Recovery and Development Agency acting Chief Executive Officer Anthony McMaster signs a contract this morning at the Ritter House. (Photo: GIS)

Contracts worth a total of $2.9 million were signed this morning to repair two public buildings on Virgin Gorda that were damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

A third re-building phase of the Bregado Flax Educational Centre in Virgin Gorda is promised to come soon, as is the reconstruction of the island’s Flax Administration Building.

The government, the Recovery and Development Agency, and Roy Garraway of Quality Construction Limited signed a contract totalling $1.7 million to completely rebuild two blocks of the educational centre.

The project includes internal refurbishment and replacement of the roofs of Blocks Two and Four, ultimately providing 11 classrooms, a science laboratory, an internet technology laboratory, an art room, a library, bathrooms, and staff facilities, according to the RDA.

Phases one and two have been completed already and those included immediate repairs to temporary classrooms and staff facilities, and repairs to Block One.

A contract for reconstruction on the Flax Administration Building was awarded to Metro Construction for $1.2 million.

The facility will combine e-governance with public services including the post, social security, inland revenue, labour, immigration, water and sewerage, environmental health, magistracy, department of motor vehicles, civil registry and passport office, and the district office.

Both tender processes awarding the Virgin Islands contractors were done through the RDA, and both projects are funded by the Caribbean Development Bank loan. Governor Gus Jaspert called the signings a “win-win” situation.

Anthony McMaster, acting CEO of the RDA, announced that starting next week, the agency will host trainings that will “dissect the tender processes” to give more VI individuals and companies opportunities to bid and win contracts.

Mr. Jaspert said, “I’m very conscious that for quite a while our dedicated public service on Virgin Gorda has been operating out of sub-standard conditions.”

He also noted that several projects are “in the pipeline” with funding from the CDB loan and government, stating, “This is the start over the next few weeks of ten extra projects coming forward with each one injecting money into the economy.”

Mr. McMaster said the RDA is expecting to inject $40 million into the economy over the next 18 to 24 months. The projects would include subprojects throughout various public structures like buildings and roads, he explained, totalling 19 contracts over the timeframe. This year, he promised that the RDA would inject at least $20 million into the economy.

Deputy Premier Carvin Malone, the minister of health and social development, said the agency has been doing good work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The RDA has been quite keen in working around the clock because you cannot just have progress without a lot of work being done in the background,” he said.

Mr. Malone was one of several officials present at the signing of the contracts at the RDA office in the Ritter House this morning. Donned in masks, officials maintained social distancing and invited media to the signing.

Mr. Malone and Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio Wheatley mentioned the online learning system government has put in place since schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

The BFEC was torn through by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. Though Unite BVI pledged $1 million to rebuild and Flow pledged $540,000 soon after, ground was finally broken in November 2018.

The $414 million budget that the House of Assembly passed in December included $2.8 million to continue repairs to the centre, and in January, Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley, who as Ninth District representative represents Virgin Gorda, promised that construction on the school would “be tackled this year” and that it would be “completed for the next school year.”