Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works, the Hon. Desmond Bannister toured through Eleuthera during January 2021, primarily to view the current state of the road highway system along the length of the isle, said the Minister in an interview with The Eleutheran.
“We have a number of challenges with the roads in the settlements throughout Eleuthera, and they’ve been ignored for many, many years. We have signed an 11 million dollar contract for the major highway, but it’s also important for persons within the communities to have some comfort in their daily commute. So, I started the morning in Harbour Island, looking at the roads there which are a huge challenge, and now I’m going through Central and South Eleuthera, looking at the roads in all the settlements. I went into Hatchet Bay, which is really bad – they’ve been ignored for too long, so, we are going to try and see what we can do about them, even though we are in the middle of an international recession,” said Minister Bannister.
“I will also be looking at the progress of the two docks (the commercial and fishermen’s dock) being built in South Eleuthera, to assist with the commerce in that community. I want to see the progress. I like to see things myself and see where they are going – and to speak with the contractors. There are also some challenges with some of the smaller docks within communities. So, we have to scope those docks – so communities can have those docks repaired. To mention a few, in James’ Cistern, the dock is a mess – the community has already started stripping it themselves, so I’ve asked Mr. Sawyer, who is our Senior Engineer here in Eleuthera, to prepare a scope for me, to see what we can do to get that back and operational.”
The 11 million dollar highway road contract, awarded to Bahama Hot Mix, mentioned by Bannister, refers to the upcoming hot mix asphalt road works, as opposed to the historic ‘sand-seal’ highways now found along the length of Eleuthera, which are scheduled to begin at the end of January 2021. “A completely new hot mix asphalt plant is nearing construction completion in Governor’s Harbour – it has taken several months to set up, however, once completed, we expect to keep that in Eleuthera for some time to come. They are bringing in the last of the supplies now, and by the end of January they are going to start paving. On many areas of the Eleuthera highway, the substructures of the roads are damaged, so in many cases they are going to have to raise the roads, and redo the substructure. Eleuthera will have hot mix asphalt roads for the first time, so, the challenge is that people are going to have to be disciplined – not to speed, because that will be dangerous. But, you are going to wonderful roads in Eleuthera.”
The current contract, clarified Bannister, covers a portion of the Eleuthera highway system, however, he added that the government would not make this kind of investment and not continue with the works. So, he said, when that contract was completed, the government would increase the scope of works, as they would not want the contractor to leave, without all of the major roads on the island completed. “To bring an asphalt plant here, takes months, and at least a million dollars to mobilize, so it doesn’t make sense to send the contractor out, and bring someone else at another stage.” The paving, said the Minister, was set to begin in Governor’s Harbour.
Bannister confirmed during the interview that his Capital Works budget has been cut by 100 million dollars, adding, “That means we have to be very careful how we spend the money, and how we allocate money. The entire world is experiencing recession, and many of the major powers are in lock-downs… A country like ours has hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, but we still have to be able to give people hope, and we still have to be able to do what we can do – and that’s my job… You can be assured that the works will begin on the Eleuthera highway, and I’m looking now at the settlement roads to see where we can find funding.”
Member of Parliament for Central and South Eleuthera, Mr. Hank Johnson accompanied DPM Bannister during the island tour, and commented on several other infrastructure activities set to begin during the first quarter of 2021, including the repair and refurbishment of the Governor’s Harbour Clinic complex. The contract for these works had been awarded to Big Tuna Construction some time ago, and were finally set to begin shortly he confirmed. Johnson also commented on initial road clearing taking place on some 50 plus acres behind the ‘Betsy Village’ area of Governor’s Harbour – an area of government owned land, earmarked for the government’s current crown land access program.