Barbuda’s international runway set to be completed – despite Council’s concerns

Work to build Barbuda an international airstrip has left a gaping crater in the landscape adjacent to the site outside Codrington. Payment for the marl taken has caused an additional dispute between the Barbuda Council and central government. (Photo by Observer media. Inset pic shows Delano Forbes at court yesterday morning.
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Barbuda Council members say they are still concerned about the location and geological stability of the partially-built international runway which now looks set to be completed.

Their comments followed assurances from government on Thursday that the relevant issues had been addressed and developers were poised to finish the work.

 It also appears the local governing body was not consulted or included in talks surrounding the completion of the controversial project.

Secretary of the Barbuda Council Paul Nedd told Observer yesterday there were still lingering worries with regards to sinkholes that appear around the entire perimeter of the compound, including the place where the runway will lie.

Nedd also claimed that the Council has not been paid for marl that was removed from a nearby location for the airstrip’s construction.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas told media at a press briefing yesterday, “We have had all the engineering studies to indicate that where there were suppressions or cavities within the area for the airstrip, those would have been treated from an engineering standpoint.”

He continued, “The load testing factors, all of those would have been dealt with more than a year ago and so, there is no current concern as far as the developers, the contractors, and the government of Antigua is concerned.”

On the issue of the cost of the marl, the Cabinet said on Thursday that an amount to be shared between the Barbuda Council and central government had been agreed, bringing an end to the matter that has festered for weeks.

Meanwhile, government is entering into an agreement with Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) developers to finish the runway and build a new terminal at the site outside Codrington.

The airport will be managed by the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABBA) and the cost of the works is to be covered by the government through a loan facilitated by PLH.

“The entire obligation for the construction and development of the runway falls to the government,” Minister Nicholas said. “However, PLH’s development is dependent on the airport facilities being completed. In effect, the government has been able to get the developers to advance certain funds in the form of a loan in which the government will liquidate those loans based on revenues that are due to it.”

According to Minister Nicholas, ABBA has indicated that an additional US$8 million will be needed to complete the terminal building and the airstrip.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Barbuda Council said members of the body are somewhat numb about the latest details that were released in the weekly Cabinet notes on Thursday.

He claimed central government continues to undermine the Council’s efforts with regards to the operations and development of projects on the sister island.

“The constitution of the land makes it absolutely clear that the Barbuda Council has jurisdiction to all lands on the island. It also states clearly that the Barbuda Council is the principal organ to all development and all lands,” Nedd said.

“Either the government has decided they have no interest in the constitution that they are supposed to protect, [or] they have personal equity, shares in what is going on at the airport, and therefore the Barbuda Council would be a hindrance if we are involved in the planning,” he claimed.

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