MRCU aircraft facility on track

The Mosquito Research Control Unit’s multipurpose facility is on track to be completed sometime before year’s end, officials have said. 

The MRCU’s aircraft facility includes a 12,402-square-feet hangar, a 2,787-square-feet custom-built pesticide store and a 1,600-square-feet evaporation basin and car park facility.  

The project, which started in 2008, has gone through some hard times including a change of contractor. Hadsphaltic was awarded the original tender in 2008 but went into liquidation in June 2009. A new contract was signed with Edgewater Development on 20 April, 2011; work commenced May 31.  

Despite the difficulties of completing the project under a strict time limit, the mosquito control unit and the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture have worked diligently to ensure the project is delivered as promised.  

Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the Cabinet minister responsible for that ministry, said that despite the many struggles, she was pleased that mosquito control unit was getting the much-needed upgrade, which would bring significant improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of mosquito control operations in the Cayman Islands.  

She explained, “The new facility will considerably improve the MRCU’s ability to protect residents from nuisance biting and from mosquito-borne disease and bring the unit in compliance with the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation. It will also assist in keeping government assets safe during a hurricane.”  

Upon completion, the hangar will not only be large enough to house both aircraft, but will also be built to hurricane safety standards; having reinforced hangar doors (70 feet wide), and being raised several feet in elevation, to reduce the risk of flooding. It has a built-in fire suppression system using foam retardant. The building includes a workshop for aircraft maintenance, and a secure restricted-access store for aircraft parts. The mosquito control unit facility has a generator, which means operations can continue after a natural disaster.  

The custom-built pesticide store is also built to hurricane standards to protect stock. The store is large enough to hold sufficient quantities of supplies and to store them in a safe and efficient manner.  

MRUC Director William Petrie and ministry experts took the environment into account as well; the aircraft loading bay incorporates a washing/flushing area which prevents contamination of ground water by pesticide residues and detergent wash-off. “The wash-off water is directed to an evaporation pan – a holding tank that allows ultra violet radiation from the sun to break down pesticide residues and evaporation of harmless constituents,” Mr. Petrie said. 

He noted that the upgrade in facilities also means that lessons learned from Hurricane Ivan were taken into account. 

“Mosquito control services are a vital provision of government operations in the aftermath of a storm, as experienced after Hurricane Ivan when MRCU was able to commence operations within three days of the storm. The hurricane protection measures incorporated into the new facility will protect aircraft, pesticides and equipment, and will go a long way to ensuring we can launch a response in the immediate aftermath of a storm,” Mr. Petrie said. 

Mr. Petrie thanked the ministry’s Chief Officer Alan Jones, as well as ministry officials and Public Works Department staff for their continued support and for seeing the necessity of this project to the department and to all residents and visitors to the Cayman Islands. “This support, both in financial terms and in administrative assistance is much appreciated. Naturally, staff of the Aircraft Section are very keen to move into the new facilities, as there will be considerable improvements in working conditions, as well as better provision for management organisation and for staff morale.” 

Kris Bergstrom, one of the owners of Edgewater Development, said he was proud to have been chosen as the general contractor on this complex project, and of working through the difficulties experienced by government with the original contractor and the challenges of budget constraints.  

“We give much credit to the capable team the government has chosen to manage this project – from the Head of MRCU Dr. William Petrie, the project manager from PWD, Mrs. Niasha Brady and the Quantity Surveyor Mr. Evans Simiyu,” Mr. Bergstrom said. “With this team, the staff at Edgewater has been able to provide a flexible, budget-driven schedule as well as value engineering on the project. The main structural shell has been completed and we are hopeful that the new budget allows us to complete this project later in 2012.” 

MRCU CO tour

Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture Officials along with the mosquito control unit director and Edgewater Development representatives, discuss the progress of Mosquitos Research Control Unit’s multi-purpose facility.– Photos: Submitted

MRCU inspection

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, deputy premier and Cabinet minister responsible for the mosquito control unit, inspects the new facility generator.