No money to move?
New Portmore municipal building remains largely empty long after constructionWednesday, October 20, 2021
A building completed by the Portmore Municipal Corporation for its offices and other commercial use stands void of occupants almost two years after completion.
Located in Braeton, Portmore, the project is the result of a $190-million contract issued in May 2017 for construction. Work began about a month later and was slated to be undertaken over 20 months, with scheduled completion in February 2019.
The building, enclosed in zinc fencing, remains an eye-catching, but empty, edifice.
The municipality currently leases space for its offices at Portmore Pines Plaza nearby. The local government body continues to pay for the leased space while its new accommodation stands empty.
The Jamaica Observer reached out to Portmore Mayor Leon Thomas over a three-week period but, at last report on Friday, October 15, the mayor was out of office.
The mayor, who had suggested a face-to-face meeting initially, ceased communication with the Business Observer when a link for a Zoom meeting was sent for the identical time he had indicated.
His assistant later explained that he did Zoom meetings with ministry officials only. He did not respond to subsequent telephone calls and e-mails over two weeks of attempts.
When the construction project began in 2018, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Desmond McKenzie said that the citizens of Portmore and its environs would benefit from the Government's investment.
He noted that the project would provide staff and elected representatives with “a modern, state-of-the art structure to more effectively and efficiently serve the public”.
Mayor Leon Thomas said then that the new structure will provide “more comfortable accommodation for staff, better enabling them to carry out their functions.
“We are expecting to deliver more than what we are offering and we'll be more comfortable. It will also enhance the municipality being a modern facility”.
The new building is described as a 22,654-square foot structure with a ground floor, first floor, and attic, with energy-efficient features such as solar street lighting and LED lighting.
The overall development plan includes access for the physically challenged, a car park, and water harvesting facility.
The Ministry of Local Government should have provided additional post-completion funds of between $15 million and $30 million for unspecified “necessary work” which might have included moving costs and furnishings.
Municipal corporations are supported by property tax collections. The island's 15 municipal corporations share a pie valued at approximately $7 billion, however, annual compliance is estimated at just above 60 per cent and may have been further impacted by economic fallout from COVID-19.