Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), the company contracted to build the new Barbuda airport and a major road rehabilitation project in Antigua, has confirmed the removal of all its equipment from the sister isle, halting all construction work on the airport.
Spokesman for BHM Jimmy Fuller told OBSERVER “the airport is now 80 percent complete and the government [doesn’t] have the money at the moment to finish it off, so it’s been put on hold. There’s no falling out or no vexation or nothing.”
Fuller made sure to point out that the reason for the temporary stoppage has nothing to do with any contractual dispute between BHM and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
He also denounced claims by Trevor Walker, Leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement, that suggested the issue was linked to environmental obstacles like underground wells and caverns gushing water, thereby overwhelming of the construction firm’s engineering capacity – allegations that have been bandied about by various sources in recent weeks.
Instead, the BHM agent said the government does not presently have enough money to pay the company, even after heavily discounting its initial asking price for the project from almost $30 million to $15 million.
Fuller said the airport construction began before Hurricane Irma smashed Barbuda in September 2017, and this caused the project to be delayed by four months.
He added that the injunction for judicial review obtained last year by environmentalist John Mussington and Barbuda Councilor Jacklyn Frank caused a further delay of another three months.
According to Fuller, the situation finally became untenable for both the government and BHM because, even when idle, it costs the company US $10,000 every day to maintain its personnel and equipment on the sister isle.
He claimed that it became difficult for the government to meet its financial obligations to BHM because of the tremendous amount of money that the national Treasury had to dole out every day for the accommodation and upkeep of displaced Barbudans and on the reconstruction efforts.
According to Fuller, with the Barbuda airport project temporarily halted, BHM has moved its equipment from the sister isle to Antigua for the time being, so that it can be used to further expedite the ongoing rehabilitation of Friar’s Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway.