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Country gripped by lengthy power outage

PHILIPSBURG--Businesses and households country-wide were gripped by a lengthy power outage on Thursday that was said to have been caused by a problem with one or more generators of utilities company GEBE.

Lights went off throughout St. Maarten around 1:29pm and remained off until late in the afternoon when some districts started to receive power again. GEBE did not specify the cause of the problem in a press release issued late yesterday.

Some businesses that did not have generators were seen guiding customers with flashlights to view products and to secure sales for the day. In Philipsburg and other areas workers stood and sat outside stores, in some cases to beat the heat inside the stores. Some businesses shut their doors earlier than usual when it was clear that the electricity would not return before closing time.

Many persons commented on the length of the outage. Some persons said it was ironic that the country was gripped by an outage the day GEBE had announced its electricity-bill-relief programme.

In its late-evening release GEBE said an "interruption" had caused the entire Dutch St. Maarten to experience a total blackout. The utilities company said that after assessment of the problem, the gradual restoration process had started around 5:45pm and had been ongoing up to late last night. GEBE said full restoration had been estimated around 10:00pm if no further technical difficulties were encountered.

The Managing Board said GEBE engineers had been "working non-stop" at the Cay Bay power plant and substations to "rectify all issues" that had developed due to the outage. The company said a more detailed press release would be issued when a full assessment had been made. GEBE said it regretted the outage.

Man shot dead in Front Street shop

page1a123PHILIPSBURG--A man was shot dead inside the Most Requested Flex DVD store on Front Street around 4:00pm Thursday.

The victim, Etienne Leblanc of French Quarter, could be seen through the open door of the store, slumped over what appeared to be a fallen-over pile of boxes of some kind, next to a chair that had fallen on the floor. He appeared to be in his 20s.

Police, detectives and forensics officers were at scene, and a large part of Front Street was closed off as a crime scene. However, the shop's shutters could not be closed due to a wide-spread electricity failure, allowing members of the public a glimpse of the goings-on inside.

The owner of the store was seen accompanying police to a waiting car. It is believed he went to give a statement as a witness.

Bystanders stated that two men had entered the store and attempted to rob the owner, who is disabled. It was said that the owner's son arrived at that point and challenged the robbers, after which a fight started. In the process, a gun went off, fatally wounding one of the alleged robbers. The second alleged robber was seen to run away from the store.

The police were still busy with the investigation up to press time. "The investigation has just begun and it is still unclear as to exactly what took place, why, and who is responsible for this shooting," police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson stated in a press release late last night.

November bills to see GEBE general relief

PHILIPSBURG--Utilities company NV GEBE's General Relief programme is scheduled to take effect in electricity bills for the consumption period of September to October with the due date for payment in November, announced Romelio Maduro, Managing Board President and Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Financial Officer Rene Gartner via press release.

The programme is scheduled to run from October 2014 to March 2015, of which the due date for payment will be from November 2014 to April 2015. The relief will be applied to all residential and commercial electricity bills.

Rates for residential bills will be reduced by NAf. 0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), while those of commercial bills will be reduced by NAf. 0.01 per kwh.

For added reference, one-kwh can power a TV for seven hours, a desktop computer for four hours, or an iron for 22 minutes.

SMMC fires Controller due to ‘irregularities’

CAY HILL--St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has terminated the working agreement with its "Concern Controller" (financial controller) due to irregularities in the financial department as of Monday, October 6.

The controller had been working at SMMC for two and a half years. SMMC said Wednesday, that it is "working to correct the irregularities" uncovered and "has the assurance that this is possible.

"The institution will carry out a full investigation and examination of internal controls, and where necessary take steps to improve controls in the financial department. Financial operations at the St. Maarten Medical Center will continue to run as usual and will in no case, affect patient care."

SMMC said further inquiries relating to corporate financial concerns can be obtained from Director Kees Klarenbeek.

Dock Maarten launches long-awaited expansion

page6a122POINTE BLANCHE--A long-awaited extension of Dock Maarten is underway, currently in the initial phase of expanding a breakwater, originally built in 1984. The project will entail creating a deeper basin for the facility that services ultra- or giga-yachts, which require deeper waters than that of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, and cannot always fit through the bridge width-wise.

The project will result in additional protection of boat slips belonging to the company as well as Bobby's Marina, said Dock Maarten Managing Director Brian Deher, who is heading the project with his father, Dock Maarten owner Michel Deher. The boats will be in a calmer environment, especially important during swells and other rough weather conditions.

Although it depends somewhat on the surrounding developments, the intention is to connect to the Boardwalk Boulevard on the waterside, leading more passengers to walk along the water's edge, rather than on the street.

Brian added that the project, with variations, has been included in the master plans for Philipsburg over the past 10 years. The family has wanted the expansion for 15 years, but faced major bottlenecks, mainly because of the island government having to buy back land that had been sold. Final rights were transferred in 2013, and permits issued this past June or July.

The initial plan had been to accommodate mega-yachts, but in the meantime, developments such as Princess Port de Plaisance North Harbour and Isle de Sol Yacht Club have created a sufficient supply for these yachts, which measure less than 200 feet. For the past 10 years, Dock Maarten has targeted the larger ultra- or giga-yachts.

The original marina dock and building, which includes Chesterfield's restaurant, opened in 1979.

Addressing possible environmental concerns, Deher assured that the project's environmental impact has been assessed, and that considering the commercial area, the project is a minor addition.

He said that being environmentally friendly is on the forefront at Dock Maarten, as it is at Isle de Sol, where he serves as general manager, and which has earned the Blue Flag certification. The project's rocky surface can also serve as a habitat for small fish, as opposed to sheet pile.

Environmental impact studies including the project's effect on water quality, as well as water flow and wave studies, were done by Delft University in the Netherlands, and St. Maarten Nature Foundation.

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