Hanna-Martin: Western Air ‘story’ is a contrived distraction from $20m LPIA deal

Englerston MP Glenys-Hanna Martin. (Photo courtesy of Torrell Glinton/ Nassau Guardian)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Glenys Hanna-Martin, the Opposition’s shadow minister of Tourism and Aviation, did not waste any time on Wednesday to respond to statements made by Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, who told the media earlier this week that she had simply made a “very bad deal” when a rental agreement was signed with Western Air in 2017.

“He should really try to comprehend his own hypocrisy in this matter,” said Hanna-Martin in a statement issued yesterday.

“What we now know, however, is that this entire Western Air story is clearly a contrived distraction from the $20 million LPIA [Lynden Pindling International Airport] runway deal awarded under his watch by private tender to Bahamas Hot Mix, a company in which the children of his Cabinet colleague are significant shareholders.”

D’Aguilar initially accused the previous administration of entering a bad deal with Western Air to lease its terminal in San Andros for more than $800,000 over a four-year period — $205,400 per year – while making his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget debate.

Hanna-Martin expressed yesterday that D’Aguilar is trying to defend his ‘shameless’ attack on the former administration’s decision to lease the Western Air terminal, yet the FNM government continued to honour this ‘very bad deal’ for the past two years.

“D’Aguilar spoke at length about Western Air in his two-hour Budget contribution but he did not mention one word about the LPIA runway deal,” Hanna-Martin said. “Things that make you go ‘hmmm’.

“And while we are talking about trailers, the minister must immediately address the deplorable living and working conditions of LPIA firemen in trailers at that aerodrome. They perform an essential service and their wellbeing really should have been prioritized by this talkative minister by now.”

Meanwhile, addressing reporters before heading to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, D’Aguilar said Hanna-Martin made a very bad deal with Western Air when the former administration decided to lease the Western Air terminal in San Andros for $60 per square foot.

Before moving into the Western Air terminal, D’Aguilar said persons were being housed in trailers that had deteriorated. He noted, however, that when Hanna-Martin came to office in 2012, the condition of the trailers was far worse.

“In 2015 the staff said enough,” D’Aguilar said.

“They walked out of the trailers and refused to work in those trailers anymore. So they looked around and, of course, sitting right there was the Western Air terminal. She asked and the Rolles agreed that they could move into that facility,” D’Aguilar claimed.

“The Rolles said that the rent is $5 per square foot per month. So you take five and multiply it by 12 you would get $60 per square foot. There was no disagreement on that,” D’Aguilar said.

“The Rolles and the government agreed that it was $60 per square foot and if you look at the instructions that was given to the Airport Authority… it said in that instruction, ‘we know that if you charge $25 a square foot it would be $75 plus thousand dollars a year, but we are instructing you to override that, pay them $60 a square foot, which equates to $183,000 a year, that’s what was done. There’s no bones about it.

“And she’s saying they included the electricity, they included other costs…OK so if you are paying $25 a square foot and you include those, in most leases that would add another 7 or 8 dollars, not take it to $60 a square foot, so she negotiated a bad deal, that’s the bottom line.

“Yes it was probably a health emergency and they had to move out [of the trailers] but my point is she came into office in 2012. It was 2012, 2013, 2014 and they moved out in March of 2015 and she did not fix the problem. She allowed it to deteriorate which then allowed the situation to arise, the $60 a square foot lease.

“All  I am saying is it’s a bad deal.

“I am not saying there was any dishonesty or anything untoward went on. I am just saying it was a bad deal.”

D’Aguilar said he was not aware of the deal until Feb. 2018 when a renewal of the lease was sought and the company wanted to increase the amount of the lease from $60 a square foot to $84 a square foot.

“I said hell no,” D’Aguilar told reporters.

“I said I can’t believe that we are paying $60.

“In my office on Bay Street, in the center of our country for the ministry of tourism in the British American Financial building, we are paying $25 per square foot and in Andros we are paying  $65 a square foot? It makes no sense so I said no.”

D’Aguilar said as in interim measure, and to save the government $202,000 a year, inclusive of VAT, he suggested that the trailers be repaired and re-installed.

These trailers, D’Aguilar said, would cost the government $150,000 to install and in eight months the government would be able to recoup its costs as there would not be an ongoing charge.