June 18, 2014
An Abaco business leader has argued that there is "blame across the board" for allowing the Marsh Harbour International Airport to proceed through the planning phase despite a host of structural deficiencies that include a shortage of toilets and fire escapes, adding that "checks and balances" were lacking.
While the public reception to the long-delayed opening Marsh Harbour International Airport (MHIA) has been mostly positive, questions have been asked about how the project passed muster in the early phases given critical shortcomings outlined in Parliament this week by Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna Martin.
Addressing the House of Assembly on Monday, Hanna Martin described the development process of the airport in Parliament this week as "a series of 'what not to do' examples in airport development".
She said the design "completely undermined" the commercial viability of the space.
The oft-delayed airport opened just over two weeks ago, with the final cost estimated at nearly $40 million.
In an interview with Guardian Business yesterday, former President of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce Michael Albury claimed that there was a "series of mistakes and oversights" involved in the planning phase of the airport.
Albury felt that there was "blame across the board" for the inadequacies of the airport's design and warned against singling out an individual.
Early criticism of the project's design oversights was directed at lead architect Donald Dean, who signed a contract worth $600,000 for the airport's design in 2010. The MHIA was his first experience designing an airport, and while observers have called it attractive, sources with knowledge of airport development had - even prior to Hanna Martin's commentary - suggested it was not ideal for use as an airport facility.
Donald Dean had no comment for Guardian Business when asked how the project proceeded to completion, given its structural shortcomings.
These shortcomings, outlined in Martin's report to Parliament on the state of the airport this week, included a lack of restrooms on the second floor, dashing early plans of using the floor as a commercial center and a lack of fire escapes on the upper floors, resulting in the floors being sealed off from the public. Martin also highlighted the inefficient layout of the security checkpoints and the "serious financial burden" posed by the maintenance of the airport's automated parking lot.
Albury said these issues "should've been spotted in the plan".
"The Ministry of Works is to blame for allowing the plan...We have checks and balances in the system that got passed over," he said.
Albury speculated that the change in government and the Ministry of Works contributed to the project's problems.
Former Minister of Public Works and Transport Neko Grant, who signed the contract with Dean for the airport's design and who remained in the position of minister of works when the project first broke ground in 2011, stated that he did not understand why the airport's design issues were a sudden shock.
"If it was not up to standard, it should not have been approved," said Grant, adding that "the same technical team" that worked on the project at its inception saw it through to its conclusion.
When asked about Martin's comments before Parliament, Grant replied: "I pay no attention to her utterance".
Despite these oversights, Albury remained optimistic about the airport's future. "The general consensus is we're very happy that it's open," said Albury, adding: "We appreciate the government biting the bullet to open the airport."
Albury expressed hope that the airport would fall under private ownership in the near future.
"Life is good for Abaconians," stated Albury.
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