[Updated] Government’s promise that the Aquatics Centre would be completed on time and on budget has not been met, OBA candidate C. Anthony Francis said last night.
Last year Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney said the project is “expected to be fully completed by September 2012, on time and within budget.”
The Aquatics Centre is expected to include a 50m 8-lane pool with a combined dive tank and dive platform and will offer swimming lessons, aquatic fitness classes, lap swimming, rehabilitation services and more.
Mr Francis said: “The announcement yesterday by Government Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney that the much-awaited Aquatics Centre being built on the concourse of the National Sports Centre should finally be ready to host events next spring is welcome news.
“However, the Government’s promise that the project would be completed ‘on time and on budget’ has not been met. Government’s original $15 million budget for the pool was revised upward to $16.2 million – and the project now appears to be coming in at a cost of $20 million. That is a cost overrun of more than 33 per cent.
“It was initially scheduled to be ready this autumn. So, far from being delivered ‘on time and on budget’, Government has presided over an additional capital project cost overrun this time to the tune of $5 million and the opening has been delayed.
“It is our understanding that the pool will be filled with water in January, and then will undergo testing with a view to being operational in April. We hope that the testing does not uncover any problems. The Aquatic Center must be ready to host the aquatic events at next July’s Island Games hosted by Bermuda. It is our hope that this project passes all tests to provide the swimming venue for the Games without additional costs and time delays being incurred.
Mr Francis continued: “The awaited completion of the Aquatic Center however does raise additional questions that we call on the Minister to answer. We believe the people of Bermuda deserve to know what both the projections for cost and for revenue are for running this facility.
“The Minister has indicated that this will be a community pool and that it ‘is not intended that it become exclusively the domain of elite athletes’, which highlights the requirement for constant upkeep. We are concerned that the facility’s monthly operating costs will far exceed the monthly revenue it generates – and we are asking the Minister to tell us what plans there are to pay for that shortfall and who those plans involve.
“Those monthly operating costs will include electricity, heating pumps in the winter, cooling in the summer, staff costs, the purchase of chemicals, maintenance costs, and other costs related to the operation of the facility.
“Further we also call on the Minister to advise the public who will manage the facility. We understand that a chief executive officer has been hired from overseas on a two-year contract that is to begin in January. The public should be informed about the cost of hiring this individual, including salary and any costs of relocation.
“We are aware of several Bermudians who are qualified to run the facility and are concerned that a guest worker has been hired to manage the Aquatics Centre when there are Bermudians who are fully qualified to do so. Was this hiring the recommendation of the National Governing Sports Organisation – The Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association (BASA)?
“We call on the Minister to provide information about the hiring process, and to advise whether any Bermudians were considered for the position that will be held by a guest worker,” concluded Mr Francis.
Update 5.42pm: Mr Blakeney responded saying: “Whenever the PLP invests in our people, we are attacked and obstructed by the OBA. Given their track record, we are not surprised that their candidate would criticise the Aquatic Center now.
“In the not too distant future, after the real benefits of this facility are realized the OBA will then say that not only was this a good investment , but that they had always supported its construction.”
“This investment in Bermuda is going to pay off. It’s going to pay off in sports tourism. It’s going to pay off for the development of our young athletes and it will pay off for the people of Bermuda.
“Here are the facts. The construction of the Aquatics Centre facility is not a Government construction project. The National Sports Centre is managed by a Board of Trustees who are appointed by the Minister, drawn from a broad spectrum of the community, including International Business, Banking, former Athletes and professionals. The Government allocates specific grants to the Board to develop the Aquatics Centre, and the Board takes it from there.
“According to the Board of Governors, there have been no overruns. In fact, any additional monies have been used for infrastructural enhancements and earmarked for future development and expansion at the site. Furthermore, there is a new parking lot which has been included on site allowing for over 250 vehicles to park inside the National Sports Center facility during events.
Mr Blakeney continued: “The delay in opening is the result of a belated requirement from Belco for a new electrical substation to ensure that once the pool is functioning, there would be an adequate and reliable supply of electricity for the entire Prospect area. Were it not for that, the pool would be filled and functioning now.
“The Board has retained the services of an internationally renowned aquatic facilities expert, to assist with the formation of development and implementation of systems, aquatic programs and policies specifically designed to international standards for the safe and efficient management of this world class facility.
“They will not only ensure that the Aquatics Centre is ready for international competition, but will take the National Sports Centre to the “next level,” establishing Bermuda’s National Sports Centre as the showpiece for sport in this region.
“We ask that the OBA focus less on attempting to mislead, misinform and misrepresent the facts and more on supporting the positive work that is being done here at the National Sports Centre.”
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- OBA: ‘Poor Planning’ Of National Aquatics Centre | Bernews.com | December 10, 2012