By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE relocation of the general post office to the Town Centre Mall is now expected to be completed by January 1, 2019 and on budget, Transport Minister Renward Wells has revealed.
In an interview with reporters Friday, Mr Wells said construction and repair operations are in-line, and on pace to allow for a January 1 move to take place. He said that all cost metrics presented to date reflect that all renovations necessary to the project with fall under the $3.5m budget allocated by the property’s owner after a rental agreement was reached with the government.
Mr Wells said: “We have had to relook at the design for the post office………. it was our intention to just simply look at moving the boxes, the existing boxes from the post office, down to the Town Centre Mall, but in looking at that we realise that was not going to be possible, so we are actually buying, well the government isn’t, but the actual owner of the post office is buying the post office boxes and we are looking at increasing the number of post office boxes at the Town Centre Mall by some 10 percent so there will be availability for additional boxes for Bahamians.”
He added: “So now our time-line is for the first of January for the move to take place. And it is important that we get that done because at the end of the day, the Bahamas is going to be reviewed by the international postal organisation who audits every country in regards to its postal operation, and the last time they were here, the Bahamas didn’t fare very well.”
He continued: “So, we are looking to be able in February, at being able to pass that audit with flying colours. That is one of the reasons why we took the decision that we took, in regards to the post office, to ensure that we meet our international obligations.”
Mr Wells also revealed that in the lead-up to that move, staff at the general post office will stay on half-day work schedules as a result of continued adverse working conditions at the present East Hill Street complex.
Mr Wells said workers have done their best to brave the hazardous working environment, insisting that they need not be in those conditions more than is necessary to keep postal operations functioning ahead of the move.
“The staff is still on half-days and rightfully so,” he said, “I mean we can’t expect, like I said to you’ll during the debate, we can’t expect for folks to work in the kinds of environment that I have seen.”
“The conditions of that post office is horrendous and so at the end of the day, we don’t want folks in that environment any longer than they have to.
“And really, I would have to say, becoming Minister of Transport and Local Government, with responsibility for the post office, I so appreciate the hard work and dedication the persons in that post office department who, regardless of the circumstances under which they are working, are still coming in and seeking to sort all of that mail.”
He added: “They are doing a fantastic job in trying to get ahead with even those half days. The post persons are really putting in an awful lot of time, even on the weekend.”
He continued: “That is my outside time-frame now, for the entire move to take place by January 1. And I invite you to go down there…. it is an active construction site, but you will be able to see the renovations that are actually taking place in terms of the paving of the yard, the external works and even the internal works that is taking place within the Town Centre Mall.”
“We are still on budget for what we had anticipated.
“The outside budget was, as I said, some $3.5m and we are on target to still be within that.
“But the government of the Bahamas isn’t bearing that cost, as a part of the agreement with the owners, they agreed to give it to us at the price that they were giving it to us and to do all the renovations work necessary for the move,” he furthered.
Construction efforts at the Town Centre Mall commenced early last month.
The lease agreement signed by the government allows for the use of portions of the mall at $12 per sq ft.
Town Centre Mall, at 203,000 sq ft, was once listed for sale at a cost of $16m.