Pettingill: Where is the tender for Wedco project?
The building of new units to replace the Victoria and Albert Rows was not properly tendered, according to OBA MP Mark Pettingill.
Mr Pettingill said in a heated session of the House of Assembly that he understands a US-based company, Clark Construction, was quietly selected to build the prefabricated buildings.
And while Government said the $36 million project would be funded by Wedco, Mr Pettingill said the project will be funded by money borrowed from a foreign company, and will likely result in a large shortfall for the Bermuda Government.
The US company gets paid first, and the Government will be left with a major shortfall, Mr Pettingill said. Thats what the deal is about, but what happens in the dark comes out in the light of day.
We know we cannot be all austerity, but this Government is no austerity.
Government MPs responded that the projects construction would be going to tender in the near future, emphasising that the project will create numerous jobs and provide a much-needed improvement in the quality of life for residents.
The topic of the housing development arose in the house on Friday morning, when Public Works Minister Michael Week read a statement defending the project.
In the statement, Mr Weeks said the project will be funded by Wedco, and will include both 100 new housing units and an infrastructure expansion, allowing both sewage collection and a supply of reclaimed water for residents of Boaz Island and Ireland Island North.
In the statement, he dismissed criticism of the project by members of the opposition, saying: The residents of this area have been waiting far too long only now to be cast into a political game by an opposition that is clearly out of touch with the residents and dwelling within the area.
He also dismissed the idea of renovating the existing buildings, saying that they were constructed in the 1870s, have no firewall separation, and have both termites and asbestos.
Any effective renovation of these two sites would cost approximately $20 million to ensure they conform to current building codes, he said. Forty-two units divided by $20 million would equate to $476,000 per unit.
In summary, the opposition would believe it prudent to kick the sitting tenant out for the renovation period and spend an additional $116,000 per unit over a new, modern unit which is energy efficient, saves on potable water consumption and treats waste in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Later that day, during the motion to adjourn, Mr Pettingill delivered a speech attacking the projects financing, tendering and effectiveness.
He said that he had learned the development and construction of the project would be managed by South Basin Development Ltd, a public-private partnership owned 60 percent by Wedco and 40 percent by US-based Clark International.
The fact of the matter is that this project is basically run by a US company thats fabricating the materials for the building of the units, Mr Pettingill said. Its shipping them to Bermuda to build like Lego blocks in a development partnership with Wedco, a deal thats 60 percent controlled by Wedco and 40 percent that is invested in the project and providing materials.
I dont see how thats providing any benefit to our construction industry. In fact, the way it has to be put together has to be managed by an entirely US run company.
Where is the tender that went out to stimulate the economy and the construction industry for this $36 million project?
I would like to think that there would be some local construction companies that would say they would like to have a stab at building this without shipping everything in from the USA to be put together by a foreign company.
You would think that the Government of the day has had enough questions raised and enough issues out there in the public domain.
He also noted that while the average resident at Victoria Row pays $880 a month in rent, the lowest rate being offered for the new units would be $1,600.
If you are paying $880 a month, going up to $1,600 is not affordable housing. It simply is not, he said. Especially when you have sold five of your Grand Atlantic units.
The housing project, which was first announced in 2010 with an estimated cost of $34 million, is expected to be built in two stages, with work beginning this summer and lasting 18 months.
The first phase consists of the construction of 48 units on the property opposite Victoria Row. At this stage, the residents of both Victoria and Albert Rows will be able to move into the new units.
Phase two of the project consists of the demolition of the older structures and construction of an additional 52 units on the site.