The rainy season has not only brought flooding to some sections of Georgetown but also a reminder that the City Hall building is currently on its last stride, with a leaking roof and a structure that is sure to collapse if repairs do not take shape soon.
The 19th-century gothic revival building, which was once named the most picturesque structure in the capital city, is falling apart rapidly with some sections labelled unsafe. During a recent visit to the building, located at the corner of Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic, the railings were falling apart with broken windows and stumbling woodwork that was seemingly attached by a thread.
Speaking with Guyana Times, one of the Councillors, Bishram Kuppen, noted that this severe damage could have been averted if frequent maintenance was carried out. However, the building has been neglected for decades by past mayors and these small problems were mounted into a significant one which is difficult to remedy.
Kuppen stated, “The minimal repairs that were required for example the windows falling apart, it doesn’t take a substantial amount of money to fix the window. There are works that could have been done like fixing the leaks and the windows that are a disgrace to the people of Georgetown”.
A study was conducted by the European Union, pegging the rehabilitation works at some $400 million. Kuppen related that the Town Clerks have a tendency of postponing these works due to the lack of funds or the fact that they are seeking funds from Central Government. As part of the EU’s report, there were indications of structural defects among other issues cited.
“The building has not been repaired even to any small extent for decades and it was just left to deteriorate to the current condition that it is in and the usual excuse or explanation that is given by the Council, specifically the Town Clerk, is that they don’t have sufficient money,” the Councillor said.
He added, “I think the blame lies squarely with the Administration all the way back to former Mayor Hamilton Green and even though the European Union had made an assessment of the building, there should have been minimum maintenance of the building until the major repairs take place. I understand that in the report submitted to Mayor Ubraj Narine, there were structural defects identified”.
During statutory meetings, the chambers leak, creating pools of water on the second floor. Just outside the room, sections of the corridor are also unsafe.
“When we are sitting in the chambers, in fact, when it rains it is leaking in the chambers itself and that is not the top floor so it was just allowed, in my opinion, to deteriorate to the extent where some massive programme could be initiated and we know when that happens, there is lack of accountability for funds.”
For now, the Council is awaiting funds to construct a new building next to the existing structure, which will house employees during the rehabilitation period. Over the years, millions of dollars were injected into the Council for the building’s restoration, including some $20 million in 2012.
Last year, it was indicated that proceeds from the Council’s City Week activities were to be used start the restoration project at City Hall.