The Nature Fun Ranch, a farm charity for at-risk young people, has racked up a $25,000 water bill, prompting its founder to issue a plea for urgent financial help to clear it after the water authority locked off its taps.
But Corey Layne blamed water thieves for the arrears as he spoke to reporters at the Bruce Vale, St Andrew ranch’s graduation ceremony for a three-month cooking programme.
He said awoke to find a padlock on the water main outside of the farm.
“Amidst all the success at the ranch, we have a situation here that can really stop our flow.
“We have a water bill of about $25,000 and one would ask how we rack up a $25,000 water bill.
“What happened is in the first case when we moved here to the ranch, we were attached to a pipe that is linked to the former sugar factory here and we had that bill transferred to our bill. So, we were always at a disadvantage.”
Layne said the issue further escalated at the facility when
they discovered people were stealing the ranch’s water, triggered, he maintained, by the water shortages in the island’s rural east.
“What happened on a number of occasions we had persons who came here and broke the pipes and took water because the water was scarce in other parts of the island.
“So, we actually put a lock onto the pipe in the later stages and that was broken off and we reported that to the Barbados Water Authority.”
Layne also revealed that the Nature Fun Ranch was being billed by the Barbados Water Authority at a commercial rate although they operated a farm on site.
“I understand there is a policy when it comes to farms and I believe the rate that we are under is some kind of commercial rate which does not really include what we are doing here. So we pay a very expensive price for water and at the end of the day I am not passing on blame,” he said.
The founder of Nature Fun Ranch said despite entering a payment agreement with the Barbados Water Authority the organization was not able to make the payments with the revenue they earn on a monthly basis.
“The reality is that the ranch’s expenses in no way can meet what we gain in terms of revenue, in terms of funding and our own social enterprise selling eggs and chicken when the week comes,” he said.
Layne noted his displeasure that the entity was unable to receive a waiver on their water bill as they have catered to at-risk youth for over two decades.
As the island experiences a drought this dry season, Layne said one of their major sources of water which came from the Bruce Vale River had dried up.
“[The water] we are using today is a combination of water we collected as we teach them about climate change and emergency supply. We have a tank, so we have to see how long that is going to hold out. We also collected water from the river and as you know this is the dry season, so the river is pretty dry, so we have been unable to depend on the rive for the last few months.”
Layne appealed to members of the public willing to contribute towards paying off the ranch’s water bill to ring the farm at 851-1637.