Restoration of the Kitty Market should resume next week, following the signing of a $25 million contract yesterday between the Ministry of Communities and BML Architects and Engineers Consultancy and Construction Services to have the first phase of works completed.
BML was reportedly selected through a closed tender process, in which it was the only bidder.
The contract is being funded by government under the $200 million Georgetown Restoration Programme and the signing comes just one month before the two year anniversary marking the beginning of the initial rehabilitative works on the facility. It was expected that the repairs would have been completed within five months, but the council was reportedly unable to fund the project’s continuation.
With this renewed effort, works are now expected to begin on January 24 and the first phase is to be completed within three months. The project will be managed by the ministry, with support from the City Engineer’s Department of the Mayor and City Council.
The work will include the completion of 15 external stalls and 10 internal stalls; completion of the market clerk’s office and revenue collection section; and the rehabilitation of the sanitary block
Town Clerk Royston King, speaking to the media yesterday, emphasised how grateful the council was to once again receive the government’s support. “I want to thank the government on behalf of the Mayor and Councilors of the city of Georgetown for coming to our assistance and for demonstrating again their care and their concern for the citizens of the city of Georgetown, for the residents and stallholders of Kitty Market and for helping us to maintain community pride by restoring a building that has great historical significance,” King stated.
“…We know also that the citizens and stallholders of Kitty Market are extremely pleased with this new development…,” King also said, but less than an hour before, vendors had indicated to Stabroek News that they were unaware of the intended plans for the market’s repairs.
Last Monday, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan had toured the Kitty Market, but vendors said yesterday that they had not known about the visit until reading media reports on it and they were taken aback by the minister’s approach. Vendor Bibi Sherida Ferguson noted that the market is like a second home to many and so the vendors should have been consulted. She noted she is there from early in the morning and does not leave until 10 at night.
Vendors have been relocated to the pavements of the streets bordering the market. However, some have been forced to abandon their stalls and the trade as space is limited. One vendor, Asraf Ali, related yesterday that he has been working as a taxi driver for this reason. Ali once held a butcher’s stall in the Kitty Market.
It was related that the vendors staged a protest last week to raise concerns about the market’s repairs, but also to touch on other issues, such as garbage collection, which they have had to seek privately, and the lack of adequate toilet facilities, as water has been inaccessible in the washrooms for months.
Even with these concerns, Ferguson related that only a fraction of the vendors had mobilised, which was of great concern to her as she stated that “the market is not about politics, it’s about our rights.”
Last week’s protest had been done with the support of opposition members, parliamentarian Juan Edghill and PPP city councillor Khame Sharma.
King also addressed the protest yesterday. “Late last week, it was brought to my attention that a group of individuals staged a protest around that facility. What is surprising is that this facility, when this new administration took office, this facility was near collapse; it was in an advanced stage of deterioration and it was in a ruinous condition—a danger to life and limb. And nothing was done by our previous administration but under this new administration, we have started to do restorative works with our own resources, but because of resource constraints, we have had some delays in reaching the timelines. And so what I want to say is that people who are now pretending that they care have an opportunity to do something about that building and to do something to better the lives and protect the lives of those who were operating in that market did absolutely nothing, but all of a sudden, people are pretending that they care now that we have started the restorative work to the market,” he said.