By Richard Bhainie
RESTORATION works on the iconic Georgetown City Hall building, which houses the offices of the Mayor of Georgetown, the City Council and the City Engineer, are likely to commence this year. This was disclosed by Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall, during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Thursday, during which he identified some of the plans his ministry has in store for the year. The minister highlighted that preliminary studies into the restoration project have already been completed. The ministry will review the reports and construction works are slated to follow. “The European Commission and some other stakeholders have done a report, so that will be re-evaluated during the course of next week and as soon as that is done, then we would be able to make some final determination,” he said.
Dharamlall explained that the project is a commitment of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government, which fits into plans to enhance the city of Georgetown. He noted that the iconic 19th century gothic architectural marvel, the City Hall building, is a major tourism product and its restoration is necessary. “We will be restoring the building to keep its image and its historical value; it also has a heritage value, it is a big tourism product and it’s part of the general landscape of Georgetown; it is also a landmark. With all those into consideration, His Excellency is of the view that we have to get City Hall restored,” the minister said. Dharamlall explained that due to the magnitude of the project, the execution will take a number of years to be completed and the ministry will expend an enormous amount time to ensure that correct procedures are followed and things are done in a proper manner.
“It is important that the government take charge of this operation, because the current [City] Council is not transparent enough and we do not think that they are competent enough to garner the resources and to execute the works that ought to be done,” Dharamlall said during the interview. In 2019, the Mayor of Georgetown, Pandit Ubraj Narine, informed the media that a sub-committee was established to speed up the reconstruction process of City Hall. In February 2020, the Mayor and City Councillors of Georgetown launched a restoration fund for the complete rehabilitation of the historic City Hall building. Narine on Friday informed this publication that the committee has not met for while due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, they are plans for the committee to meet soon to decide a way forward.
He explained that the bank account for the fund is fully functional and he urges the public at large to make contributions. In responding to the central government’s initiative to restore the building, Narine noted that there is an existing sum of over one billion owed to the Council, upon payment of which he would be able to initiate works at City Hall. City Hall was designed by architect Ignatius Scoles, and the foundation stone was laid by Governor Henry Turner Irving on December 23, 1887. It was officially opened on July 1, 1889, by Governor Viscount Gormanston. Over the years, the building has gradually descended into a deplorable state. There have been numerous appeals for the renovation and restoration of the beloved City Hall.