Work is under way on the new National Emergency Operations Centre in McNamara. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)

The construction of the new National Emergency Operations Centre in McNamara was delayed by issues associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the project should be completed this year, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said recently.

“This contract was signed in the wake of the Russia/Ukraine war and was subject to a severe worldwide shortage in construction materials, equipment, and the shipping of the same,” Dr.Wheatley told the House of Assembly on Jan. 30 in response to a question from Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton. “In addition, and following the laws of supply and demand, global markets experienced a significant hike in the price of construction materials and equipment.”

At the same time, he said, fuel price surcharges further upped the costs to ship materials.

“The project continues to be impacted by this global reality,” the premier said.

A $9.8 million construction contract for the centre — which, like the former NEOC at the same location, will house the Department of Disaster Management — was awarded in January 2021 to Tandem Development and D&B Heavy Equipment Services Limited.

When the contract was announced, government said the works would take about 18 months, putting the completion date around July 2022.

The project — which is managed by Virella Crespo and Associates — is being funded by the $65 million Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan that government sourced from the Caribbean Development Bank shortly after Hurricane Irma, which destroyed the previous NEOC building.

“As a result of the challenges … regarding the Ukraine war, and other influences such as the readjustment of markets following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Caribbean Development Bank and the government approved an application for extension of time until Nov. 18, 2023,” the premier told the HOA. “Although significant strides have been made on the project, the approved extension has elapsed. An application for a second extension of time to the fourth quarter of this year has been submitted by the contractor.”

The second application was pending CDB approval, the premier said.

“The expenditure for works completed on the project as of Jan. 10, 2024 is $5,530,971,” he added. The premier said architectural work is estimated to be completed on Oct. 11 with a final completion expected in December. Final completion

“It is very probable for these milestones to be shifted to earlier times as the contractor builds on
the traction … and therefore [we] remain optimistic in having this important project completed within the new target dates,” Dr. Wheatley said.