The death of chief project engineer, Jeffrey Cato, is another of the challenges that the Argyle International Airport Development Company (IADC) will have to overcome as it tries to meet the December 2014 completion target.
Cato died on Monday after a brief illness. He was 63.
Rudolph Matthias, chair of the IADC, told I-Witness News on Wednesday that Cato was “a significant part” of the Argyle international airport project and his contribution will be “sorely missed”.
“But we have to now find a way to continue this work in the absence of Jeffrey Cato,” Matthias told I-Witness News.
“It is going to be impossible, almost, for anyone to step into his position to make a significant contribution before we are finished,” Matthias said of the EC$700 million project.
“We basically have to carry on without the help we have gotten from him. Since 2003, he has been with this project.”
Matthias said that Cato’s duties are being undertaken by younger, engineers, “many of whom worked with him but are not nearly as experienced as he was.
“And so, it is going to take them time to get done what he would have gotten done in a shorter time. Their judgement also, is not at the level where Jeffrey Cato was when he was working on this project. Their knowledge is also going to be an issue. They are learning, they are young engineers, so it is going to take them some time to put their minds around some of the problems that Jeffrey Cato was able to put his fingers on right at the very start,” Matthias told I-Witness News.
“We are going to have a slow period while these young engineer get to a certain level where we can entrust a task to them and expect the same productivity that we have been accustomed to from Jeffrey Cato,” he further said.
Cato had served as Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry of Planning and had worked on other major projects across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the Cross-Country Road, and the Canouan airport.
And, during a separate press conference, also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves described Cato a “first class professional of the highest quality”.
Gonsalves told journalists that Cato was a “top of the class engineer, civil engineer, a nationalist, a regionalist, committed to this country, a man of huge value.
“He has made an immense contribution,” Gonsalves further said, and spoke of Cato’s role in putting together the background paper and terms of reference for the design of the Rabacca Bridge, the construction of which he also oversaw.
“He was my good friend. I will miss him greatly, but it is life and it is very painful to see him go,” Gonsalves said.