By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
MORE than $10m of the Ministry of Works’ capital budget will be spent to complete the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium in the upcoming fiscal year.
According to Minister of Works Desmond Bannister yesterday, $10,070,065.53 is committed to the project, which has been a financial burden for the Minnis administration.
Under the previous Christie administration, the stadium was to cost $16.5m.
However, by the time it is completed, just over $35.9m of taxpayer dollars would have been used on the project.
Mr Bannister spoke on the matter while telling the House of Assembly the budget for his ministry is much less than he wanted.
The capital budget is nearly $94m, but is almost $27m less than the 2018/2019 allocation. This, he said, would pose a serious challenge to the ministry’s capital works initiatives.
“The challenge for the Ministry of Public Works this year arises not only as a result of this Minnis led government’s commitment to responsible fiscal restraint, but also as a result of the former administration’s runaway spending,” he told parliamentarians yesterday.
“Of the $93,737,830.00 in our capital budget, some $53,512,238.25 is already committed to ongoing capital projects. Of that $53.5 million, $10,070,065.53 is committed to completing the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium.
“The Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium was planned and construction was started by the former administration. The total cost was to be $16.5m plus design fees of $1,443,750.00 for a total cost of $17,943,750. Under the former administration the cost continued to mushroom completely out of control.
“To date the government has already spent $25,910,347.20 on the stadium and we estimate that it will take close to $11m more to finish this stadium.
“That means that due to irresponsible management of the public purse by members opposite the total cost of the baseball stadium will be approximately $35,980,412.73, more than twice what the cost was supposed to be.”
He said the narrative of the Star Academy on Wulff Road was even more “sordid”.
In May 2015, then Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the government intended to lease the former Bahamas Academy on Wulff Road for the development of the Star Academy, a government-run facility for at-risk youth.
However, Mr Bannister criticised the former Christie administration for poor planning of the project’s construction phase.
“They started out by allocating $6,891,333.60. A few months later they increased this by $20,098,452.33.
“Now the total cost will exceed $30m. The challenge is not only that government does not own the land, government does not even have a lease on the land. So after we have spent more than $30m of the people’s money on constructing a beautiful building, the government will have no right to occupy it.”
He said he wished Minister of Education Jeffery Lloyd well in his negotiations to secure the right for the Bahamian people to have access to this building.
The minister further defended the decision to pave Milo Butler Highway.
“I was taken aback when we started paving the Milo Butler Highway and some persons criticised us for, in their words, paving the road too soon. For the benefit of the general public, sir, I wish to explain why we paved that highway. This explanation will also apply to other roads, so I do hope that it will be helpful for the guidance of the public.
“MBH is an arterial road that was paved circa 2001. It is approximately 6,300 feet, which translates to 4.8 miles of pavement. There were major remedial works conducted in 2006, which involved patching large sections of road. It is more than 10 years later and which means the life of the pavement is nearing its end.”
He also said: “The decision to repave this road was not made lightly. We have had to patch it several times over the past few years. The Ministry of Public Works road technical officers conducted a visual inspection to determine the suitability of the road. The Civil Engineering Section noted alligator cracking that arises from base failure and had resulted in a rough surface with areas of rutting.
“Failure to address these defects would result in increasing the frequency of pothole formation. Also the cost of addressing pavement defects now while it has not completely deteriorated is more economically prudent and extends the overall life of the pavement. It is cheaper to resurface the pavement as we need it rather than waiting for complete deterioration/failure which involves more work (such as base reconstruction) and disruption to traffic at a higher price.”