The Cost of Government: Dubious Construction

August 29th, 2012


The new “Visitors Center” at Guanaja’s airport cost Lps. 7 million to build after overruns, according to contractors.

The new “Visitors Center” at Guanaja’s airport cost Lps. 7 million to build after overruns, according to contractors.

For the last year or so some government agency has been overseeing the construction of a “Visitors Center” at the airport on Guanaja. The reason for this edifice is not completely clear.

At present there’s a fairly new terminal building that can accommodate quite a few dozen visitors, and it is never full. The people who use the present terminal are mostly locals en route to and from the mainland. I cannot see, and neither can anyone else, where the necessity arose to build another reception area. Whoever came up with this brilliant idea should have taken a good look at the deplorable condition of the present landing strip and invested the money in the improvement of the landing field.

It was not too long ago that the airport on Guanaja consisted of a dirt strip and a small thatch-roofed building, where you could buy a beer and dodge the rain when traveling to and from the coast. Before that there was just a strip that looked more like a lightly traveled dirt road.

The original strip was hewed from the jungle with machete and shovel and it was all the handiwork of Harry Hunter, the owner of the land. Hunter, being a person of business, saw the need for a little landing field closer to the town that could handle special flights in smaller airplanes. The previous airport was situated in Big Flat. It took hour to get to that airport, because one first had to take a boat to Savana Bight and then go by truck to Big Flat. Sometimes because of the lack of communications a plane would have to buzz the Cay a couple of times to let someone know the pilot intended to land at Big Flat.

When Hunter was through with his airfield, small planes could land there with no problem. He could not have picked a better location. Later, when the field was expanded and paved, there was no need to change the orientation, because Hunter had gotten it right. When an aircraft attempts a landing, it must do so into the wind. At this airport, no matter what direction the wind is blowing, the pilot can always land in a headwind, because the surrounding hills always channel the wind onto the field up or down the landing strip.

Well, now we have two terminal buildings, but no one can figure out why the second building was needed. The fairly small building was built by a company called SERPIC, and it was financed by the Interamerican Development Bank. It cost just under Lps. 5 million to build, according to a poster at the airport. But contractors said there were overruns, and the total cost was around Lps. 7 million. Seven million lempiras is serious money. I could have built six houses like that one for Lps. 7 million.

Builders claim the cost overrun was justified because “someone” first wanted the building constructed of concrete then wanted the outside wall covered in cured lumber siding and the inside with sheet rock. There is another cost that is not mentioned on the poster at the airport but is very small in comparison to the cost of the building. This additional cost is only the price of a plastic bucket to bail the water out of the brand new building. In spite of its triple-wall construction and the fiberglass shingles on the roof and pigeon-breast gutters, the place fills up with water at the slightest hint of rain.[/private]

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