St. John’s Antigua- Work on the Public Library, which came to halt in 2011, is set to resume on Wednesday next week, according to Executive Secretary of the Board of Education (BOE) D Gisele Isaac.
“We have agreed with Antigua & Barbuda Contractors Enterprises Limited (ABCEL) that it will resume work on January 2,” Isaac said.
“By June the project will be, if not complete, near completion because we are looking at operationalising the facility in time for the 2013 school year (in September),” she added.
A new project manager is also set to be put in place this week, according to Isaac.
The BOE paid $200,000 to ABCEL in mid December and will pay a further $50,000 by mid-January as part of negotiations to have construction of the building resume.
“The $250,000 has to do with work ABCEL is claiming for outside of the scope of work. We had a number of change orders; we had a drainage problem for instance at the site and that took considerable time and work to fix,” Isaac said.
Isaac said a breakdown in communication was largely responsible for no work occurring on the site this year.
She explained that cost overruns were incurred by ABCEL but payment orders were not passed on to the BOE by the project manager Lucine Hanley – who tendered his resignation in May.
“The board had never communicated directly with ABCEL. The board had always communicated through the project manager…so they (ABCEL) were waiting to be paid and we were not aware that they needed to be paid,” Isaac said.
“The project manager would certify that the bills were correct and then pass them to us… as far as we were aware we had paid all bills being passed to us,” she added.
The BOE Executive Secretary said Finance Minister Harold Lovell met with the board and the contractors as part of efforts to reach the solution.
“When both sides came to the table with the minister of finance all the problems were laid out,” Isaac told OBSERVER Media.
The Public Library has been plagued with delays since construction began in the 1990s under the Public Works Department. In 2008 the project was contracted out to ABCEL, a local consortium.
The library was meant to be completed nine months later but suffered constant delays. Work halted completely in 2011.
In 2008 completion of the facility was budgeted at $6.4 million, which was provided by the BOE. After delays and unexpected problems the board agreed to provide a further $2.7 million in 2011 through a loan with Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB). It included $1.4 million on materials, which has now been spent, and a further $1.3 million for labour.
Isaac said the bulk of materials to complete construction of the facility have arrived on island.
“We still have the $1.3 million component for labour of the ACB loan…so we have money in hand for labour and the BOE with the assistance of PDV Cab has been carrying the weight of those other expenses,” Isaac said.
Isaac said should any additional costs arise they will be covered by the Board of Education.
“The board will put in place a budget to run the construction project outside of the funds that we have available from the bank,” Isaac said.
“We are expecting to incur some further costs in terms of the sewage system, they are too-ing and froing on whether they should put in an old fashion one or a more modern environmentally friendly sewage system,” she added.
Isaacs said additional costs could also come in equipping the facility once construction is complete.
“Other things need to be put in place. For instance, furniture needs, computer needs and so on. But there is a library board that goes back several years and that is really the responsibility of the library board and not the BOE,” Isaac said.
“We are willing and plan to work with that (library) board in getting the facility operational for September — as in open to the public,” she added.
The total cost of constructing the library will be at least EC$9.35 million, exclusive of costs incurred between the 1990’s and 2008 which are not known.