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Director of Public Works updates public on the Irishtown Primary, Joshua Obadiah Williams Primary and Basseterre High School projects

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by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Director of the St. Kitts Public Works Department, Mr. George Gilbert, said efforts are being made to ensure the return of students and teachers to the official locations of the Irishtown Primary School, Joshua Obadiah Williams Primary School and the Basseterre High School; however, no projected dates for project completions were presented.

During the Wednesday, May 24 edition of InFocus, Mr. Gilbert spoke with host Ian Richards about the continued work on the Irishtown Primary School. The Public Works Department has undergone a significant portion of work to improve the safety and security of the school since the security guard was gunned down on the premises on February 14. Students and teachers have been housed at neighbouring facilities since the incident occurred. Mr. Gilbert, however, explained that well-needed structural work had to be done before the return of teachers and students.

“With the Irishtown Primary School, there was what we call structural distress in three floors of the upstairs building. When I say structural distress, there was some deflection in the floor slab…meaning that it was [sinking]. So, what we had to do, we evaluated it. We actually came up with a design, and we had to go out to tender, and we sent the tender report to the tender board. They agreed with our recommendation, and then we actually engaged a contractor to undertake the work.

“Currently, we have a contractor there on site, Ally’s Construction, and he’s actually addressing the distressed floor slabs. He is maybe about 50 to 55 per cent completed, and he has, I think, one more beam to put in place, and then, he has some finishing work to do there.”

Another primary school, the Joshua Obadiah Williams Primary School, was set on fire over 14 months ago, on March 18, 2022. The school was relocated to the Explorers Club Headquarters in Phillips’ St. Kitts. Though the initial expectation was that the school would be quickly repaired and teachers and students reoccupy the space, a decision for a more enhanced project was deliberated upon and approved. Mr. Gilbert said the location will now have a modern structure.

“With Joshua Obadiah Williams [Primary School], we are getting ready to go out to tender with that project. Initially, when the school caught fire, our intention was to put it back as it [was]; take off the roof, clean up, [put in] new windows, new doors, and have it going in short order; but the Ministry of Education said, “No, it is the oldest school in the Federation, and it’s not meeting the standard of a modern school.” So, what they wanted to do was take the opportunity to upgrade the school. So, let’s say; they want the school to have two doors for each classroom, electrical [work] in the classroom…They want to reflect a modern school.”

Guilbert added, “We had to do some additions to the school, upgrades to the school, increase their Kindergarten size, and we have done a number of work when it comes to the design. We did some preliminary design; we met with the Education Department, the management and also the senior staff at the school. We had a discussion; they looked at our plan. They made some input, and then we went back to the drawing board, made the adjustments; we came back to another meeting with them. The Minister of Education was there. The Minister of Public Infrastructure was there, and we discussed it again; and then, after we agreed on the design, we moved ahead with the working design. We are about 98 per cent completed with the working drawings, and we’re actually about the same 98 per cent with the Bill of Quantities. That’s where we are with that. We want to roll out by the second week in next month (June). It should be out for tender also.”

Mr. Gilbert also hinted at the possibility of the Joshua Obadiah Williams Primary School having an auditorium, one that will not be used as classrooms as in previous times. He explained that the auditorium will still be open to the Molineaux Community, which doesn’t have a community centre. In comparison to times past, teachers and students should expect a more favourable experience. No longer would they have to engage in the time-consuming process of putting partitions, desks and chairs back in place after a function was held prior to a new school day.

As it relates to Basseterre High School, the Director of Public Works advised that the buck rests with the Ministry of Education in determining what exactly their needs and desires are for the outlying or structure of the facility. Mr. Gilbert informed that a call for tender is currently being advertised.

“So, the first phase of the Basseterre High School is the demolition. They [came] to us and [told] us that they want us to demolish the school buildings. We divided the project into two parts, the eastern campus and the western campus. So, we have a tender document done for the eastern campus and the western campus. So it means that you can tender on the eastern campus only, likewise on the western… The successful contractor will be expected to demolish the buildings, separate the material, transport the debris to the landfill; then they will actually, in the footprint of the building, remove the soil about four feet down, take that to the landfill and then we have identified an area where they can get fill from to actually fill those holes and compact those holes. That’s part of the process. They will be paid for that. Now the tenders are out for that at the moment.”

A pre-bid meeting slated for 9:00 a.m. on May 25 at the Public Works Department will provide an opportunity for all the bidders to get a first-hand tour of the site and what they are expected to do, if successful. Gilbert said the bidders were presented with a document that they are expected to review and price, then return to Public Works by June 27, 2023.

“When they return the document, we will open the document publicly so all the bidders who are there, all the representatives, even the media can be there, and they can actually hear the prices read out and other pertinent information read out. “Public document, public information”, stated Guilbert.

The Director of Public Works said tendering is important to good governance because it allows the best value for the people’s money, multiple contractors to benefit from a project, and helps to stimulate economic activity in the country.

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