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Airport schedules released

Legislators have been handed a substantial reading list ahead of tomorrow’s debate on bills essential for the Bermuda Government’s airport development to proceed.

A raft of documents detailing how the multimillion-dollar deal would work was yesterday released to The Royal Gazette under public access to information laws. The agreement’s schedules include a comprehensive list of scenarios that would cancel the project — ranging from a “deterioration” making the new terminal unaffordable, or a chill in international markets that might render financing impossible.

There are still plans for parts of the existing terminal to remain: while its eastern portion is earmarked for demolition, the newer western facility has a future as office space, staff facilities and storage.

Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, was fiercely criticised for an e-mail reference to Canadian Commercial Corporation that he had “fuzzied” numbers regarding financing — but the schedules illustrate the uncertainty of a project relying on hoped-for future revenues.

If projections fall short, the Government must pay Project Co, the entity running the airport, in return for “participating equity certificates”, which suggests the concessionaire handing over ownership stakes — potentially allowing for the later recovery of funds.

All guaranteed revenue payments to Project Co would be held in “a segregated interest bearing account”, and would be restricted to debt-related payments.

If the new terminal at L.F. Wade International Airport should prove an unexpected bonanza, the Government would share in that revenue — once the investment had been recouped.

Although Mr Richards has been Bermuda’s face for the proposal, the first page shows a 2015 agreement between CCC, and the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transportation, which would ultimately take purview.

Much has been made of the enhanced retail on offer, and Bermudians who recall the days when locals lined up at the McDonald’s on the old United States naval airbase could be forgiven for wondering whether the golden arches might return.

Project Co gets exclusive right to provide a plethora of potential commercial services and developments, ranging from casinos to a planetarium. However, since these are subject to “current Bermuda public policy”, McDonald’s or other food franchises seem unlikely to feature on the menu.

On airport design, a “linear” terminal was settled upon, with exterior “Bermuda motifs”. Financial close was originally anticipated by November, allowing a December 2020 completion after a 40-month build — which means a finished terminal would be farther down the road.

Like MPs, The Royal Gazette only recently obtained the 229-page document of the Airport Development Agreement and its nine schedules, which had been withheld as confidential.

This newspaper first requested the schedules associated with the $250 million development back in January. Our request was refused and we appealed the decision to the information commissioner, who launched a review.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Finance e-mailed the schedules to us, in the context of that review, enabling us to share them with the public for the first time.

The release of the schedules to this newspaper came less than 24 hours after the Speaker of the House, Randy Horton, revealed that he had “raised with the Government the importance of releasing the schedules of the airport development agreement”.

Financing, and whether the Government satisfied due diligence requirements, will feature prominently in tomorrow’s debate. Fierce opposition has continued to the bitter end, with a website launched called “Keep Our Airport Bermudian”, and flyers denouncing Mr Richards placed on cars.