.  It also allows space for future RO Plant expansions, which I shall speak to separately.  The land has, however, already been cleared.
  • We are looking to begin works in Millers, McKanns and Thompson Bay soon.

Futuristically, I have charged the Corporation’s Management to review their strategies for the provision of potable water supply for those residents and businesses – perhaps less than 10% of the population –  who will still be beyond our Lots 1 to 5 and our in-house works. I have asked them to determinethe most cost effective means of properly addressing the water supply needs of these persons at the earliest possible opportunity. 

There are of course additional pending projects. Further plans are being made for installation of some 30,000 feet of PVC pipe and 120 service connection impacting the following settlements; Wemyss, Crossing, Salt Pond, Pinder’s, Miller’s, and Bight, as well as in Cartwrights, Petty’s, Hamilton’s and Turtle Cove.

  1. We are also actively pursuing a commercial office for the north, to complement our expansion works and for the convenience of our customers.  You will hear more about this shortly.
  1. I previously referred to RO Expansions on Long Island.  My team and I are actively working to complete complementary RO Expansions inCentral Long Island as well as in Simms in the North to meet the projected system expansions. In regard to Central Long Island, an additional RO unit will be installed to accommodate the impending water demand in Deadman’s Cay; complementary to this expansion, we will construct a 250,000IG storage tank  for additional storage. Sub-contracts (including wells, concrete works, and piping) for the two major items are well underway and progressing favorably despite the logistical issues caused by  COVID19.

Finally, while these many projects are intended to improve the quality of life of our residents and visitors over the long term, I do hope that during the project period, the works have also allowed many individuals and businesses to benefit financially through the provision of various goods and services, to the various Contractors and visiting WSC Personnel.

Our works over the last few years represents the greatest expansion of the water distribution network on Long Island at any period in our history. I want to acknowledge the hard working team at the Water and Sewerage Corporation and also extend special thanks to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Works.

Road Work

I am pleased to advise that your road works project will commence shortly!

In recent weeks, several pieces equipment has been taken to Long Island to commence the first phase of road works on the island.

This road paving project will be carried out in sections of the main Queen’s Highway. A $4.3 million dollar contract for the project was awarded to Bethell’s Trucking and Heavy Equipment Ltd. This is the first phase of the road paving exercise.

I want to thank my dear friend and colleague Minister of Works Hon. Desmond Bannister for his support and his efforts in bringing this project to fruition.

In an effort to better the driving experience, sections of the main Queen’s Highway in central and north Long Island, and various sections in the south, will also be re-surfaced (Seymours to Clarence Town), using hot mix asphalt. The road surface is in poor condition due to potholes, edge erosion and alligator cracks.

I have also requested additional works to the main and side roads and Minister Bannister has graciously assured me that the contractor will remain on the island until the bulk of the works have been executed.

During these works, 117 stop signs, 122 curve signs, 92 speed limit signs and 26 settlement signs will be erected across the island.

Given the location of the sea walls at the curve on Queen’s Highway in Salt Pond, and given the serious accidents that have occurred there in recent years, roughly 400 feet of guard rail will be installed adjacent to the end of the sea wall to avert such collisions and possible loss of life.

The road to the Monument and development of that cultural and economic site is substantially complete.

A $500,000 bridge, connecting the eco-touristic haven Newton’s Cay to Long Island is completed and serves as a major tourist attraction.

Road Traffic Department

Indeed, the state of state of affairs at the Road Traffic Office in Long Island has been most frustrating. Given the recent death of the sole worker and local head of department, Today, the offices are not opened.

Like many Long Islanders, given that I am in the rental car business, I too have a fleet of vehicles to license. I know the feeling first hand.

I am pleased to announce that I have been in talks with Minister Dion Foulkes. The Cabinet has approved the hiring and training of a number of persons to man the offices. Moreover, a new, standalone RTD office will also be opened in Deals, Long Island; this would complement the current office in Hamilton’s and both will be operation 5 days per week.

I expect the RTD office to be opened in short course. These offices will feature brand new printers – for printing driver’s licenses – and other modernized features.

Banking

The recent revelation by Scotia Bank that they intended to close branches on Long Island, Exuma, Andros, Abaco and Paradise Island (except Grand Bahama) has caused much consternation. Like many other Long Islanders, I am fearful that Long Island will become a banking desert.

The closure of Scotia means that Long Island would have physical bank branches following Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) pull-out several years ago.

I fear that this will have a devastating impact on my people’s access to financial services – We desperately need financial inclusion

Long Island cannot be unbanked. The business community and the elderly will be affected immensely.

Our island is comprised of largely middle aged to elderly people, so this will affect my constituents incredibly. You can imagine the elderly may not have access to online banking or may lack digital literacy.

I am also concerned about poor internet connectivity in parts of Long Island would make accessing digital financial services difficult for constituents.

I have written to the Minister of Finance to request/suggest that the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) be domiciled on Long Island to ensure that residents have a banking option, as Scotiabank closes its branch in the next four months.

Indeed, there is a need for BOB to have a physical presence on islands where residents are unbanked. We’re only left now to rely on the publicly-owned bank, which should be mandated to provide a certain level of financial services to communities.

Let me also note that I have heard from the Manager Director (Roger Archer) and the Retail Director of Scotia Bank. They have assured me that (a) an automated teller machine will remain on the island and that islanders will be able to withdraw funds, deposit funds, pay credit cards etc (they will service them), (b) they will provide customer assistance/training to business persons and the elderly to prepare them for their digital platform and (c) they will maintain their credit card machines and business relations with Long Island business operators.

I am of the view that the commercial banks should consider creating banking hubs on the Family Islands, where they share the cost of a space and under one roof are able to carry out some of their regular services.

Indeed, we must also modernize the Post Office banking system throughout the archipelago.

I believe that more bank licenses should be issued and credit unions and cooperatives established on the Family Islands. We develop our indigenous banks and credit unions. Those are potential solutions. We must start considering the value of issuing more licenses to qualified persons and groups. We have to try to convey a commitment to bringing another financial institution.

Indeed, before awarding future licenses, the Central Bank should require each of the major commercial banks – those existent now and in future – to have at least one physical branch on a Family Island.

In the meantime, I want to also encourage Long Island residents to embrace the digital rollout of The Central Bank of The Bahamas’ Sand Dollar.

Passport Office

I am pleased to note that we are bringing a  a satellite Passport Office to Long Island. However, given logistical challenges of COVID 19, that has greatly hindered the execution of that process.

Space has been identified and infrastructure will soon be put in place to commence passport services.  This will save a lot of money given that one would no longer have to pay for a ticket to New Providence, stay in a hotel, pay taxi or rent a car and incur other expenses. Once done, the days of having to travel to New Providence to obtain a passport will be over.

Agriculture and Fisheries

I also want to note that, over the last few months, major repairs have been undertaken at the Packing House in Clarence Town; countless farmers have been assisted with land clearing and farm projects and will be pushing a few farm roads along the way.

In our thrust to develop Long Island, we must be united; we must unify behind a common message, behind common goals, behind seeing our island move from strength to strength.

I know all too well the dire needs of Long Island, which have been ongoing for a long time. However, they cannot all be addressed overnight; but, rest assured that your MP is working hard on your behalf.

Thank you.

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