St George's statement
Mayor: St George’s meeting may be the last’
The Mayor of St George said last night she was “saddened and disappointed” by proposals to axe the two local authorities on the island.
Now, Quinell Francis has asked residents and business owners in the St George’s area to attend a special town hall meeting next week, which she said “may be the last in the 400-year history of the Town of St George”.
In response, Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, issued a reminder this morning that “we are still engaged in public consultation and that no final decision has been made”.
The Government has cited “crumbling infrastructure and empty buildings” in both Hamilton and St George as a rationale for exerting greater control over the two corporations.
But Ms Francis said it was “false” for the Government to suggest that the corporation’s role was “only infrastructure”.
She added: “We have always managed the economic, social and cultural affairs of the town on behalf of the residents and businesses.
“Moreover, the operating funds the town needs are under Bermuda Government control — wharfage, grants for the World Heritage Site and cruise ships.
“The team at the corporation have worked with all these challenges, and I publicly appreciate all their hard work.”
Ms Francis added: “We are passionate about our town, the heritage, and the future. Our town residents and businesses are the Corporation of St George.
“If St George’s heritage, economy and people are important to you, we ask you to attend this special meeting.” She there had been “very limited consultation” on the proposal to close down the corporations, floated by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday for ten days of public feedback.
The Government is considering whether to turn the Corporations of Hamilton and St George into quangos, or absorb their roles into central government.
Ms Francis was speaking after Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, said this week there had been “essentially no consultation”.
Mr Gosling added that the change was inevitable and predicted the Government would make changes before the municipal elections in May.
The special meeting will be held at Penno’s Wharf in St George’s, on Monday starting at 7pm.
Mr Roban said he had acknowledged Ms Francis’s comments on municipality reform.
He said the options now under consideration were:
• Change both corporations to quangos, “leaving each organisation intact as a corporate body but increasing the Government’s oversight over key initiatives”;
• Dissolving the corporations, repealing the Municipalities Act and integrating the corporations’ functions into the Government’s administrative structure.
Mr Roban said both Hamilton and St George “must be rejuvenated into becoming vibrant entities”.
He emphasised the need to draw more visitors and investment, and said both Hamilton and St George “do not reflect a thriving city”.
The minister said the Government’s “vision” for St George was consistent with the Mayor’s wishes.
The plan includes:
• A megayacht port and marina;
• A sustainable management plan for the World Heritage Site backed by legislation and funding;
• Year-round, non-seasonal industry for St George;
• Infrastructure and adequate amenities able to accommodate developments such as the St Regis Resort and future projects.
The minister added: “It is the Government’s commitment to provide the town of St George with the resources to effectively promote and develop all that makes them and their over 400 years of history, culture and people unique and special to all Bermuda.
“The goal of this reform is for the betterment of Bermuda and, as such, it is important that both the Hamilton and St George’s municipalities work together to execute a unified vision of empowerment.”
•To read the mayor’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.
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