Setting The Record Straight: ANGUILLA GETS A FIRE TRUCK FOR ONE DOLLAR Maurice Connor Mainly Features In Deal, But Not Thanked
Elsewhere in this edition of The Anguillian is a Valentine-like story in which the Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten gave a Crash Fire Tender to Anguilla’s Clayton Lloyd International Airport for a symbolic price of one dollar.
The impressive looking vehicle was handed over at a short ceremony at the Anguilla airport by officials of the Juliana Airport on Friday, February 13, Valentine’s Eve. For some strange reason, whether by omission or otherwise, the names of some key persons involved in the transaction were not mentioned in the thank you list – and this has caused some negative reaction. It is not that these persons required the publicity, but they thought that just simply to thank them for their roles, was the right thing to do. The upshot was that they called The Anguillian to complain and to relate their story.
One of the key players was the quiet and unassuming David Lloyd whose company, Lloyd’s Aviation, handles the various luxury jets flying into Anguilla, and therefore has responsibility for their safety. It was this concern that motivated him to ensure that there were adequate fire tender services at the aerodrome.
“There was a problem at the airport with the fire service. The airport needs at least two fire trucks to be functional, and it was a case where we were down and we needed another fire tender,” Lloyd explained. “Government and the Port Authority didn’t have any funds and that was going to pose a problem. So we started calling around. When I say we, Carl Thomas from Anguilla Air Services called Tortola and they said that they had a truck available but they would prefer to deal on a government to government basis.
“We then called St Maarten and found that there was a fire truck available there. I got hold of Maurice Connor [a former Anguillian pilot], told him that there was a vehicle in St Maarten available and I wanted him to start working on that – talk to the people there and see what arrangements could be made. It got to the point where they said they would want some 20,000-plus dollars for the truck which I was prepared to pay. We got the fire department involved and took representatives over to St Maarten. They looked at the truck and realised that there were some deficiencies but, with some upgrades and maintenance, they could be rectified. Maurice, with his connections with the Prime Minister and other people in St Maarten, started negotiating to get the truck at a more reasonable rate. It was then suggested that may be the truck could be donated. Some members of the Juliana Board were reluctant, as far as I was told, to donate it, but with some wrangling we eventually got the truck for one dollar.
“I think that credit has to be given to Mr Connor, in particular, for his efforts to acquire the truck. The only money I spent, up to this point, was to take the fire crew over to St Maarten and pay their fares, lunch and taxi rentals – [not for any upgrades to the vehicle].”
Mr Maurice Connor commented: “I am the one who put this whole thing together. Single-handedly, I got this truck. David was very concerned about the truck because he is in the airline business and if something had happened to the one truck, the airport would have had to be closed…”
Mr Connor, a member of the Anguilla Air and Sea Ports Authority, said that during a meeting of that organisation, it was mentioned to him that there was a need for a fire truck and he was asked what he could do about the matter.
Connor continued: “I called the Prime Minister in St Maarten, Mr Marcel Gumbs, and he said – ‘okay, I will do that for you right away.’ He called the Fire Station there but they did not have a truck available. He called the airport, but the Managing Director, Regina Lebega, was in Mexico. I said to her, ‘Mrs Lebega I am sorry to disturb you on your vacation, but Anguilla has an emergency and I understand you are the person who can help.’ I went to work right away. She called her people back in St Maarten who started putting the truck information together for me.
“I called David and told him I found a truck, but the St Maarten Board of the Port Authority didn’t want to give it to us because there should be a price to it…I had another meeting with the guys at the airport, and they told me ‘Maurice we are going to get you the truck but there are three men who are holding back.’ I called back Mrs Lebega and told her about this and she said she would take care of it. It was just me and David involved; nobody else; no other board member, nobody in government – in fact we wanted to keep it away from government. I know the people involved. Let me deal with them.
“They came up with the idea that they are going to charge 27,000 dollars for the truck. David got a fire crew and mechanics from Anguilla to look at the truck and they came back with a list of everything that was wrong with the truck. Based on the 27,000 dollars they were charging, I went back to Mrs Lebega about the discrepancies with the truck and told her I would appreciate any help she could give me because we – St Maarten and Anguilla—are neighbours and good friends. Because of what I told her about the discrepancies, she got a lil’ mad. We had a conference call from my house at Rock Farm, with David. She called back and said: ‘You know, I think you insulted me because you said the truck is no good’. I said I didn’t say that. I am just saying that there are some things that are wrong with the truck. We are paying 27,000 for the truck and will have to pay almost that amount to get the truck back in useable condition.
“You know what she said to me, at that conference call, at the last minute, ‘Maurice, I am going to give you the truck for one dollar’. That is how I came by the truck. I just kept the Chairman and the CEO of the Anguilla Air and Sea Ports Authority informed about what I am doing, but not that they had any hand it in.”
Mr Connor added: “The deal was sealed at my house with David. It is not that we are looking publicity but, at least, give us some sort of appreciation – thanks to Maurice Connor, thanks to David and thanks too to Prime Minister, Marcel Gumbs.”
The chairman of the Port Authority in Anguilla, Mr Lanville Harrigan, called The Anguillian acknowledging Mr Connor’s role in securing the Crash Fire Tender. He noted that without that vehicle the airport’s standard could have been downgraded.