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Abaco residents frustrated over airport opening delays

Opening delayed by more than a year
  • The new Marsh Harbour International Airport Terminal is not yet open. CANDIA DAMES

TANEKA THOMPSON
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 16, 2013

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Many residents on Abaco are frustrated over delays in the opening of a new airport terminal in Marsh Harbour.

The frustration over the airport prompted Abaco businessman Percy Pinder to circulate a petition last week asking those who want the airport to open immediately to sign the document, which will be forwarded to Prime Minister Perry Christie.

“The new Marsh Harbour International Airport terminal is now a year overdue to be open and the delays keep coming,” the petition says.

“We ask the government to stop the delays and get this airport open speedily during these hard economic times.”

The Ingraham administration broke ground on the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in September 2011. The airport had an original budget of $27 million and was scheduled to open in October 2012.

Yesterday, Colin Higgs, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, said government officials now expect the airport to be open “in early December”.

“There have been some delays in terms of completion of the terminal and movement of some of the utilities that relate to the air traffic control apparatus and some delays related to the security,” Higgs said.

He said officials from the Ministry of Transport held a meeting with the relevant stakeholders yesterday to discuss ongoing challenges with the airport. Higgs said he did not attend the meeting but was briefed afterwards.

Silbert Mills, of Radio Abaco, said residents are fed up with excuses for the delays. He added that the facilities at the Marsh Harsh Harbour International Airport are inadequate and “embarrassing”.

Travelers have to sit outside on benches to wait for their flights and the ground gets covered in thick mud when it rains.  The bathroom facilities are run down and the interior of the airport terminal is small and cramped.

“The people of Abaco are saying that’s not good enough,” said Mills in referring to the delays.

“They would like to know when did the government know these issues existed and why is it taking so long to be corrected.

“It’s an affront to Abaco for the kind of tax that Abaco contributes to the public treasury and to have a terminal so close to being finished and no definite opening date is incredible.”

In September, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis said a completion date for the airport was in sight, but added that his ministry could not issue the relevant project approvals because of technical issues.

“Besides the problems with all the necessary approvals not being in place, which would mean that an occupancy certificate cannot be issued, resulting in delays in the opening, we also have concerns being expressed about whether all of the structural elements actually meet fire and safety codes,” Davis said.

“I am advised that other agencies of the government and users of the airport, namely the airlines, are having difficulty with the spaces and equipment being provided for them.

“It seems that the design of the interior would demand additional staffing to operate a separate international and domestic security operations.”

Davis added: “There is also the relocating of the switch system for runway lighting to the new control tower, and the removal of the existing building. Some technical equipment required to meet international standards are presently under review to ensure proper compliance.”

In May, Davis said the government would have to spend another $3.8 million to finish the terminal.


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