“Concerns of a technical nature” are proving to be a challenge for the Ministry of Works and has delayed their ability to “issue necessary approvals” said the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Renewal, Philip Brave Davis, while speaking at the Abaco Business Outlook on September 25 at the Abaco Beach Resort.
Mr. Davis said, “I am saddened by the turn of events on this extremely expensive – and – much anticipated project.”
He said the Ministry of Works (MOW) has been challenged to provide all the necessary approvals to the contractor for the construction of the airport buildings “as there have been and continue to be concerns of a technical nature which do not permit the Ministry of Works and Urban Development to issue necessary approvals.”
Mr. Davis said that he accepts that there are extremely good reasons for a thorough approval process followed by issuing approvals, following required adjustments, and then the follow-up regular, objective inspections and confirmation of building according to an approved plan.
“Yes, adjustments are made to meet unforeseen circumstances; and, yes, the application and approval process can sometimes be frustratingly slow and tedious. Also, yes, I agree that the application and approval process needs overhauling,” he said. He added that the MOW confirmed that recognition of this and are in the process of updating and modernizing how they conduct their business with the construction community.
He said “you certainly can’t fault us for the effort to PLAN instead of just rushing to get things out so that we could claim to be doing more than is sometimes in the People’s best interests.”
Mr. Davis said that aside from the necessary approvals not being given which is delaying the occupancy certificate and opening, “we also have concerns being expressed about whether all the structural elements actually meet fire and safety codes.”
“Further, I am advised that other agencies of the government and representative of potential users, namely airlines, have difficulties with the spaces and equipment being provided for them; it seems that the design of the interior would demand additional staffing to operate a separate international and domestic security operations,” he said.
He indicated that airlines are also asking for ticket counters to be redesigned as there are presently no allocations for space for printers and ticketing machines. He added that the “Immigration (Department) also has an issue with their access to their work area and the security of the same. There is also the relocating of the switching system for runway lighting to the new control tower and the removal of the existing building.”
Mr. Davis said that some technical equipment required to meet international standards are presently under review to ensure proper compliance and that he has been told that the Civil Aviation Department is presently short listing potential new Controllers from more than 100 persons who applied.
“We approached this unfinished project when we returned to government last year with a view to completing it in the shortest period of time while trying to ensure that the taxpayer was receiving value for money and that the project was a complete one, which would best serve all the needs of travelers, and those employed within the facility and in its environs.”
He said that despite the bad news on the delays that he is pleased that under the leadership of the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Glenys Hanna-Martin, “the Government is gradually cutting through all the nonsense surrounding this entire project with a view to, at the earliest opportunity, to make sure that the airport facilities to our travelling public, is efficient, safe, secure.”
In The Abaconian’s article in October 1, 2013 issue titled “New Terminal progress halted until fire escape is designed” we reported that the project was “approximately $10 million over budget.” The statement needs clarification.
In a statement on December 12, 2012 Ms. Hanna-Martin said that the Leonard M Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour “with its checkered past of starting and stopping,” was first projected at $27.3 million but are now saying the needed repairs will run taxpayers into an additional $11,930,000.
Included in that estimate are a $6 million runway extension, $3.8 million to build a freight building, $230,000 for that building’s architectural fees and $1.9 million in other architectural fees. Most of the cost overruns are outside the original scope of the project.
While speaking at the Abaco Business Outlook on September 25 at the Abaco Beach Resort Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Renewal, Philip Brave Davis spoke of a major policy decision the government has made regarding the future operation of airports in the Family Islands.
“The view is that the current model for Family Island airport management is unsustainable, as it requires a considerable investment of public funds,” he said.
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation in moving forward will put in place a policy to ensure, as is possible, that all Family Island airports are self-sufficient in order to reducing the cost of operating airports for the Public Treasury, reducing the strain on the public purse while generating a new
This would reduce the strain on the public purse, and simultaneously, generate a new revenue stream for the Government.
Mr. Davis said the Ministry of Transport and Aviation is pursuing the option of private management of the Marsh Harbour Airport. “In that regard, a Request for Proposals to manage, develop and operate the Marsh Harbour Airport was published in May of this year, inviting Bids from qualified Bahamian firms.”
Three companies submitted proposals and Glenys Hanna-Martin, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, has appointed an Evaluation Committee headed by Sir Baltron Bethel to review the proposals and to make their recommendation.
That Committee has completed its work and has made a recommendation for the consideration which will presented to the Cabinet for a final decision.