CWSA, VINLEC dismiss  Stewart’s claims on AIA
October 14, 2016
CWSA, VINLEC dismiss Stewart’s claims on AIA

The basis on which consultant engineer Glenford Stewart made the projection that the Argyle International Airport (AIA) will not become operational before the end of 2018 is being questioned.

Stewart, in a September 27, 2016 letter to Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, listed 12 areas of the project which he said were incomplete and would, as a result, delay the project.{{more}}

Technical experts close to the project have, however, questioned Stewart’s assertions, with this country’s main utility companies completely dismissing his claims in relation to their state of readiness.

In the two-page letter, Stewart said the AIA was still without a permanent water supply installation from the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA). However, Garth Saunders, the general manager of the CWSA, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that there has been a permanent water supply to the site for over a year now.

Saunders said the work presently being carried out at the site by the CWSA involves minor extensions to accommodate the hangars; the installation of additional fire hydrant locations and small pipeline relocations along the outstanding road segments.

The St Vincent Electricity Services Ltd (VINLEC) has also rejected Stewart’s claim that electrical power supply and installations have not been completed.

“If the AIA were to open tomorrow, VINLEC stands ready to supply all the power it needs to operate. VINLEC has already installed what it needs to install to ensure that the airport is operational,” chief executive officer of VINLEC Thornley Myers told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday night.

General secretary of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) Julian Francis, who also sits on the Board of the International Airport Development Company (IADC), has taken offence at an opinion expressed by the engineer in the letter.

Stewart, who won the Southern Grenadines seat on a New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket in 1998 and was a government minister under the NDP, said the several missed completion dates repeatedly announced by the International IADC since 2011 is “symptomatic of gross mismanagement and incompetence.”

Speaking on Star Radio on Tuesday night, Francis said Stewart was given a contract by a private firm to build a hangar on the site of the AIA, but the firm now has a different engineer building the hangar, as Stewart failed to start the construction of the hangar for a very long time.

The general secretary questioned whether the delay in the start of the project was deliberate.

“It is a fact that Glenford Stewart was replaced as the engineer in the construction of a hangar at the same AIA,” Francis said.

“One of the conditions of ECCAA (East Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority), which is the body to give the certification for the airport is that, that hangar must be complete.

“All the things you see he write, he ain’t tell you nothing about the hangar being conditional for the opening of the airport …,” Francis said.

He said Stewart was aware that the hangar was one of the things that had to be completed for the airport to be certified by ECCAA.

“It bun him, it bun him hard, that they take the project from him, and give it to a different engineer,” the general secretary said.

Dr Rudy Matthias, chair of the IADC, the body charged with responsibility for designing and constructing the airport, had in response to Stewart’s letter told SEARCHLIGHT: “The AIA will be operational before the end of this year.”

However, a technical expert who works closely with the project told SEARCHLIGHT that a more reasonable estimate for the operationalization of the project would be the beginning of the second quarter of 2017.