A $75m administrative building will be constructed in 2019 to house staff currently occupying the dilapidated City Hall building, according to Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, who has also disclosed that phased restoration works will subsequently be done on the historic structure.
This sum is part of the $6.2B budgeted under the ministry’s Sustainable Communities Develop-ment Programme, which was approved by the Committee of Supply on Wednesday. The $2.1B allocated for the Sustainable Communities Management Programme, was also approved during Wednesday’s consideration of the 2019 budget estimates for the Ministry of Communities.
It was while being questioned by Opposition Member of Parliament, Colin Croal, about the $300M allocated for the Georgetown Restoration Programme, that Bulkan disclosed that funds were included in that sum for the construction of the building.
Later, responding to several questions from Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, Bulkan explained that the new administrative building will be used by the municipal administration. “So it (the sum) is to construct a building within the compound …to allow for urgent renovations and restoration,” he said, before adding that the European Union has also funded detailed architectural drawings which were submitted to the city in October of this year. This sum, he said, was a grant, and he later stressed that it covered only the drawings.
He informed the House that the relocation of staff to the new admin building will allow for “those [restoration] activities in a phased manner subject to budgetary provisions.” He pointed out that the restoration works cannot begin if staff are occupying the building.
When pressed, he said that the building is the responsibility of the National Trust, which falls under the Ministry of Social Cohesion and not the Communities ministry. He pointed out that City Hall is a heritage building and that the National Trust is very concerned about its state. “I am aware that there have been offers from external sources …to help with the restoration of that building,” he said, adding that central government is not only looking at its own resources but is also looking for multilateral assistance to assist with saving the historical building.
Bulkan could not say how much the restoration works will cost in total but promised to get it and submit same to the House. He also could not give a definitive time frame for the construction of the building when asked and simply said that this will be done during 2019.
The Georgetown Restoration Programme, according to the minister, will have three components – community enhancement, infrastructure development and institutional strengthening. Among the activities that will be covered by this allocation are $75M for constituency-funded activities, $10M for the upgrade of the East Ruimveldt Market, $25M for the La Penitence Market, $50M for the completion of Phase Two of the Kitty Market and $25M for institutional strengthening. The substantial increase when compared to the $200M allocated this year was also pointed out.
Responding to more questions, he said that approximately $5M will be made available to each of the 15 constituencies to fund activities which will be identified at the constituency level. He assured that the spending will be audited by the ministry.
Responding to queries about the $150M allocated for water supply improvement, the minister told the National Assembly that this sum caters only for the conducting of feasibility studies which will determine what level of treatment is required in order to utilise surface water from the Hope Canal.
Bulkan said too that the $13.5M allocated under line item 6291 will cater for the ministry’s participation in several national and religious events, inclusive of Mashramani, Arrival Day, Phagwah, Heritage Month and several exhibitions.
He said too that $124M will go towards the Local Government Commission for the implementation of its recommendations. Bulkan said that while he did receive the final report regarding the just concluded City Hall Commission of Inquiry (CoI), proceeding forward is the responsibility of the Commission.
Additionally, he said that the subventions set aside for municipalities include $30M for Georgetown, $18M each for the other towns and $5M for each Neighbour-hood Democratic Council.
The ministry’s approved funding also caters for a $300M Community Infrastructure Improve-ment Project, improved water supply projects in the hinterland, Linden and on the coast, a $130M urban sewerage and water upgrade project and $780M towards the Central Housing and Planning Authority for the provision of community infrastructure projects.