Mahdia arcade rebuilding hits snag

Almost a year after fire levelled the Mahdia arcade, stallholders say rebuilding is lagging behind the planned completion date.
Fire, said to be electrical in origin, gutted the arcade at Central Mahdia, in Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) in July last year, leaving millions of dollars in losses behind.

Earlier this year Stabroek News had reported that works were moving apace and were scheduled to be completed before the end of this month. However, reports out of the community are that the project, which is being supervised by the Mahdia Fire Victims Committee (MFVC), appears to have hit a snag while several frustrated vendors have begun to erect stalls at the incomplete site. Some have also made alterations to the style which was conceptualised by the committee and the affected stall holders.

A section of the Mahdia arcade on the right side of the public road passing through Mahdia.

When contacted recently by telephone, Chairman of the (MFVC) Floyd Herman could not offer a comment on the situation.

Mahdia resident Beverly Cummings, whose snackette was gutted in the blaze last year, told Stabroek News recently that she has been “at my wits’ end” to earn an income since the fire. She depended solely on her business.

Cummings noted that the committee had laid out its plans in the initial phases for the project to be completed by this month but recently several persons “from out the area” began to vend at the site. The woman said that at the moment toilets and the aisles are being built at the site but, according to her, “they been doin that months now and can’t finish.”

Another stallholder said that he has been working in the mining areas at Mahdia since the fire and he said earning for his family over the past year has proven difficult. “Right now it tough and base on how the plans set out, they suppose to complete the arcade by now but electricity rewiring was one of the problems that develop,” the man added.

Cummings said that she has been making frequent checks with the committee and the administration at Mahdia on the issue. “I at home and have it hard because my snackette was the source of my bread,” she said.

This newspaper understands that of the funds provided by the government and donors, close to $20 million was used to construct the foundation, while another $8.4 million was being used to carry out additional works such as on the sanitary block and roofing at the site.

On completion of the foundation of the market square, those persons who were allocated spots within the area will be tasked with constructing their stalls—20ft by 20 ft in dimension—using their own finances.

However, a resident at Mahdia noted recently that the vendors were “going back to the same old thing” and he said there has been an ongoing issue between several stallholders and the authorities regarding the style used for their stalls. In addition, a stallholder has erected a two-storey structure at the site—in clear violation of the agreed plan—and he was recently given a cease work order by the authorities. Stallholders were expected to utilise designs would have given the area a uniform look.

The rebuilding committee had received assistance from several private entities, including the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), communications giant Digicel and Red Thread.

Several private companies—mainly those within the mining area—later collaborated towards the establishment of a fire unit. However, reports are that this too appeared to have hit a stumbling block.

Residents said last week that the establishment of a fire unit at Mahdia was yet to be realised and the location, along with availability of human resources and overall supervision of the facility to be built were issues which needed to be ironed out.

Efforts by this newspaper to obtain a comment from Fire Chief Marlon Gentle were in vain.

The mining community suffered a tremendous blow on July 1 last year, when the fire reduced the arcade to rubble, while leaving more than 100 persons homeless. The fire took several hours to be contained. Several days later, Gentle told Stabroek News that investigations revealed that the fire had started in a room within a building aback of the arcade. The room had been illegally wired. No one was held accountable for the fire.

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