–milestone project to be completed within 18 months
AFTER years of rhetoric and little action, the iconic City Hall building will finally be restored to its former glory within 18 months, following the signing of a $780 million contract among stakeholders.
Both the Government of Guyana and the City Council pledged again on Friday to work together to bring this project to fruition.
Present at the signing ceremony, which was held in the compound of City Hall were Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall; Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Anand Persaud; City Mayor, Ubraj Narine; Deputy Ambassador of the delegation of the European Union (EU), Evelina Melbarzde, and Town Clerk (ag), Candace Nelson.
By the end of this month, all staff of City Hall will be relocated to safer locations, including the mayoral complex, the Engineers building, and the Kitty Market, to allow the repair works to commence.
Minister Dharamlall assured stakeholders that his ministry will be holding the contractors of the project to the timeframe that has been agreed upon, as he is not in the habit of extending timeframes.
One of the first things that President Dr. Irfaan Ali did at his Cabinet meeting after assuming office, according to Minister Dharamlall, was to establish a Ministerial Task Force to oversee development works in Georgetown.
Referencing the work of the Task Force, the minister related that the recent flooding that occurred in various parts of the country was not as severe in Georgetown, and this was largely due to the efforts of the government to ensure that there was enhanced drainage in the city.
The restoration of City Hall’s building must not be seen in isolation, Dharamlall advised, adding that it represents part of a wider effort to have Georgetown returned to its former glory. The transformation since the government took office, he pointed out, has been undeniable.
“We are not going to leave any stone unturned when it comes to developing Georgetown. We are going to work with the council and will be providing additional resources to conduct other upgrades in the city,” he remarked, adding: “For too long, too much politics has been happening upstairs at City Hall and while people are equivocating on the issues of Georgetown, the residents are suffering. We need to make a committed effort.”
Minister Dharamlall said he was quite perturbed that the recently provided $30 million subvention for City Hall’s admin building has not been utilised.
In his remarks, Minister Persaud said that at 132 years old and standing at 96 feet tall, the Georgetown City Hall, even in its deplorable state, remains a major tourist attraction.
“This City Hall is built out of wood and cast iron and I want to ask…we have a variety of woods in our rainforests and I am pretty sure our local woods would be used and more importantly that local labour will also be used,” the minister said.
Mayor Narine related that because City Hall is operating with limited resources, he is glad to work with any government for the benefit of citizens.
“I must compliment the Government of Guyana on this move. City Hall building has been in this state for many decades and I am happy to see that the minister has taken this venture to a different level,” Narine said.
He expressed hope that the building, once completed, will be used for more than administrative purposes, and as a tourist site and even as a library to store the history of Georgetown.
Deputy Ambassador Melbarzde recalled that the EU started working with the authorities in 2016 and by 2018 had already drafted its recommendations.
“It has been very intensive work and collaborative work and we presented out [sic] conclusions on how the building should be restored and preserved. It’s very important to see that the recommendations are taken on board and will be implemented,” she commented.
City Hall’s building was designed by architect, Ignatius Scholes, in 1887 and was completed in June 1889.
At 14:00hrs on December 23, 1887, Governor Henry Turner Irving laid the foundation stone for City Hall at the north-east corner of the main building, along with a glass jar containing original documents relating to the building.
City Hall was then officially opened at 15:00hrs on July 1, 1889, by Governor Viscount Gormanston. The building has deteriorated significantly over the years.