By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government is in the process of acquiring the Independence Drive Shopping Centre as the new location for the General Post Office, a Cabinet Minister confirmed yesterday.
Shane Gibson, minister of labour and national insurance, told Tribune Business: “We’re going to purchase the Independence Shopping Centre, the entire shopping centre. We are just working to have it refurbished and ready for staff to occupy it.
“I don’t want to give a timeline on when it will be ready until we purchase the building, but we are in the process now of purchasing the building. We have met with the owner.”
As to the purchase price, Mr Gibson said: “We’re negotiating that right now.”
The Independence Drive Shopping Centre has lacked a major anchor tenant since the now-defunct City Markets supermarket chain closed its location there four to five years ago.
The site, at the roundabout by the Town Centre Mall, will likely prove a welcome respite for
General Post Office employees, who for years have complained about poor working conditions that included mold, crumbling walls and a rodent infestation.
John Pinder, the Bahamas Public Service Union’s (BPSU) president, told Tribune Business that “we’re counting down the days” to the Post Office’s relocation, along with its 100 staff.
“The building is falling apart. It’s rat-infested in addition to mold, and malfunctioning water and air-conditioning systems,” he said of the current location.
“We know that the permanent secretary had advised us that they would be out in six months. That was some three weeks ago that he said that. We would not, under any circumstances after the expiration of that six months, encourage our members to go back in that environment.”
Glenys Hanna Martin, minister of transport and aviation, who has responsibility for postal services, said the Government had spent months trying to locate a proper site for the General Post Office, having looked at several locations.
“The problem we encountered with the Post Office is that the nature of the operations are so unique and specific it’s not like your regular office space,” she said.
“When we had issues with the falling concrete and that sort of thing, we got the Ministry of Works to go in there and to do remedial work, but there were also environmental issues. As a result we agreed that the staff would work reduced hours. There was an earnest effort to have them relocated but that proved more challenging that anticipated.”
Mrs Hanna Martin added: “We looked at numerous locations. We had looked at two locations on Bay Street, one of which had looked like it would be a good spot. The Post Office had thought so, and so the Ministry of Works did the plans in accordance with the specifications of the Post Office.
“But when senior management saw it, they said it was too small, and at that point we had lost months on that process. We had looked at the Town Centre Mall and that took months. We had also looked at the building on the East-West Highway and that took almost a year.
“We’re now back to that location. What helped in the decision-making was the prudence of either using public funds to renovate at high cost and pay rent, or use comparable expenditure to acquire the building on the East-West Highway.”