New Focus Attention On Parks And Public Spaces

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The R. M. Bailey Park in Marathon.

By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, The Bahamas —Minister of Health and Social Development Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis said Wednesday (October 3) that the Grounds and Beautification Division of the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) has been reorganized “to give more focused attention” to the cleaning and maintenance of public parks and spaces in The Bahamas.

Minister Minnis said the reorganization will correct some of the pre-existing deficiencies in the maintenance of public parks and spaces that his Government met in place following the May 2, 2007 General Elections.

He said it is one of several measures that will bring “organization” to the beautification and maintenance of the country’s parks and verges, in addition to assisting with rodent and vector control.

Another key change will include the division of New Providence into eight zones, each with a Health Inspector, Shift Supervisor and staff complement assigned to it and who have been given “the adequate equipment necessary to carry out their duties.”

Dr. Minnis said personnel who have been assigned to each zone, will be issued uniforms with the zone letter/number attached to it.

“So that they would know that within Zone A, once a park is there, once the verges are there, they can deal with that appropriately,” Dr. Minnis said. “They would know that within Zone A, if there is an increase in rodents, they can deal with that appropriately.

“They would also know that if there is an increase in vectors, they can deal with that appropriately. What that means is that the Supervisors of each Zone are now accountable,” the Minister added.

Dr. Minnis said this practice will result in a system of accountability.

“As a result of these measures, you can easily determine which zone is having a problem. We are now in a position to determine exactly what is happening within each sector and are in a position to make everyone within that area accountable,” Dr. Minnis said.

Dr. Minnis said his ministry has also issued contracts for the upkeep of 33 community parks, all in an effort to ensure that those parks are properly maintained. DEHS officials, he said, will monitor the progress of the upkeep to ensure compliance with the scope of the works.

He said the Department of Environmental Health Services has also received funds in its 2007-2008 Budget for the provision of additional machinery and equipment that is expected to increase operational efficiency.

Responding to questions raised in the House of Assembly Wednesday, particularly those from the Member for Fox Hill, Mr. Fred Mitchell, Dr. Minnis said that the Government, upon taking office, met the parks and environment “in a terrible state.”

“There were some parks that we met where the grass and the bush were literally taller than me (and) I am more than six feet tall,” Dr. Minnis said. “There were also derelict vehicles, shacks built in the parks that were being used as homes that the previous government knew nothing about and individuals who literally lived in the parks.

“There was obviously a shortage of manpower or a shortage of supplies or total disorganization. Once there was a problem with any park or any area what was done was that the problem was noted and a group ran to that area and resolved it.

“If a problem developed in the east or the west, they ran there and resolved it. That was total disorganization,” Dr. Minnis said. “When this Government came into office, we could not continue in that disorganized fashion.”

The Minister said the Government has subsequently looked at New Providence as an entity and rather than “putting out fires as they develop, rather than using a band aid method” is focused on bringing organization to New Providence.