Windfall to assist St George
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy has announced $360,000 in capital funding to “support the maintenance and development” of St George's.
And the windfall will also be used to “explore the viability of a marina” which it is hoped will transform the town — designated a World Heritage Site — into an international yachting hub.
Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Sen Fahy said that Government was “committed to revitalising” the town and recognised that investment was needed in order to “leverage the assets in the best interest of all Bermuda”.
The Corporation of St George will use the funds to acquire new equipment to assist with maintenance such as a new trash truck and van. Money will also be spent on much-needed dock repairs at Ordnance Island and Penno's Wharf and repairs to public restrooms.
Quoting the UNESCO World Heritage website, which describes St George's as an “outstanding example of the earliest English urban settlement in the New World”, Sen Fahy said: “Bermuda is included among an elite group of countries with sites that are worthy to bear the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
“Our aim is to preserve the integrity of this history, restore it for generations to come and use it as a means to drive visitation to the Island.
“You will recall that the Government pledged to re-establish a close working partnership between government and the Corporation of St George and ensure its viability as a municipality.
“Further, the Government pledged to work with the Corporation of St George to protect the special historical qualities of the town, implement the Town Heritage Plan and commit adequate funds to market St George's as a World Heritage Site.
“As a part of the 2013/14 budget, the Government allocated $360,000 in capital funding to the Corporation of St George's and we are committed to working with the Corporation to start the process of upgrading the infrastructure.”
Sen Fahy added that the new marina would include a welcome centre and dock management areas, which will be available year-round and will be serviced 24-hours a day.
“All of the above-noted projects have been identified as critical to sustaining the infrastructure in St George's; however, this represents only a small fraction of the work to be done,” he said.
Premier Craig Cannonier and Deputy Premier Michael Dunkley were given a tour of the town by St George's Mayor Garth Rothwell in June.
Mr Cannonier later said the condition of some facilities was “unacceptable”.
“Quite frankly, after taking the tour, I am disturbed at the amount of neglect of key buildings and properties.
“To see St George's, the former capital of the Island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the condition that it is in is unacceptable.
“This Government is about restoring hope for Bermuda and its people, which includes the town of St George's. We will be working with the relevant ministries and stakeholders to address their most pressing concerns.”
Mayor Mr Rothwell welcomed the cash injection, saying that much-needed projects could now go ahead.
He said $130,000 of the funds have been set aside for new trash collection vehicles, while four holes in the town's wharf could now also be repaired.
“We have a list of things that needed doing and we can now work our way through that list,” he said.
He added that another expensive item was the legal fee for the new marina contract to be drawn up. “It's certainly positive in the sense that at last we have money for these projects and can start getting things done.
But Mr Rothwell pointed out that the Corporation was still operating under a $400,000 operating budget, and had slashed its staff from 30 to 18 in recent years.
“We've gotten to the point where we can only carry out breakdown maintenance rather than preventative maintenance,” he said.
Last night constituency MP and Government backbencher Kenneth Bascome said the funding demonstrated that OBA administration was listening to the people of St George's.
“The UBP never paid any attention to the town and the PLP did a similar thing,” Mr Bascome said.
“I still believe there's a long way to go but, this is a step in the right direction and will assist in getting some of the essential infrastructure upgraded.”