HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF Wednesday 31 August 2022
The Cabinet began its weekly meeting at approximately 10:00 am, all members present. The meeting ended early, at about 1:45 pm, in order to allow members to attend the Official Funeral of Patrick Whyte at 2pm.
The Cabinet invited Purcell Special Security Firm and the Director of Education to address it on the issue of school security. The Director of Education, last week addressed Cabinet and raised the issue of security of the school plants; thievesare breaking into Government schools damaging windows, doors and other infrastructure and stealing furniture, computers, tablets and any other valuables which they could find. The thieves have rummaged through the desks of principals, scattering documents, papers and books on the floor, and engaged in other activities that have hampered the schools’ productivity and cause all users a feeling of insecurity. The Director was persuaded that if the thieves believe that they would be caught then they would be less likely to engage in the anti-social/criminal behaviour.
The Cabinet last week agreed to have security cameras installed on the perimeter of the buildings and also within certain offices that are attractive to thieves. The Cabinet also accepted the proposal of building strong-rooms or large safes on the compound of each school where highly-valuable items could be stored each night.
Mr. Purcell was accompanied to the Cabinet meeting by his accountant and another official of his firm. He pledged to do everything he possibly can to ensure that the schools, when opening on Monday 5thSeptember, will have human security available at all the Government schools across Antigua. He noted that his firm employs approximately 1,000 men and women and that he has a very large payroll to meet each week. He spoke of the inherent challenge that his firm experiences with so many employees and noted that the deployment of security staff is a capital-intensive venture. The Cabinet made a pledge to provide Special Security with sufficient resources to enable Mr. Purcell to dispatch security workers on Monday morning to all schools. In the meantime, the Ministry of Works continues to source the cameras and the security software required in order to make the 37 government schools less vulnerable to thieves and trespassers. Advice and support will also come from the Ministry of Information/Technology.
The Cabinet held a discussion around the Jolly Beach Hotel and readying it for the winter tourism season, with a possible opening in December 2022. An estimate to prepare a number of rooms and common areas has been put forward; the cost approaching $2million dollars. The Cabinet acknowledges that the demand for more hotel rooms in Antigua is strong in this post COVID period, and that to ready additional rooms is to benefit a number of employees and other suppliers who depend upon tourism in order to survive. The Jolly Beach Hotel owes the Government of Antigua and Barbuda a considerable sum for unpaid electricity, water and significantunpaid taxes; the hotel severed its workers without providing them with the money which is rightfully theirs. The Government intends to ensure that those workers receive what they should have been paid, causing severance to be computed in the reopening ambition. Jolly Beach Hotel is under the supervision of a court-appointed receiver.
The Cabinet invited a Barbados-based firm called INNOTECH to share with its members, its successes in waste management and in detecting leaking water pipes buried beneath the earth.
The firm displayed a video recording showing garbage disposal containers thatare on wheels and garbage trucks that had been retrofitted to do the heavy lifting of these containers, so that the sanitation workers do not have to lift rubbish-filled, heavy containers. The containers each have a barcode/strip that, when scanned, provides the household location and the quantum of waste that the household generates each week. The World Bank data confirm that the wealthier a nation, the more rubbish its citizens and residents are likely to discard.
The firm has also indicated that it has access to the technology that will allow it to detect leaks in the network of pipes that carry potable water to homes and villages.The technology was employed in Barbados where 1150 points of leak were identified in the water network. The water authority there tested 60% or more than 600 of those leaks so identified and found the technology to be accurate. The APUA Utilities Minister immediately agreed to have that technology deployed, especially in those areas in St. John’s where they are certain that significant leakage is taking place.
The Cabinet received a report from the Minister of Public Utilities concerning the near-readiness of the Fort James Reverse Osmosis Plant. It is designed to produce 1 million gallons of potable water daily. In the first phase it will produce 500,000 gallons daily and it will become fully productive in short order. The pipes that will take water to the villages of Yorks, Fort Road, Villa, Point,the City of St. John’s, the Heritage Quay piers as well as surrounding areas are already being laid underground. The surface of the road leading to and from Fort James has been significantly compromised and will require repaving when the laying of the pipes is complete.
Meanwhile, significant portions of the Bethesda R/O Plant have been shipped to Antigua from Dubai. Plans for the Bethesda R/O Plant are proceeding, including the construction of the foundation of the building to house the works. The resources for the purchase of the plant have been secured and nearly all payments made to the supplier.
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