PM knocks  construction work at Union Island school
October 19, 2012
PM knocks construction work at Union Island school

While Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works Hudson Nedd is giving the assurance that the electrical issues that were considered to be problematic at the Union Island Secondary School (UISS) have been corrected,{{more}} Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is of the view that sufficient attention was not paid when the building was being constructed.

“When you don’t pay good attention as workmen and supervisors… we end up and spend more money which we should spend elsewhere,” Dr Gonsalves said on Monday, while speaking at an awards ceremony held at the Peace Memorial Hall.

Last Friday, Searchlight reported that parents of students attending the UISS had kept their children away from school on October 8, to protest problems identified with the electricity and plumbing at the institution.

“I am not an electrician. I get the money and I follow up and you tell me how the work is coming….That school was opened in 2009 for business. It was formally opened in 2010. It’s a new school, and you tell me that in 2012 we have to carry BRAGSA (Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority) down there to do section by section for the re-wiring for that school…?

“It’s my problem but how that come my fault?” the Prime Minister declared.

“You had a contractor. He engages a sub-contractor to do the electrical work. You had a consultant over the project. You had somebody from the Ministry of Works, performing the role as Clerk of Works. And then you had the electrical inspectorate in the Ministry of Works. And despite all of those layers, problems resulted at Union Island [Secondary School] with the electricity…

“The money I am spending down there now, I should have been using now to help to repair another school…” the Prime Minister stated.

However Nedd, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday said the school passed an electrical inspection and was deemed to be safe for occupancy before it was occupied in 2009.

He said the electrical problems experienced by users of the building were mainly caused by degeneration of the electrical work, because of the salty air.

The school, which was constructed at a cost of $13 million, was officially opened on August 21, 2010, about one year after students began taking classes there.

Nedd said in the case of the UISS, although the building passed the electrical inspection process, there were issues with the electrical design, relating to the specific environment in Union Island.

“At the time that the building was ready for opening, the electrical was all intact and it could have functioned, but …from the reports that came to me, the environment is really, the air is highly salted,” he said.

“And you have a lot of that salt air intrusion into the buildings. Obviously, you are working with metals and plastics and they are susceptible in many cases to that type of hostile environment.

“So I would say the building is high maintenance than maybe one you would find, let’s say, in Kingstown or on the leeward side of the island.

“So what happened in many of the instances, had nothing to do with the quality of electrical work in the first instance, but more a rapid degeneration given the fact that the environment is harsh”, Nedd explained.

In addition to the problems associated with the salty air, Nedd said some of the problems were caused by the occupants of the building who damaged some of the electrical fittings.

“So some of the problems that we had in the school, had to do with broken outlets covers and so on,” he added.

He however gave the assurance that based on the works carried out by BRAGSA, he is satisfied that the building is safe.

“Where the building is now, we consider it to be as safe as any other school,” Nedd said.

He said that work to remedy defects at the school started on October 9, and BRAGSA has carried out significant work thus far. The Permanent Secretary said that his ministry along with the Ministry of Education, BRAGSA, the contractors who worked on the school and the electrical subcontractor were engaged in meetings and identified what the main problems were.

“We spoke about the issue of making sure that the maintenance is regular, because of the nature of the environment and we have begun to put things in place to ensure that the building is always safe,” he said.