By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
A CONTRACTOR for the government’s new agriculture and marine science school yesterday fired back at criticism over the institute’s construction schedule.
Paradigm Construction President Audley Hanna said the Bahamas Agricultural Marine and Science Institute (BAMSI) facility was 80 per cent complete, with all major construction work on the main building to be completed by September 16.
He added that once major work had been completed only electrical, plumbing and air conditioning will need to be installed to finish the “initial project”.
Last week, Agriculture Minister V Alfred Gray confirmed that the school will still open this month despite construction setbacks. His comments came a day after FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis led the media on a tour of the North Andros construction site and said it appeared the government would not meet its September opening deadline, due to the numerous unfinished buildings at the property.
The school is set to open on September 29, according to Godfrey Eneas, president of BAMSI, who also confirmed that 50 students have been enrolled, the maximum capacity for the programme.
Mr Hanna explained that inclement weather affected the construction process, which led workers to prioritise the completion of the facility’s roof to ensure that finishing work on the building could continue.
He said he took exception to comments made by Dr Minnis, which he claimed gave the perception that the project is much further behind than it is.
Dr Minnis’ claims have had a far-reaching impact on Paradigm’s private business, according Mr Hanna, who said clients have contacted him with concerns over upcoming unrelated projects.
He added that he was upset that the opposition leader would go to such an extent to negatively portray the building of such an important facility without giving proper information about its progress.
“Paradigm has been operating in the Bahamas for decades, and has the best interest of Bahamians at heart and takes pride in fulfilling national projects for the country,” he said.
Last week, Dr Minnis called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to reveal the “master plan” for the research institute amid claims of unpaid workers and victimisation. He also forecast that the project would not bolster Mr Christie’s legacy as hoped, but further destroy it.
“You cannot come with some scatterbrain idea and put a dollhouse here and there,” he said, as he led a media on a tour of the unfinished site. “When I look at that farm it reminds me of ‘Old McDonald had a farm’ with the Prime Minister heading this Old McDonald project.”
“You cannot commence such a huge project without a master plan, the Prime Minister needs to show us and the Bahamian people the master plan,” he added.
“What are the marketing plans, what are the financial plans to assist farmers in expanding in growth and development, what are the plans for transportation of goods throughout the Family Islands to Nassau?”
Mr Gray and PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts have denounced Dr Minnis’ criticism. Mr Gray is expected to conduct a site tour with the media this morning.