Town Centre Mall. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By RIEL MAJOR
TRANSPORT and Local Government Minister Renward Wells said construction is underway to renovate Town Centre Mall for the relocation of the General Post Office, adding plans initially drawn up by the previous administration are being relied upon with some changes.
Mr Wells said architectural drawings were started by the previous administration and the government has reviewed those drawings and made adjustments. He reiterated that staff from the General Post Office should be relocated to the new facility at Town Centre Mall by Christmas.
"The first set of construction work that is commencing and that will be completed is the post office Savings Bank. Removing the post office Savings Bank into the old Barclays Bank and (removing) the cafeteria area from the second floor to the lower floor in what was Subway, so it makes that kind of transition very easy for us to do the requisite renovations in those places," Mr Wells told reporters yesterday.
"We have no unforeseen challenges other than us just agreeing on the work spaces and agreeing on the additional drawings.
"So we are looking to have those post office bank staff to be the first set who move and we are looking for that to happen within the next two weeks or so."
Town Centre Mall is owned by Immigration Minister Brent Symonette and his brother. The government's decision to lease the mall for five years to house the post office has drawn criticism from the Official Opposition and four Free National Movement backbenchers.
Yesterday, Mr Wells stressed his support of members of Parliament being able to conduct business with the government once, by law, the correct procedures have been followed.
"First of all, the law of The Bahamas makes provisions for it and not just the law, the Constitution," Mr Wells said. "The highest law in this country that cannot be questioned makes provisions for it so that means it is not something that is illegal or something that is underhanded.
"The law says if someone who is elected enters into business with government the thing that they (have) to do is to declare and the Parliament has to give them the opportunity to not vacate their seat to vote that the member not be forced to vacate his seat.
"We did all of that, now if you have a problem with that and you believe that no member of Parliament should have any sort of contract with the government of The Bahamas… mind you let's remember our founders (and) our forefathers who established this nation didn't think there was a problem with it," he said. "They just thought what you ought to do is go through the right procedures to do it. Now if we who are their children who have come along now to govern this country believe that there is a problem with that kind of thinking then what we ought to be doing is making suggestions to change the constitution of The Bahamas.
"That is what we should be doing rather than complaining about it and so at the end of the day if you feel aggrieved in any which way or you have a particular position on something and believe that something is untoward then at the end of the day let us move in the way of correcting it by legislation. That's my position."
The Christie administration had looked at relocating the General Post Office to the Town Centre Mall during its last term, but ultimately decided to enter into a public-private partnership (PPP) to construct a new building at the Independence Drive Shopping Centre opposite the mall instead. Tribune Business previously reported that project was placed on hold following traffic flow-related complaints from local residents and concerns over whether proper due diligence had been conducted.