225 total votes.
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Cabinet Minister yesterday said he expects the General Post Office's relocation to be completed before Christmas, adding that it would be "inconceivable" to allow its woes to continue into the New Year.
Speaking outside Parliament after tabling a resolution for the Government to rent space for the Post Office at the Town Centre Mall, Renward Wells, minister of transport, said: "We will be moving in hopefully before Christmas, and relocate the operations of the General Post Office to the Town Centre Mall to get that essential service up and running. It is inconceivable at this stage that we would allow this situation to go on into the the New Year without a resolution."
Tribune Business has reported numerous times about the collapse of the postal system, following multiple complaints from residents and businesses. Mr Wells told Parliament yesterday that the General Post Office site on East Hill Street has been condemned as being structurally unsound and mould infested, as staff there have repeatedly taken industrial action over their working conditions.
He added that the idea of a new Post Office building at the Independence Shopping Plaza on Tonique Williams Highway, the plan initiated by the last Christie administration, was met with "resounding objections" by area residents who asserted that their quality of life would be negatively affected by its presence.
The Minnis administration had previously announced it had acquired the former Phil's Food Services building on Gladstone Road to house the General Post Office. But Mr Wells revealed last month that the Government had gone back to the drawing board on those plans because Cabinet had discovered it would cost more to renovate the building than it had budgeted.
The Christie administration had also 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 across the roundabout.
Mr Wells confirmed to Parliament that the Town Centre Mall will offer a concessionary rate of $12 per square foot for the Post Office, which he said was far below the going rate for commercial rentals on New Providence. Portions of the building will be leased and made suitable for the Post Office's operations at the landlord's expense. The space will be leased for a five year period.
Addressing conflict of interest concerns, as the Town Centre Mall is partly owned by Brent Symonette, minister of financial services, trade and industry and Immigration, Mr Wells said: "This is not the first time that a member of the House of Assembly would have had their building leased [by the Government].
"The former administration had brought a resolution when they were seeking to lease the space from Leslie Miller, a then member of Parliament. The then-leader of Opposition and now Prime Minister spoke to the resolution, saying that the Opposition at that time had no objections to the Government leasing Leslie Miller's place.
"This is not the first time this is being done. We, as an open, transparent government, seeing that we have a sitting Cabinet minister who has an investment in the Mall, decided to come and have this issue fully ventilated. We wanted to let the Bahamian people know as to the genesis of why we are going back to the Town Centre Mall."