Year in Review

March: Pig’s Field reopening a victory for community 

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Funding of the Bermuda Gaming Commission, the health of hospital finances as well as the health of those around Belco dominated the headlines in March. 

At the start the month, it was revealed that the BGC was to receive a government guarantee of almost $10 million to allow it to borrow money to keep operating. 

The $9.8 million figure in the 2023- 24 Budget represented an almost twentyfold increase on the first guarantee it was given in 2018, which enabled it to borrow up to $500,000, and is more than triple the $2.7 million surety it got a year ago. 

There is still no casino operating in Bermuda. 

During March, the Bermuda Hospitals Board issued a warning that its finances were on life support. 

It said it would struggle to maintain its facilities or to pay a basic cost-of-living increase to its staff because government funding was not keeping up with medical inflation. 

The BHB said it was dealing with a “challenging” budget cap imposed by the Government, but patient care had not been compromised. 

The board had been short-changed by up to $31.6 million in funding over the past four years. 

David Burt, the Premier, acknowledged that the hospital had to run on an overdraft, and said the Cabinet had approved a $15 million payment to the BHB in the 2022-23 financial year and would need to increase funding in the Budget for 2023-24. 

The Royal Gazette’s “Clearing the Air, The Belco Reports” series continued throughout this month — as it did throughout most of the year — as the emissions issue continued to go unresolved. 

The Minister of Health, Kim Wilson, came under increasing pressure to take action as lawyer Mark Pettingill called on her to rule excessive emissions from the plant a statutory nuisance. 

Mr Pettingill, the director of Chancery Legal, wrote to Ms Wilson on behalf of the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, a pressure group, and individual residents asking her to use her powers under the Public Health Act 1949 to rule soot and other emissions from the plant a statutory nuisance, and have them abated. 

Statutory nuisances include dust, smoke or effluvia that is prejudicial to the health of, or is offensive to, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. 

In response, the minister said: “The Ministry of Health is conducting a thorough investigation and can provide reassurance to the public that all necessary steps are being taken to review the matter in accordance with the Public Health Act 1949 and Belco’s operating licence as a controlled plant under the Clean Air Regulations 1993.” 

Later in the month, the minister said Belco could face hefty fines of up to $50,000 a day if its emissions were ruled a nuisance and not abated. 

It was a relatively quiet month in the often turbulent world of politics, but one story stood out. 

The Premier rebuked Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, for stating he does not need the votes of people who think he is not engaging with them or doing a good job. 

David Burt insisted the minister’s views were “uncharacteristic”, could have been “worded better” and had been expressed after “a long day” in the House of Assembly. 

In a statement, Mr Burt said: “The Progressive Labour Party has a history of working to secure every vote and representing every citizen, no matter who they voted for. That will not change.” 

His intervention came after the One Bermuda Alliance branded Mr Hayward’s remarks as “delusional arrogance”. 

In the courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions and police had a considerable success when a Supreme Court jury found Winston Paynter guilty of having almost $1 million worth of heroin and six rounds of ammunition. 

Paynter would later be jailed for 25 years. 

There was one very notable appointment in March when Tracy Berkeley was named as the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority after nine months as the interim head. 

Ms Berkeley, who joined the organisation in January 2020, became the first woman to hold the post. 

“With her steady hand, Ms Berkeley has helped to build a new leadership team that is better fit to meet the organisation’s needs, re-engaged with key industry leaders, and most importantly, restored the credibility of the BTA in the eyes of its stakeholders,” said a spokesman. 

Almost two years after it was burnt to the ground, a fully restored playground at Pig’s Field was officially opened. 

Members of Pig’s Field Family Connection, a group of community and executive committee members, made the dream of restoring the Pembroke playground a reality. 

Pig’s Field Playground was destroyed in a suspected arson attack in 2021. Work started almost immediately to replace it and the Pig’s Field Family Connection was launched as a charity to raise funds for the project. 

Patrina O’Connor-Paynter, one of the driving forces behind the restoration project, said: “I am so overwhelmed to see what has happened — the playground is actually here. 

“As a community, we stuck together. It’s not just the community, it’s government, it’s the corporate community, it’s individuals — we all worked together, we brought about change and made a difference. 

“If we get back to that, we will be able to solve so many problems in Bermuda.” 

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