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Locals cut out of airport project, says developer

An open meeting on the island's airport redevelopment plan featured a sceptical and often heated crowd for a second night.

Craig Looby, a developer with the Urban Maximum Industries, Inc (UMI), rose at last night's forum at Penno's Wharf, St George's to declare his company's ability to build a better airport for Bermuda.

Maintaining that UMI had the capacity, experience and access to capital to deliver the job, Mr Looby said his firm could also cover the penalties for the Bermuda Government to withdraw from the deal.

The proposal on the table at present has the Canadian contractors Aecon to build the new terminal, which Mr Looby said the majority of Bermudians were against.

“The longer this community takes to stop this development, the higher the cost will be to compensate,” Mr Looby told the gathering, adding that his overtures to the Government had thus far gone unanswered.

Reflecting much of the mood at the forum, Mr Looby said he felt that Bermudians were being excluded from access to the project, which is slated to finish construction by 2020 under a public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

Anxieties over foreigners being hired over locals topped the concerns, with Bermuda Environmental Consulting (BEC), the local company involved in the environmental and social impact assessment, questioned not only on its Bermudian membership but its racial make-up.

BEC representatives, asked repeatedly who had paid them to carry out the assessment, assured the audience that Aecon had commissioned it, and that the Government had not paid for it.

The forum briefly became a shouting match, shortly after Ken Hassard of Aecon opened the night. Mr Hassard said he had heard that the island's lack of covered walkways to aircraft out on the runways deterred elderly and disabled visitors, prompting several people to denounce the remarks as untrue.

“If anybody has a stack of Bibles, I will swear on them,” Mr Hassard replied.

A third meeting is set for 5.30pm today at the Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton.