Olde Towne recovery is under way
I took time in the Senate this week to remind senators and Bermuda that soon after this government took office, it passed the Corporation of St George (Unesco World Heritage Fund and Levy) Act in 2013, which enables the town to collect a tax on fuel landed at Ferry Reach. That tax has been a bonanza for St George, and a boon for the state of Bermuda’s infrastructure as a whole.
The work that the corporation has been able to accomplish as a result has been quite astonishing, and should make us all glad that it has been undertaken at about the same time as work on a new hotel in St George is beginning — and as the town is expecting 12 regular cruise ship visits this year and in every year from 2017 through 2021.
The Olde Towne owes much to my colleague, the MP for St George’s North, Kenny Bascome. As a former mayor of the town, he recognised perhaps more clearly than any of us that years of neglect and lack of proper funding had pushed St George into a state of acute disrepair. It was his insistence that gave impetus to the project.
There have been two significant shipping-related, infrastructure projects undertaken in St George. These have been prioritised because of the demands, especially for dock space, expected by the America’s Cup events.
The first is a project that will result in $613,513.18 being spent by the corporation on Ordnance Island and Market Wharf. Four areas of work there are nearly completed:
1, Replacement of roof on Penno’s Warehouse, at a cost of $436,040
2, Extension of the fresh water line to Penno’s, $92,499.79
3, Water Street Sewer line repair, $62,461.73
4, Dock repair engineering drawings, $22,511.66
The second is the refurbishment of Hunter’s Wharf. The Government has contributed $1,480,224.19 to the Penno’s Wharf/Hunter’s Wharf Refurbishment project. These funds have been allocated as follows:
1, Fendering, $42,732
2, Dock resurfacing, $553,535
3, Hunter’s Wharf repairs, $654,722.19
4, Bollard replacement, $100,000
5, CCTV cameras, $83,590
6, X-ray machine, $45,645
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation fund is to be used for infrastructure improvements for the town, upgrades to the fortifications and can be used also to promote the Old Towne to ensure that we retain its World Heritage site designation.
To date, the corporation has used $49,918 to fund Unesco projects as follows:
1, Gunpowder plot, $5,000
2, Historic Building Informational signs, $8,000
3, Unesco World Teachers Day promotional banners, $4,600
4, St Peter’s Church, $20,000
5, Clemson University mapping project, $3,520
6, Unesco brochures, $6,500
7, Unesco membership dues, $2,298
At the time the tax was passed, there were some who said that this was not appropriate or would not be used properly. I told the Senate this week that the sums are in fact managed well by the Corporation of St George and, by way of information, I can advise that there is $1,205,145.21 remaining in the account.
The corporation will use those funds to fund wharf projects within the town, with the breakdown below:
1, Hunter’s Wharf shortfall, $462,933.90
2, Ordnance Island and Market Wharf, $589,468.03
As can be seen, had it not been for the Unesco Levy and this government’s commitment to the Olde Towne, things would not be so rosy for St George. It is the first time in many years that there has been a dedicated regular cruise ship visiting St George, which will bring a much needed boost for retailers, and is a part of a deal made between the Government and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
The agreement also includes bringing two catamaran ferries to the island for the run from Dockyard to the East End, along with a yearly investment of $150,000 by NCL to sponsor tourism enhancement in co-operation with the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
This government remains committed to the Old Towne — we returned the ability for the town to collect wharfage fees, which provide significant income for its budget. Many may recall that in 2014 we stepped in to give a cash injection of $750,000 to the corporation to enable bathroom upgrades, dock repairs and for the purchase of a new vehicle.
And, of course, we are still looking forward to the commencement of the St Regis-branded hotel, which will create jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. I raised all this in the Senate because sometimes there is convenient amnesia regarding how things have happened and how improvements are made. It is my view that the Olde Towne will go from strength to strength and we will continue to support wherever we can to see it thrive.
Senator Michael Fahy is the Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities
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