The European Union (EU)-funded Comprehensive Restora-tion and Sustainable Conserva-tion Management Plan to restore the deteriorating City Hall building should be completed by year-end, according to Nirvana Persaud, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Trust, who says it ought to be implemented as soon as possible afterward.
In an interview last week with Stabroek News, Persaud criticised the municipality for failing to maintain the building, which was built in 1889.
“Though it [the building] is sound, you have rotting boards, you have windows falling off, you have gutters falling off … but that building is legally in the control of the municipality and that is their responsibility,” she said, while noting that the municipality, which uses the building on a daily basis, should be repairing and maintaining it.
Persaud explained that while City Hall is not a gazetted building, it is of national importance. “So there is no way we would want see that building fall down…,” she said.
She added that the Trust is presently working with the EU to create a restoration plan which will not only be used for City Hall but also for other important buildings and sites. The creation of the plan is the first phase, while the second phase involves the implementation of the plan and will be the responsibility of government.
“We have not really…exercised true restoration. We have done a lot of good rehabilitation and refurbishment works,” Persaud said, while adding that to date there has been no comprehensive restoration plan in the “truest form” with all the guidelines and details that are required.
While expressing hope that the plan will be made public once it is handed over by the EU, she said that the Trust has been trying to get funding to restore the City Hall building for many years.
She recalled that the World Monument Fund was approached but was unable to fund the creation of a restoration plan. The Fund did, however, collaborate with the Trust to hold the first International Heritage Preservation Conference last June. That Conference focused on the preservation of City Hall as well as general preservation of historic buildings and sites. Subsequently, the EU was approached by government and discussions with the Trust and the municipality followed.
In December last year, the EU and the Georgetown Mayor and City Council signed the contract for the creation of the plan, which was awarded to EURONET Consulting GEIE for EUR 279,196 [$64M]. The plan was expected to be completed by March/April of this year.
The core of the assessment, an EU statement had explained, would involve: conducting a condition assessment and evaluation of the physical and structural state of City Hall and the City Engineer’s Building; preparation and presentation of a comprehensive green restoration plan and a sustainable conservation management plan for City Hall and the City Engineer’s Buildings; enabling training sessions; and strengthening capacity within the relevant stakeholder agencies.
Persaud said that the Trust is hopeful that international donors would come on board for the implementation of the restoration plan. “You have to have a sound, well-written plan that maps out how you are going to restore the building. Nobody is going to wholeheartedly come with a figure and say, ‘Yes, go ahead.’ You have to detail it, you have to phase it and show that you can implement that,” she said.
Persaud noted that since its construction, no major work has been done on City Hall. An attempt was made to change some windows ten years ago but the work had to be redone as the wrong material was used. “They were using aluminum frame windows when the idea is that if you are going to keep this building …the idea is that you restore as close as possible to what it is,” she said.
She said that funds given by the previous government were used to started repair works on the upper floor.
According to Persaud, an assessment showed that the building is “sound.” She said because of lack of maintenance of a building which is used every day, the deterioration is evident. “The building, structurally, we have been informed, is sound but, of course, if you do nothing and sit down for the next couple years, things are going to start falling off,” she added.
In 2013, one of two international consultants who travelled to Guyana to assess the building described it as being in “cardiac arrest.”
The building has been described as a hazard as a result of a porous roof, severely deteriorated sections of flooring in the Council Chamber, visibly deteriorating support beams and a wiring system which has not been upgraded in over 100 years.