$6-m price tag for new-look parliament building

Covid-19

$6-m price tag for new-look parliament building

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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THE retrofitting of the parliament building to meet health and safety standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic cost almost $6 million, Leader of Government Business Edmund Bartlett has reported.

In a statement to the Lower House yesterday, he said the Plexiglas shields installed to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus totalled $5.9 million, calling it “a relatively modest budget”.

It is not clear if other adjustments were made to facilitate the sitting of the House of Representatives at George William Gordon House in downtown Kingston, which had reconvened at Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston in September due to a space issue. This reportedly cost the Government approximately $200,000 per sitting.

Yesterday, Bartlett said the renovation, which began in October, was done to create the necessary space in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic and associated health protocols.

“We know it's not exactly where everyone would want it, but it is at the level that makes it appropriate for now, and also to enable us to conduct the business of the people in a fairly decent arrangement,” Bartlett said.

“We know that the prime minister and the team are very bullish about a new Parliament, [and] so are all of us. For that, we do recognise that time is of the essence as we seek to get the arrangements. The hard, cold facts are, however, that this chamber, as we know it, was really not intended for this kind of a configuration to enable parliamentary or any other kind of proceedings,” he added.

The Jamaica Observer reported in mid-September that for the second time in its recent history, the Parliament of Jamaica would meet at Jamaica Conference Centre.

The decision to move parliamentary sittings was due to a lack of seating space at Gordon House, as it was unable to accommodate the Government's large numbers under the social distancing protocol of maintaining a distance of six feet apart, instituted by the current Administration.

In August 2011, parliamentarians sat in Conference Room 5 at the Conference Centre for budget presentations, while repairs were done to the roof of Gordon House.

The repairs started in August that year and were expected to last for six weeks, but were delayed to December following the discovery of asbestos pipes in the building.

Meanwhile, the new parliament building that is to be constructed at National Heroes' Circle will cost $7.5 billion, according to the Urban Development Corporation.

The entity is expected to oversee the project's implementation.

The public, in the meantime, has until tomorrow to submit written comments to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on the proposed construction of the new houses of Parliament.

This follows the public presentation of the environmental impact assessment conducted by Environmental Solutions Limited, during a virtual public consultation on the project on November 12.

Comments may be submitted to the Applications Secretariat Branch of NEPA at 10 Caledonia Avenue, Kingston 5, or via electronic mail to applications@nepa.gov.jm.

— Kimone Francis


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