Public works ministry to increase revenue
The Ministry of Public Works is set to increase its revenue this year by selling government-owned buildings, according to minister Craig Cannonier.
During the budget debate yesterday, Mr Cannonier noted that a 30 per cent increase in revenue is expected in the 2016-17 fiscal year, stating that along with increasing the amount of energy sold to Belco from the Tynes Bay Waste-to-Energy facility, the ministry intends on selling some government-owned property.
Overall, the ministry received a budget increase of about $5 million, or 2 per cent.
Mr Cannonier also noted that among the projects to be tackled in the coming year are the relocation of several government offices, including the Ministry of National Security, the office of the tax commissioner, the senate and the Court of Appeals.
He praised the Land Valuation Unit for completing their work revaluating the island’s properties last year despite its small staff, and the work of the Hustle Truck team, who have been helping those out of work both make some money and develop their work skills.
Mr Cannonier said the Hustle Truck workers not only helped clean up after hurricanes, but assisted the Government in the moving of government departments and essentially taken over the task of bulky waste disposal.
He said the budget for lifeguards had been increased as the Government intends to extend the season to accommodate visiting cruise ships and potentially service additional beaches when events take place.
And while the Ministry is not running this year’s Agricultural Exhibition, it will be providing support for the organisers both in advance of the event and with staff on the ground.
Mr Cannonier also announced that $1 million had been allocated in the budget for the purchase of Sandys 360, adding that more details will be given when a final agreement has been reached with the trustees.
Two new traditional bus stops and a “couple” of Plexiglas bus stops can also be expected this year.
Funding has also been set aside for refurbishment works on the Causeway, which is in need of maintenance and repairs to protect it from future damage, and work will also continue on the Swing Bridge.
Speaking to the public lands and buildings, Mr Cannonier reiterated that many government buildings are dated and reflect the needs of a different business era.
He said the department has identified and recorded government assets, their present and future uses, and which assets “could potentially be disposed of”.
Mr Cannonier added that more than 30 buildings are vacant and in “various states of disrepair” and while some will be reused, those that could be disposed of will be brought to the attention of the House “shortly”.
Shadow minister Dennis Lister broached several questions about the ministry’s budget, including how many government buildings the ministry is looking to see this year, noting that some of the buildings are in a state of disrepair.
He also asked about the future of the Sandys 360 and Grand Atlantic sites.
And he said that while the budget brief made note of necessary work on the Swing Bridge and even some minor works on Watford Bridge, there was no reference he could see to the bailey bridge on the causeway.
“It was 2007 when it was put in,” he said. “The concern is that it was not going to be a long-term structure.”
Mr Lister raised other questions about the future of the South Basin construction project and the effectiveness of GPS devices installed in the island’s trash trucks, but the time allotted for debate ended before Mr Cannonier was given an opportunity to respond.