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Wedco chairman speaks out

March 10, 2014

Dear Sir,

I write this in response to the letter published today by someone called Devonshire Speaks and titled “Did someone say condemned?”

Let me be very clear right off the bat: The Albert & Victoria Row housing units did not meet acceptable standards for habitation in 2012 nor do they today. I never said they did in 2012 and our focus today is to manage the situation in ways that serve the best interest of the tenants and the general public.

When Victoria & Albert Row tenants move into the new units being constructed, the old units will be removed as available housing stock unless they are renovated. In an effort to pursue this possibility, Wedco has reached out to several agencies who previously were interested in retaining these buildings. Unfortunately, for various reasons, these agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity, are no longer able to assist.

But we have not given up. Very soon, Requests for Interest (RFI) will be advertised in an effort to save and restore the buildings. If there are no viable proposals, the decision will need to be taken to raze them. It's not a decision that I look forward to putting before the board.

In the lead up to the election, I met with the majority of tenants and it was their desire to have these buildings renovated instead of the construction of the new but smaller units. It was their cause that I took up and advocated for. Their desire was reinforced by my belief that there was merit in saving these historical buildings whilst creating work for local masons, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen. It is too late now for that plan, but it was my preference.

On May 30, 2012, a group of about 30 tenants met with your reporter at the time, Ceola Wilson. The link to her story in the side bar is here: http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20120530/NEWS01/705299922.

By their words you may judge whether I was representing the wish of the people. If you follow the link and view the photos, you may see one of the renovated units that I visited that showed me the potential that exists.

The writer, “Devonshire Speaks” asks the question: “Has the OBA had another change of heart? Have they made another about face on yet another matter?” The answer is No! A resounding No! The OBA promised to try to carry out the wishes of the tenants and renovate Victoria & Albert Row rather than constructing new units. Indeed, there was a preliminary plan that had been developed where Victoria & Albert Row tenants could be temporarily accommodated in the seven Wedco-owned units that were vacant at Boaz Island Village. This would have allowed renovations to be carried out one block at a time.

But the former government's decision to construct all new units rather than renovate the existing ones has made it more difficult to find a viable solution to saving the buildings, as there is no additional money readily available. I have not given up trying. So, again, the answer is No! There has been no change of heart.

I have worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the tenants of Victoria and Albert Row and will continue to help wherever and whenever I can. My conscience is clear in that I have done all that I could up to this point. There is still hope, but that will depend on a positive response to the RFI. In closing, I want to say that I regard it as a privilege to be chairman of Wedco. It is a position that affords huge opportunities to serve the interests of the people, whether they are Wedco tenants or Bermudians as a whole knowing that the West End is a vibrant, well run place to visit and enjoy.

RAY CHARLTON

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Published March 11, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 10, 2014 at 7:21 pm)

Wedco chairman speaks out

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