The Third District was discussed at length in the House of Assembly on Oct. 17 thanks to persistent questioning from opposition member Julian Fraser, who brought up issues of water shortages and damaged infrastructure.
He made an impassioned plea for the rectification of water woes in his Third District and elsewhere, asking Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer to give details on the Balsam Ghut reservoir, which he said is currently being supplied with water from the Sabbath Hill Reservoir, causing water shortages in Sabbath Hill.
Mr. Fraser also pushed the TWU minister on water rationing in the Third District, much of which he said often has water only between 4 and 7 a.m.
Some places like Collon Hill only get water on Thursdays, and higher elevations don’t get any water at all, according to Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Rymer attributed the water rationing to insufficient water levels in the Hannah Hill reservoir, which he said cause a loss in pressure and make it difficult to supply higher elevations.
The people of Collon Hill, he said, are “on a water schedule” while people in higher elevations would “regrettably” not receive any water.
Mr. Fraser had grilled Mr. Rymer on related topics before in the May 17 HOA meeting, when he asked him why the Bar Bay water plant, which has a production capacity of 500,000 gallons a day, was not being utilised to supply water to Balsam Ghut reservoir.
Mr. Rymer responded in May that pumping water uphill from Bar Bay to Balsam Ghut creates too much pressure and results in breakages.
The Sabbath Hill reservoir, he said at the time, provides “more efficient pressure management” to reach Balsam Ghut.
Mr. Fraser countered that the Bar Bay plant was intended to service the Balsam Ghut reservoir and called for the pump in Greenland to be “fixed and operational.”
Mr. Rymer said at the time that he would take his advice and look to fix the situation.
He also told Mr. Fraser that the Diamond Estate pump station electrical supply had been completed in December 2018 and that the building for the Long Trench pump station has been completed and that tender documents were being finalised to procure the mechanical, electrical and plumbing supplies.
During the Oct. 17 meeting, Mr. Fraser again chastised the government.
“The water crisis in the Third District seems to be ignored and forgotten except for when I come to this honourable House and ask a question,” Mr. Fraser said last month. “But may I remind members that the people of the Third District has long memories.”
In response, Mr. Rymer quoted a section of the Standing Orders — “A question shall not contain arguments, inferences, opinions, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions or hypothetical cases” — and accused Mr. Fraser of making “untruthful claims.”
Premier Andrew Fahie also interjected to deny that his administration does not care about the Third District.
Mr. Rymer went on to say that Sabbath Hill reservoir was still supplying water to Balsam Ghut reservoir, and would continue to do so until the pump is installed in Greenland.
He added that the Long Trench pump station was not “completed or fully operational” and that while the Diamond Estate pump is “functional” both of the pumps being “fully functional” was conditional on major infrastructure works required on the water network.
$3.5m in funding
Mr. Fraser also quizzed Mr. Fahie on the $3.5 million that Cabinet had approved for water improvement in the territory, as announced in a September 2018 HOA sitting.
He pointed out that at a later HOA sitting under the previous administration it was revealed that only $178,204 of that $3.5 million had been spent, and he asked Mr. Fahie the status of the funding and how much of it had been spent.
Mr. Fahie provided a breakdown in a document that he gave to Mr. Fraser, which has not yet been made available to the media.
He added that the TWU Ministry was working on a short-term solution to address water shortages in the form of a desalination plant in Sea Cows Bay as well as a long-term solution by upgrading the pumping system to provide a steady flow of water in the area.
Mr. Fraser also brought up issues related to sports facilities in the Third District, which he said lack crucial amenities.
The basketball court and softball field in Sea Cows Bay have been without lights since Hurricane Irma, making the district the only one in the territory without these fully functional public spaces, Mr. Fraser alleged.
Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said his ministry had already gotten a quotation for $39,000 to resurface the court, but following a recent site visit with Mr. Fraser and the ECYAFA Ministry projects officer he had decided to redirect funding towards lights, poles, bleachers and “general cleanup.”
The cost was not available, he said, but his ministry was working on obtaining the quotations.
As for the softball field, he said he had requested a quotation for the relighting but had not yet received it.
He added that he could not provide a definite date for the completed works, but that Mr. Fraser could “expect to see results in a few short months.”
Regarding roads, Mr. Rymer said he had received the engineering documents along with the bills of quantities to fix the longstanding damage along the road between Sea Cows Bay and Chalwell.
He added the work would be carried out before the end of the year.
Mr. Fraser also pointed out to Mr. Fahie that the government’s 1,000 Jobs Initiative was supposed to make an appearance in Sea Cows Bay on Aug. 28 and did not because of the weather, and the event was never rescheduled.
Mr. Fahie replied that residents of all districts were invited to attend a boot camp for the initiative at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College from Sept. 9-13 and that the focus is now on placing the 437 participants into available jobs.
The issue of the damaged Ellis Thomas Downs horse racing facility also came up, with Mr. Fraser asking Mr. Fahie about when it would be rebuilt and if he would consider establishing a committee to oversee the facility.
Mr. Fahie said plans for thefacility were laid out on page 90 of the Recovery to Development Plan that was passed last year in the HOA.
He added that there was no plan in place to replace the statue of Mr. Thomas, and said that it would likely happen sometime next year.
Dr. Wheatley, he said, was “committed” to including funding to re-erect the fence in the 2020 budget.
Regarding the committee, he said his government had been considering several options for the proper management of the facility.
“We will eventually like to put the necessary legislation in place to manage the facility and to ensure that the government can receive some level of return on its investment over the years,” he said.
Regarding the missing windows at the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cows Bay, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said that replacements would be delivered within weeks.
He added that other structural repairs and upgrades would be completed early in the first quarter of 2020.