Smith’s Point residents had their questions answered regarding the construction delay of the sea wall in that quaint community, yesterday when they met Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest, Member of Parliament for East GB at Outriggers Restaurant and Bar.
Some 30 residents of the closely-knit community of Smith’s Point assembled on Sunday afternoon to discuss the status of the wall moving forward.
Also in attendance were Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, Iram Lewis, Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama; Harvey Roberts, Administrator for East Grand Bahama and newly elected Local Government representative Betsy Hepburn.
Turnquest opened the meeting with an overview of the initial Smith’s Point Seawall Project to its present state.
“In April 2016, it was proposed to construct a sea wall to protect the shoreline and coastal road at Smith’s Point.”
He explained that construction work to be completed included site clearance and removal of exiting vegetation, construction of a 1,730 foot long reinforced concrete seawall and piled foundations, construction of a five foot wide concrete slab to carriageway side of wall, wall toe erosion protection, reinstatement and repair to highway carriage way, as well as traffic management measures.
He disclosed that as four local construction companies were invited to tender for the work (Smith, Waugh, Freeport and Treasure Coast Development and Constructions), Smith Construction was awarded the contact in the amount of $4,887,977.69, despite the Tender Evaluation Report that was presented to the Tender Boards on May 10, 2016, recommended that the contract be awarded to Waugh Construction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) amount of $4,825,839.35.
Additionally, Turnquest revealed, the Board recommended that an approval of a $500,000.00 client contingency be covered to cover any unforeseen works that may arise, during the course of the project as well as an approval of a $200,000.00 provisional sum be established for possible pile depths being greater than envisioned and the potential of having increased foundation costs.
“The Tenders Board supported the recommendations and for the Ministry of Works and Urban Development to seek Cabinet’s approval of the same.”
Turnquest further said, “(The Cabinet at its 21st meeting in May 2016 approved the award of a contract in the negotiated VAT inclusive base sum of $4,825,839.35 to Smith’s Construction Co. Ltd. to construct the sea wall defence at Smith’s Point, Grand Bahama.
“The contract was signed on June 24, 2016 for the base contract amount of $4,825,839.35 with a contract period of 26 weeks. With reference to the agreed program of works, the project was due to be completed on February 24, 2017.”
After numerous inconsistencies with the scope of work on the project and its unacceptable progress, Turnquest informed that on February 3, 2017 Smith Construction was asked to attend a meeting in Nassau to discuss the project.
“Smith Construction was asked to provide documentation in support of the completion of the project in a satisfactory manner and agreed time period. The revised project schedule was submitted to the Ministry of Works by email on February 22, 2017. The revised completion date was stated as May 17, 2017.
“On May 17, 2017 evidence was again requested from Smith Construction in their ability to complete the works. A response within 14 days of the date of this letter was requested.”
He maintained that a response from the contractor was received on May 31, 2017, but the written statement was not conclusive and that a further schedule of works was requested but was never submitted to the Ministry.
“Despite the Ministry of Works offering the contractor the opportunity to demonstrate that work progress could be accelerated, this has not occurred as the current contract progress is currently still only at 33 percent completion.”
With that in mind among other concerns made by engineers within the Ministry of Works, a letter of termination was served on the contractor on June 8, 2017, Turnquest noted.
“The estimated value of works completed by the contractor at this time stands at approximately $1,600,000.00, with the evaluated works remaining valued at $3,200,000.00.
“These remaining works will require to be completed by others. The selected contractor will be requested to accelerate the construction works by working from both the east and the west ends. It may be necessary to stabilize the road in critical locations with boulders and/or sheet piling.”
The DPM went on to inform the residents that the government is well on its way to signing a contract with Waugh Construction, the company initially recommended to complete the work by the Tenders Board in their Tender Evaluation Report.
“Ladies and gentlemen, since that time, I can confirm that the Cabinet of The Bahamas has agreed to a bridging contract, which you have already seen some work, on the site, by Waugh Construction, the original company that the Tender’s Board recommended and, subsequent to that, the Government of The Bahamas has agreed to enter a final negotiation with Waugh Construction for the completion on the sea wall.
“We are presently awaiting the Cabinet conclusion, which is the document that is necessary before the minister (Desmond Bannister) has complete authority to sign a contract, which we should get tomorrow, at which time, as I indicated, the contract with Waugh will be completed and which should begin, on the site immediately,” disclosed Turnquest.
“The work that Waugh has done for the government already has been of good quality and is a known company. Secondly, they have been known to bring their projects in on time and as you know this is critical now and Waugh was in fact the objective winner of the original tendering process. It is felt that they are the best equipped, at this time, to complete this work within the time frame that we anticipate.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Waugh could not be here today but once we have the contract signing, we will have another meeting, to update you on the new time frame, so that we can hold each other accountable, for this new contract.”
He further reassured those in attendance of his commitment as their MP as well as the present government’s commitment to them and by extension the entire Commonwealth, that a sound wall will be completed in the shortest time frame possible.
“We are committed to having this work done; I am your Member of Parliament, as the Minister of Finance and as the Deputy Prime Minister, give you my commitment that this work will be done. It will be done at a standard that we can all be proud of, that will last, and will be done efficiently and within a defining time period.
“You may recall that when I was first elected and walking in Smith’s Point, this was one of the issues that was outlined as the most significant issue for Smith’s Point. From then to now, I continue to advocate for this wall. In fact, if I had it my way, the design of the wall would have been a little more elaborate, but be that as it may, the main thing now, is to ensure that we protect the community.”
In conclusion he noted, “I certainly want to apologize, on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas, (because governments are continuous) that this has not been done in the time frame, and to the standard that we had all expected. I give you the commitment of the Government of The Bahamas that we will expedite this construction process as safely and as sufficiently as we possibly can, and you can be assured that I, my fellow Parliamentarian, the Hon. Iram Lewis, are committed to advocating and making sure that this gets done.
“Sitting in my seat as the Minister of Finance, I can assure you that the funding will be provided to make sure that it gets done. There should be no impediments once we sign this contract. That is where we are.”
He apologized for being absent from the previously scheduled meeting that was planned with himself and the residents of the community; however, he reassured them that as their MP he remains committed to hearing their concerns and comments, be it positive or negative.