By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Philip "Brave" Davis blamed the Minnis administration's inaction on construction of the controversial Andre Rollins Baseball Stadium for the project's skyrocketing cost.
While he did admit work stopped on the project about a month before the May 2017 general election due to issues with the allocation of funds, Mr Davis said the present government had not allowed work at the stadium to resume since it came to office.
Given this inaction, he said Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister had been deliberately disingenuous to assert the former Christie administration is at fault in this situation. He further pointed to a crane on the site, just opposite Government High School, which accumulated cost and contributed to the staggering price tag now attached to the construction of the stadium.
He suggested blaming the PLP has been the government's easy way out in the face of challenges, but noted this would not solve this issue or change the country's state of affairs.
On Wednesday, Mr Bannister told Tribune Business the stadium is a waste of taxpayer dollars that will never pay for itself. He further asserted the government aimed to cap construction costs at about $30m as opposed to the $43.014m that has been projected for the full scope of works.
Cabinet documents seen by The Tribune further reveal the former government initially planned an estimated project cost of $16.5m, but this threatened to increase by 160 percent - almost three times' higher than the original budget.
"The minister is being very, very disingenuous (and) deliberately so," Mr Davis told reporters yesterday. "It is as one of my good friends would say nothing but sophistry on his part.
"The balloon in cost has nothing to do with the original plan for that stadium. The balloon in cost is due primarily at the feet of the minister and his government for not allowing the project to continue.
"If he had allowed it to continue the cost would not have ballooned. If you have a contract for work to be done and you allow the contractor not to do his work and you have for example a crane on site for over a year not doing anything, all that is cost. The fact that you have to remobilise the work, that's cost. The fact that you did not pay any attention at all with the contractor with a contract that is existing, that's cost.
"So their inaction is the cost of the balloon and it's clear that they are lost."
He added: "The worked stopped a month before the election. It had to do with the allocation of funds, which we were working on. So yes, a month delay under our administration. That's where the cost is. That's where the millions of dollars are found and just leaving a site exposed to the elements as they did will require remediation. That's where the cost is."
In response to Mr Bannister's admission the stadium will never pay for itself, Mr Davis said that was never the intention.
He said the former government was more concerned with the advancement of young people who love and are interested in the sport.
He said: "The purpose of the stadium was not to have a return. Yes that could have been in the plan. Yes there were plans set to try to recoup some of the cost, but it was never intended to recover costs or for the stadium to pay for itself.
"When we build stadiums, when we build parks, do we build it with recovering the cost in mind? No we don't. We do it because we are investing in the youth of our nation.
"Today we have over 22 young Bahamians playing professional baseball. That is why we build these stadiums to encourage our youth, to give them something to do and baseball has proven particularly through the efforts of (former) Senator Greg Burrows and the Freedom Farm initiative. Thousands of Bahamians have gotten scholarships for baseball and are now making a living through baseball," Mr Davis continued.
"That is why you invest in edifices like (the) baseball stadium to be able to encourage and to inspire the young amongst us to do something positive with their lives. And through baseball a lot of things can happen positively for our young people. That's the return that we look for in the building and construction."
The stadium's costs have increased progressively since the project was conceived in 2014-2015, rapidly increasing to $18.75m and then just over $21m by the time the Christie administration was voted out of office in the May 2017 general election.
A November 27, 2017, construction "update" revealed the "original funds required" subsequently soared to $32.917m through the addition of more than $6m in "contingencies" and "provisional sums" to cover any cost overruns.
Terran Rodgers, a Ministry of Works architect, said in the report that construction delays due to non-payment of the contractor, Woslee Construction, plus structural engineers and other professionals, had added some $1.711m to the cost.
And he warned that "additional funds required to complete the project" stood at $8.386m if the government went through with adding "two auxiliary fields" and "high-level IT services," taking the final cost to $43.014m.
Mr Bannister this week confirmed the Minnis administration had elected not to proceed with these facilities, which were outside the "original scope" of works, in the hopes of saving $5.5m and keeping project costs closer to $30m.