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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor confirms contract for new hospital in Vieques

Offshore island municipality will also take over maintenance of Sun Bay Beach, open new farmer’s market

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Monday confirmed prior STAR reports of a contract between the Caribe Tecno company, the municipality of Vieques and the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority (PRIFA) to build a new hospital center in the offshore island town.

The governor also announced the transfer of Sun Bay Beach to the municipality, along with an agreement with the island Department of Agriculture (DA) to create the Agri-Cultura Mercado, a farmers’ market concept to sell fresh and locally produced products to stimulate farming and economic activity in Vieques.

“Today, once again, I assert my commitment to the municipality of Vieques and its people. When the contract for the construction of the new Vieques health center was finalized, we continued to take steps to benefit all its residents,” Pierluisi said. “Last year I visited Isla Nena to make way for the demolition process of the old Susana Centeno [healthcare] center, and with this signing of the contract, the design and construction process of the new hospital in Vieques now begins. Meanwhile, with the support of the Department of Natural Resources (DNER), the municipality will have the opportunity to improve the offer of the renowned Sun Bay spa for all residents and visitors. We also continue to support our farmers and provide alternatives that give the people greater access to the agricultural products of our island. This is very good news for Vieques, because my government puts action where it puts words.”

Vieques Mayor José “Junito” Corcino Acevedo said “today is another historic day for our island municipality of Vieques.”

“The signing of the contract for the construction phase of the new hospital is cause for celebration for all Viequenses because we are finally going to have the world-class medical-hospital facility that we deserve,” he said.

The Financial Oversight and Management Board approved last week “with observations” a $76 million contract to build a hospital facility in Vieques whose real costs have been estimated to be at least $25 million more. The proposed contract is between PRIFA, Caribe Tecno CRL and Firma de Ingenieros, Arquitectos & Asociados PSC.

PRIFA established a fixed cost estimate at $104.6 million, which is significantly higher than the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) cost estimate of $48.3 million. PRIFA said the estimate made by FEMA did not contemplate the impact of costs related to regulatory requirements, existing codes, and requirements of the Auxiliary Secretariat for Regulation and Accreditation of Health Facilities and the Department of Health, among others.

The governor, however, said the Vieques hospital center has a total investment estimated at $85.6 million. The new facilities of about 60,000 square feet, which will have a Green Building certification, will have a dialysis center, emergency room, imaging area, laboratories, pharmacy, dental and social services, infusion, administrative offices, external clinics and a helipad. It will also have an electric generator, cistern and a new parking area.

Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) Executive Director Manuel A. Laboy Rivera noted that “this [Vieques hospital] project received a first advance through the Working Capital Advance (WCA) amounting to $10.8 million.”

“We will continue to monitor their development and offer them the necessary technical support, as well as financial support, since they could eventually request an additional 25 percent through the WCA.”

In April 2021, Pierluisi announced the opening of the bidding process for the conceptual design of what will be the new hospital center.

DNER Secretary Anaís Rodríguez Vega, meanwhile, announced the transfer of Sun Bay Beach in the context of alliances for the co-management and maintenance of natural resources with municipalities, communities and environmental conservation organizations that promote the development of environmental awareness and the economic development of the region.

“The responsibilities taken over by the municipality will be guided in accordance with the public policy established by the DNER, which includes keeping the areas clean and painted, free of garbage, including vegetative material, and maintaining a preventive maintenance plan,” she said. “The agreement was authorized by the National Park Service (NPS) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).”

A few weeks ago, the governor announced the signing of a similar agreement between the DNER and the municipality of Fajardo for the latter to administer, for a period of up to 15 years, the Seven Seas resort.

Regarding what will become the Agri-Cultura Mercado, Pierluisi said the old José Gautier Benítez school will be remodeled for it. As part of the agreement between various Agriculture Department offices and the municipality, the space will be equipped with all the necessary equipment to function as a supermarket and coffee shop. The funding delivered to the municipality for the purchase of counters, refrigerators and freezers came to $119,924.

Agriculture Secretary Ramón González Beiró said that with the effort, “we achieve greater accessibility to local products for the benefit of Puerto Rican families and, above all, we get closer to our goal of promoting local consumption to boost agricultural economic activity.”

‘With the delivery of the funds to the municipality, we begin the remodeling phase and in a matter of a few months we will have a first-class market,” González Beiró said. “All Viequenses can be sure that they will have fresh products, 100 percent harvested and made on our land by Puerto Rican farmers.”

The Agriculture secretary added that Agri-Cultura Mercado will be open seven days a week with top quality products for sale. The Administration for Agricultural Business Development will market the food supplied by farmers in Agri-Cultura Mercado to facilitate and promote the sale of agricultural products from Puerto Rico. The Innovation Fund for Agricultural Development will work with the design and remodeling of the space to put the facilities in ideal condition for operation by the municipality.

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