Bodden Town political candidates were united in opposing a waste management facility in the district at the Chamber of Commerce candidate’s forum on Thursday.
Environment Minister Mark Scotland, who is running for re-election with the newly formed People’s National Alliance, said he did not and had never supported the concept of a “dump in Bodden Town”.
The existing proposal pushed by the ruling government, of which Mr. Scotland has been a part for the past four years, involves bringing a new waste management facility to Midland Acres, close to Bodden Town.
And while the two independent candidates and the representative from the Progressives were clear that this should not happen, voters who attended the forum could have been forgiven for leaving the Bodden Town Civic Centre unsure of exactly where Mr. Scotland stood.
Though he began his remarks by indicating he agreed with his three rivals, he defended the government’s actions and insisted that maintaining the site in George Town was not an option.
“What was being proposed was a waste management facility, we made a proposal for that, we said studies were going to be done, one study is complete another, which is a technical review, is still on the way,” Mr. Scotland said.
“With those studies in hand, government, in consultation with the public, can make a decision on what to do.”
Concern over the waste management facility proved to be the hot topic of the night for the audience, with all four candidates drawing loud applause for statements against a dump in Bodden Town.
Osbourne Bodden, a candidate for the Progressives, pointedly targeted Mr. Scotland for his apparent support of the Midland Acres plan.
He said there was something “inherently wrong” with the way the deal was done.
“The minister there is part of the administration that allowed this to happen,” Mr. Bodden said. “He is the member for Bodden Town, he failed his people and the UDP has failed this country in being unable to find a solution to the waste management problem.”
Vincent Frederick, who led the campaign against the dump in Bodden Town and is now running as an independent candidate, reiterated his opposition.
“We have a prison in Bodden Town, we have a rehab centre in Bodden Town and the only major project that our representatives can bring to this district is a dump, I say the people deserve better,” Mr. Frederick said.
“The only dump that is happening in Bodden Town is that we are going to dump the people that tried to bring a dump into Bodden Town.”
Independent candidate Arnold Berry said the facility at George Town could continue for another 15 years. He said the best option for the future would be to redevelop that site.
None of the three candidates who opposed the Midland Acres plan outright, offered an alternative suggestion other than continuing at George Town or “looking at other alternatives”.
Mr. Scotland warned the situation in George Town was an “environmental disaster waiting to happen”.
He said a study by the previous Progressives’ government had shown it would cost $100 million to rebuild the facility and an additional $25 million annually to operate it.
“They have been saying that (it should stay in George Town) over and over again but no one says where we are going to get the $100 million from or the $25 million to operate it,” he said.
In a feisty but good natured debate, the four candidates took questions from the Chamber of Commerce and the audience.
All four highlighted creating jobs and empowering small businesses as a priority.
Mr. Frederick said rezoning some of the land would help businesses develop.
“We have surpassed West Bay in voters but we have failed to develop the district to go along with that growth.
Mr. Bodden said taxes and red tape needed to be cut for small businesses. He also argued for new investment in Bodden Town including a multipurpose sports centre.
Challenged, along with the rival candidates, on where the money would come from, Mr. Bodden highlighted waste and corruption in government. He also said he would consider privatising the turtle farm.
Mark Scotland said the current government had invested in Bodden Town and would continue to do so, highlighting a five-star hotel project as a possibility for the future.
Arnold Berry said Bodden Town needed more small tourism business, such as parasailing and Jet Ski rentals.
Mr. Berry also highlighted renegotiating the agreement with the Dart group of companies over West Bay Road as a priority.