Wed | Sep 22, 2021

Militant Mayor Moore says heads could roll over unfinished building

Published:Friday | January 29, 2021 | 12:07 AMWESTERN BUREAU:
Bertel Moore, mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.
Bertel Moore, mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.

Savanna-la-Mar’s Mayor Bertel Moore has said heads could roll should the cash overrun on the multi-million-dollar Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) headquarters fail to meet next month’s revised timeline.

“I had a senior management meeting on January 25, and I told them that I don’t want it to go later than the end of February this year,” Moore said in reference to the municipal building, which is in the final phase of construction.

“It has to be done, otherwise some people may as well go ... it has to be completed by the end of February,” insisted Moore, in an interview with The Gleaner.

In 2015, under the Portia Simpson Miller-led People’s National Party administration, a contract valued at $78.4 million was signed between the Ministry of Local Government and N.R. Diaram Construction Company to construct the municipal building at the intersection of Murray and Great George streets.

Since the start of the construction phase the building, which was slated to be completed in 10 months, has faced numerous challenges, which included the 2019 termination of the contractor. The project is now six years behind and has already seen approximately $30 million in cost overruns.

Marvalyn Pitter, chief executive officer at the WMC, told last week’s meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee that more than $104 million has already been spent on the construction of the building, and that another estimated $4 million is to be spent to complete the outstanding works on the building, bringing the total cost to over $108 million.

When the original contractor was fired in 2019 by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, who had expressed much disappointment in the slow pace of the construction, the WMC was ordered to complete the building using its own funds as his ministry would not be expending more than what was budgeted in the original contract.

In June of last year, the WMC ended a long-standing rental agreement at its old headquarters, which was shared with the Westmoreland Parish Court. At the time, the early move to the new building was said to be a cost-cutting exercise. However, since the move some critical services to include telephone and internet services have not yet been relocated and installed.

“It’s not any construction work that is left to be done. It has to do with signage, Internet and telephones services, among some other smaller things,” said Moore.

Albert Ferguson