Dennis awaits zipline project report

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis. PHOTO COURTESY THA  -
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis. PHOTO COURTESY THA -

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said he is expecting a report on his desk by Friday on the 1.5 kilometre zip-line project planned for the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, announced in 2015.

Responding to questions during Wednesday’s post-Executive Council media briefing at the Scarborough Library, Dennis said he asked for the report two weeks ago.

“I don’t have the information as yet. As I said, I expect a final report by Friday on my desk, because that was the deadline given.

He added, “I have the same information that you have, that the equipment is here in Tobago, in an office belonging to the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, and therefore I await that final report so that I’ll be able to speak more clearly on that matter.”

Asked how soon Tobagonians can look forward to the start of this outstanding project, Dennis said: “Once I receive the necessary information as to where we are with that project, we would be moving immediately to ensure that work starts so that we can have a new attraction, that new experience here in Tobago that I believe a number of Tobagonians were asking for.”

Dennis was asked the question after allegations of wastage of funds at the Division of Tourism and Transportation under its former secretary, Tracy Davidson-Celestine.

In 2015, the zipline project was announced but never completed despite $500,000 spent to get the project off the ground.

In May 2018, responding to a question from Minority member and representative for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside Farley Augustine, recently removed tourism secretary Nadine Stewart-Phillips said in December 2014, the Executive Council had granted the Division of Tourism approval for canopy tours in the Main Ridge Forest Reserves.

The tours, she said, were to comprise a maximum of 12-14 platforms and 11-13 lines, and a special observation platform for birdwatchers and photographers was also to be set up. According to the councillor, $4 million was approved to undertake the project which was expected to be completed within seven weeks of the materials arriving on site.

A service agreement, she said, was signed in June 2015 between the THA and Original Canopy Tours Enterprise Ltd to design, develop and construct a high-angle canopy tour course. Stewart-Phillips said Original Canopy Tours staff visited Tobago in September 2015 to map out the course and the division paid two of the four payments under the signed agreement.

The first payment, she said was $277,000 for material and equipment and $117,000, again for material, equipment and shipping. However, she said not all materials had been received as they were stored at a facility in Miami, Florida.

“I am informed that a decision was taken to have the materials shipped together, rather than in separate shipment, as the equipment and materials would usually arrive at different time intervals. This incurred a storage fee of an estimated US$108,332, which is due to be paid,” she said.

She did not say who was to pay this sum.

Stewart-Phillips said the division had paid $416,000 to the company for materials, equipment and a 40-foot insulated shipping container, and $192,571 as payment for procurement project management by EIDCoT (Eco Industrial Development Company of Tobago) and visits to Tobago by Original Canopy Tours Enterprises.

On Tuesday, responding during a virtual media conference on Tuesday, Davidson-Celestine, now Health Secretary, said the projects are merely delayed and no money will be wasted.

Davidson-Celestine was adamant that there was merely a bump in the road in the completion of the projects.

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