Minister Weeks On ‘Misinformation & Rumours’

May 29, 2012

[Updated with videos] Minister of Public Works Michael Weeks held a press conference today [May 29] saying he wanted to put an end to the “misinformation, rumours and utterly fabricated statements” concerning the WEDCo $36 million housing project.

“The opposition and others in the community have attacked this project with gusto and turned it into a political football,” said Minister Weeks. “The opposition keeps harping on about Government’s project. This is not, let me repeat, not a Government project.

“This project has been initiated, managed and financed by the West End Development Corporation – a quango. The involvement of Government is simply to provide a guarantee on the project, with strict terms and conditions outlined in case that guarantee is triggered.”

WEDCo General Manager Andrew Dias answers questions:

Minister Weeks also said there have been media reports, some “emanating from the opposition’s malicious comments,” that residents are not in support of the project or say the units could be renovated. The Minister called those reports “hogwash”.

“Contrary to what the opposition claims, WEDCo has held several meetings with the existing residents to date – with no indication they were not in favor of the development,” said the Minister.

“The intent of this development is to take persons out of the very old units and place them in more modern, comfortable units. If people could see the condition of these almost 150 year old buildings, they would see clearly they need to be demolished and new, modern units built.”

Video of Minister Weeks statement:

“Do not be swayed by all the negativity around this project. It’s no secret an election is on the near horizon and the opposition has taken it upon themselves to make any and every issue a political battle ground,” continued Minister Weeks.

“This constant negativity is not helping move Bermuda forward. This project is sorely needed for the residents who have been neglected far too long,” the Minister said. “It is in keeping with Government’s mandate to ensure we are socially responsible while embracing sustainable development.”

Minister Weeks full statement follows below:

Good morning, and thank you for coming at short notice.

Today I want to put an end to the misinformation, rumours and utterly fabricated statements concerning the WEDCO project to build 100 homes in the west end of our island.

The opposition, the OBA to be specific, and others in the community have attacked this project with gusto and turned it into a political football.

Let’s clear up one falsehood right now. The opposition keeps harping on about Government’s project. This is not, let me repeat, not a Government project.

This project has been initiated, managed and financed by the West End Development Corporation – a quango.

The involvement of Government is simply to provide a guarantee on the project, with strict terms and conditions outlined in case that guarantee is triggered.

There have also been media reports, some emanating from the opposition’s malicious comments, that residents are not in support of the project or say the units could be renovated.

Hogwash!

Contrary to what the opposition claims, WEDCo has held several meetings with the existing residents to date – with no indication they were not in favor of the development. The General Manager can speak more to this.

In addition, there will be further consultative meetings in the coming weeks which will include residents, potential contractors for the works to be done and general information meetings.

WEDCo will be providing the times and dates of these meetings before the end of the week.

The intent of this development is to take persons out of the very old units and place them in more modern, comfortable units.

If people could see the condition of these almost 150 year old buildings, they would see clearly they need to be demolished and new, modern units built. This is the Government’s Social Responsibility.

Let me also clarify: Albert Row and Victoria Row are the areas to be developed and these units are rental units only and are not for sale. The Boaz Island units are being offered for sale once tenants move out.

Concerning the issues raised as far as the tendering process, I will let the GM speak to this as he is managing the project.

The Government supports this project as it is expected to create more than 100 jobs involving many trades.

In addition the tenants who may have felt neglected during the past few decades will have a safe, clean and affordable unit in which to live.

We are anticipating the first group of tenants to move in at the 18 month mark of the project.

Once the units are built, the rents will be:

  • a. $1,600 for 1 bedroom
  • b. $1,800 for 2 bedroom
  • c. $2,100 for 3 bedroom

WEDCO Chairman Walter Lister has released a document outlining many of the facts around this project. It has been printed in its entirety on Bernews and on Friday, May 25 was printed in the Bermuda Sun.

To date the Royal Gazette has only used excerpts from this document and for some reason will not print it in full. The media will be provided with this document again.

Before I hand it over to the GM and Chairman let me make one final appeal to the public.

Do not be swayed by all the negativity around this project. It’s no secret an election is on the near horizon and the opposition has taken it upon themselves to make any and every issue a political battle ground.

This constant negativity is not helping move Bermuda forward. This project is sorely needed for the residents who have been neglected far too long.

It is in keeping with Government’s mandate to ensure we are socially responsible while embracing sustainable development.

Another project that the opposition and a handful of the community have taken it upon themselves to discredit and attack at every opportunity is the Grand Atlantic project.

Those who understand real estate know that you don’t simply buy a residential unit in a day. There are applications, contracts, credit checks, conveyanceing and so on that can take a while to complete.

I am happy to report that 5 persons have been approved by the banks to purchase the units to date. 15 additional persons are now being screened by the Bank of Butterfield for approval.

Interest in the units remains high and there is an office located on site for persons that want to view the units which is open from 10:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday.

Recently, some environmentalists, who, by the way are not qualified engineers, made all sorts of claims about the cliff face on the property.

Engineers carried out geotechnical surveys on the site and designed mitigating structures to ensure the integrity of the cliff face. A wall was built along the base of the cliff and is approximately 485 feet long.

The excavation into the bedrock was not less than 4 feet in all locations with the contractor then erecting 10 panels as high as 12 feet in some spots – with concrete poured behind them.

The depth in all locations is not less than 3 feet; where cavities were found in the cliff face, depending on the depth of the cavity as much as 8 feet of concrete was poured.

It’s important to note that similar developments have taken place with no issues to date on the South Shore such as:

  • a. The Tuckers Point Development
  • b. Surf Side Hotel
  • c. The Reefs Hotel; and,
  • d. The Breakers Club – which is right next door and has been there for several years without incident

We have done everything possible to ensure this development is safe. I will let Major Dill speak to the any other issues that have been raised concerning the Grand Atlantic.

Finally – let me appeal to the very small groups of people who seem to take great delight in criticizing these developments.

Stop. For the sake of those who will be living in these homes, and for the sake of the entire island – stop tearing each other down.

Instead, let us build one another, together.

Thank you.

-

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Articles that link to this one:

  1. Pettingill Questions West End Housing Project | Bernews.com | May 30, 2012
  1. navin johnson says:

    Minister Weeks says “This is not,let me repeat, not a Government project” and then goes on to say “The involvement of Government is simply to provide a guarantee on the project, with strict terms and conditions outlined in case that guarantee is triggered.” So you are guaranteeing the project and devising strict terms and conditions and it is not a Government project? And is Walter Lister, a PLP Minister, the President of Wedco? and it is not a Government project?

  2. Soooo says:

    Quango: A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from Ministers.

    One of the main critisims of Quango’s world wide is that Government officials or ministers in control of quangos can make decisions while evading responsibility for the expenditure of public money and the exercise of legal powers.

  3. Soooo says:

    The involvement of Government is simply to provide a guarantee on the project, with strict terms and conditions outlined in case that guarantee is triggered.”

    PLEASE ELOBORATE!!!!

    • island youngster says:

      So what u saying is government is jus the cosigner on the project? Last I heard when u cosign it makes u responsible am I wrong?

  4. terry says:

    Name me one person in the “Quango” who has no ties to GoveMant.
    If it smells like a rusting bulkhead, it is.

  5. joe says:

    So, WEDCO has nothing to do with Government?
    Hogwash, Mr. Weeks. Absolute HOGWASH!

  6. Ummm...sooo... says:

    It’s not true that the majority of the residents who stay down there don’t want this project to go through?

    Aren’t the majority of them staying down there because it’s “affordable” at $800-$900?

    And you want to act like you’re doing them a favor by doubling the rent that they’ll have to pay?!

    ARE YOU ******* SERIOUS?!?!?!

  7. Really Really Mad Dawg says:

    Wedco is run by Walter Lister. It’s a PLP organisation. Does Weeks really expect us to believe that the project has nothing to do with the PLP or the government?

    Where is the tender that went out giving Bermudian contractors the opportunity to bid for this?

  8. Voice of Reason says:

    Maybe you all need to be reminded:

    As Chairman of the West End Development Corporation (WEDCo) it gives me great pleasure to announce the delivery of the Infrastructure expansion and Victoria Place Housing project. The Board and Management have always been dedicated to improving the quality of life and standard of housing within the West End.

    Approximately 3 years ago WEDCo was approached to give consideration for a new mega Yacht development it was then an opportunity to use this as an opportunity to assist WEDCo in delivering a solution to the long outstand Housing challenges and expand the Dockyard infrastructure.

    WEDCo is still committed to furthering the Marina development and will be a business partner in that development we first wanted to deliver a cost effective solution for housing. It was through this relationship that we are now delivering our solution.

    This longer term solution not just a quick fix for two properties, instead it is a well thought out sustainable plan for all residential properties with WEDCo’s remit. Initially we anticipated that the project would have been completed by now, the last 2 years have presented many challenges for us to overcome.

    I would urge the public at large to listen to the facts:

    This is a WEDCo Infrastructure and residential housing project.
    The cost for the entire project is $36 million dollars.
    The funding for this project is through the Bank of Butterfield.
    Funding for the finance is via a combination of rents and sale proceeds from the remaining WEDCo owned Boaz Island Village Condominiums.
    WEDCo is in a partnership to develop the Marina and a solution for the infrastructure expansion and housing. This partnership is operating under the company called South Basin Development, Ltd. This company is owned and controlled by Wedco.
    The houses are being purchased “turn-key” from CPS – Coastal Precast Systems. The houses will be manufactured, shipped and erected with local labour.
    The contract tenders for the demolition, erection and completion of the project have not been issued therefore no one to date has been awarded any work, however, this will be done over the coming weeks.
    CPS will manufacture the insulated concrete panels, consolidate interior fixture and fittings and deliver the entire unit including project materials via barge to Dockyard.

    Tenders will be issued for local contractors to provide:

    Trenching, installation of pipe, electrical connections, plumbing connection and all works associated with the infrastructure portion of the project.
    Site excavation and preparation
    Site works: Electrical, plumbing, lighting and eventually landscaping.
    Erection of Houses will require many contractors to complete the entire installation:
    Crane work
    Electrical
    Plumbing
    Installation of Door, windows, cabinets. Etc.
    Painting

    The above items will be all delivered through contractors and subcontractors. WEDCo will over the coming weeks hold provide further detail of the entire project not simply for public information but also for contractors to better understand our project and the best way to get involved.

    The site as we currently know it will soon have a new face and therefore we need to reflect back and ensure this is properly recorded. The existing Albert and Victoria row were originally constructed during 1870’s. The purpose of these dwellings was to house the married Royal Navy artisans.

    These were the family homes for the carpenters, plumbers, ship wrights and other working class persons within the Royal Navy. Today many of our sitting tenants who are also working families which came to live in these same dwellings after being relocated from Devonshire and have made Dockyard their home for the last 30+ years.

    While these structures have served for generations they are in need of replacement. WEDCo in conjunction with the Maritime Museum will ensure that before the demolition of each site occurs each of them will be properly recorded and kept for historical records.

    The new housing development affords an opportunity for every current sitting WEDCo tenant to move into a brand new unit. This opportunity will be the start of a new community, a community that every tenant will participate in shaping the quality of life for years to come.

    So, while I am pleased to be in a position to facilitate this opportunity delivering new physical structures, I also wish to also relay that receiving this opportunity comes with the responsibility of building, protecting and preserving the quality of life for our community.

    The project will be delivered in 2 phases. Phase 1 will see the installation of new infrastructure between the Dockyard Waste Water Treatment Facility and Boaz Island as well as the erecting of 48 pre-engineered units. It is important to again outline that as of today the only contracts that have been signed are the required Finance documents and the development agreement with South Basin Development.

    Some decisions with required to final materials have already been made and did go through a proper analysis to ensure cost saving (e.g. Windows, doors etc.) WEDCo is contracting to purchase units from our supplier, erected in Bermuda -wind and water tight. It will be the contractual responsibility of the supplier to contract the local labour necessary to complete their installation.

    Throughout this process many small local companies will receive contracts to provide construction services for this project. In addition to the erection of houses there will also be demolition, landscaping and various other required site works all of which will be awarded via tender process.

    I must however stress that it is impossible to ensure that everyone looking for work can or will be accommodated. One of the primary objectives for this development is to deliver the project within the prepared financing of $36,000,000.00. I can however add that it is our intent to include as many small businesses as practically possible.

    WEDCo accepts there will always be a certain level of controversy and criticism when delivering projects. However, we are focused on delivering this much needed Infrastructure expansion and Residential rental development as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

  9. Winister Meeks says:

    Its funny when someone gets caught doing something stupid and unethical, then doubles down on their stupidity to try and appear less stupid….Yeesh.

    This blatant issues and Minister Weeks’ muddled response to public inquiry is so see-through that its truly laughable…I wonder how many people actually will fall for this pathetic “explanation”?

    I’m still going to vote PLP, but only because I’ve been doing it my whole life and because, living in St. George’s, I’ll be faaarrrrrrrr away from the decision-making jurisdiction of Minister Weeks.

    Blessed Day To Everyone

    • 1minute says:

      How stupid are you… If you don’t want to vote for anyone else, and you are pissed with your choice. Choose not to vote for anyone.

    • Huh?... says:

      I don’t think this comment was meant to be taken seriously. I think this is just a witty satirical taunt to make light of what we think is the PLP voter stereo-type. No one in their right mind would really think this way, would they?

  10. Gibbo says:

    Same Old Same Old just a different day.

  11. Soooo says:

    I have to love our Government…. On one hand we have the flip Deputy premier Mr Burgess during his budget speach says “The BLDC and WEDCo, both of which fall within the remit of the Minister of Public Works”
    And now thye flop Ministe Weeks “This is not, let me repeat, not a Government project.” “This project has been initiated, managed and financed by the West End Development Corporation – a quango”

    So which is it?

  12. Concerned says:

    Mr. Weeks – I think you are a great guy and am saddened to see you being placed in the position you are in. I know you are an honest person and I respect that but please please please do your own investigations, read read and reread what is placed before you and if you have questions don’t give up asking your own until you are satisifed the truth has been spoken/proved. You could find yourself in a position such as Dame Jennifer is in, scrambling to get the PHC monkey off her back and still we wait for premier cox to say something – but then she can’t – that was EB’s doing!but then, she was the finance minister back then too!! So, safeguard yourself my friend and make sure all of your i’s are doted, your t’s crossed and your mind extremely clear. Holding you up in prayer!.

  13. Quango Bermp says:

    The main thing I took away from this article is that the word “QUANGO” exists…I think we can put all this partisanship and nastiness behind us if we collectively focus on and unify around what a BOASTY word that is!!!

    New Airhorn Sound: *QUANGO QUANGO QUANGO QUANGO* (R.I.P. “Bermp Bermp Bermp”, 2007-2012)

  14. Grouper says:

    Wow, Min. weeks is really taking this personally! It’s politics, if you can’t take heat, then get out of the kitchen! By responding this way he is making the OBA look very credible, and making himself look like a petulant child, but may be that’s what he really is….

  15. OMG says:

    Mr Weeks – please tell us how many BHC people are currently looking for accomodation and as you have the records for them ask if they will go to Dockyard to live? Not
    Wedco – supported by Government financially.
    Wedco – have units now that the will not fix up to sell and are empty.

    These too will sit empty and the guarantee will kick in and – Yes – we will have to pay for it – I repeat we will have to pay for it!

    Grand Atlantic – ask those Experts how many of them have beaten “Mother Nature”??

  16. Still paying says:

    a quango is;Noun 1. quango – a quasi nongovernmental organization; an organization that is financed by the government yet acts independently of the government.

    Therefore GOVERNMENT PAYS no matter how you say it. It still adds up to taxpayers footing the bill.

  17. So Stupid says:

    Why are people placing so much emphasis and significance on whether or not the PLP or WHOEVER have anything to do behind this?

    OPEN YOUR MINDS AND YOUR EYES BERMUDA!! Its been said many of times that the finance from this project is NOT coming from the Government but rather WEDCo themselves.

    Everyone can agree that when they go through dockyard those houses are eye sores. Its amazing how much dockyard has transformed over the years.. beautiful landscape, scenery and more things to do. Hamilton should NOT just be the only part of the island open to tourist to visit. Dockyard-St.Georges should be an unforgettable journey/experience.

    People should stop being so quick to jump down people who are actually trying to better Bermuda on a whole.

    You should think about this: If people have been paying 800$ rent for all these years, you would think they would have PRIDE and keep their house nice and tidy, or touch up the paint. No, instead they allow it to rot and diminish over the years.

    There is ALL positive in this project. Those complaining about the increase of rent.. well.. you get what you pay for… WHERE in Bermuda, in 2012 do you pay 800$ a month for a 2-3 bedroom….

    Yeah.. I’ll wait..

    • Huh?... says:

      Ok, this shows how short-sighted this commenter really is. Do you think these people choose to live in a dilapidated home and choose not to spend tons of money fixing it up. They are there for a reason – they are one step from being homeless and are most likely scraping to pay for the 800/month rent. Until there is a real solution (not these smoke and mirrors middle class assistance projects) you’re going to see more and more people living in tents.

  18. Triangle Drifter says:

    Typical PLP MO. They have been doing it for years because the gulible gobble it up. Present something that is far from the truth then repeat it over & over till enough believe it to be the truth because it has been repeated so often.

    Those buildings are an eyesore seen by thousands of ship tourists everyday. Hardly a positive first impression of Bermuda. Tear them down, realign the road & turn the area into a park.

  19. Ray Charlton says:

    From going out and meeting with the residents of Princess Louise Terrace, Victoria and Albert Row, my first hand observation is that the majority of these residents do not want to move out of where they are presently living, they would like for renovcatgions and maintenance to be carried out and to remain in their homes.

    Minister Weeks, Minister Scott and the WEDCO chairman Mr. Lister have mistaken silence at meetings as having consulted the residents and that they support this initiative.

    In this instance, they have this wrong and are out of touch with the tenants.

  20. 1minute says:

    If Albert & Victoria Rows are soooo bad, move them to Grand Atlantic, they seem to need the business.