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Government set for property sell-off

Craig Cannonier. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Ministry of Public Works has identified 30 Government-owned properties that it will look to sell off in the coming months.

The move, which was initially unveiled in the Throne Speech, is part of a policy that will also involve moving civil servants back in Government-owned properties to reduce rent payments and the overall deficit. The ministry, which is responsible for about 800 properties including residential and commercial space as well as forts, will look to sell off the land in a piecemeal fashion to avoid flooding the market, Craig Cannonier, the Minister for Public Works, revealed.

Mr Cannonier maintained that the sale of the properties was not a solely “financially driven” project and required the consent of Cabinet as well as the House of Assembly before they could be put on the market.

“The ministry is charged with managing about 800 buildings, which for an island and government this size is pretty unprecedented,” he added.

“Over the years we have taken an inventory of what we have and we are now asking the question, ‘What do we need to be efficient?’

“The challenge is that many of them have not been maintained and have just been sitting there falling apart.

“We have some valuable real estate here and if it does not fit within the asset management plan then we need to ask why are we holding on to them when they could be well used by the public, non-profit organisations, first-time homeowners or even new hotel development.”

Mr Cannonier said that the sale of Harrington Sound Post Office was the pilot phase of the policy of selling off Government land and had prompted a “phenomenal response”.

“We have now identified 30 properties and lots of land that we should be putting out on the market,” he added.

“The disposals if approved by the legislature will be staggered and take place over a period of time. But it is important to get moving on this and we would like to accomplish it this year.”

Mr Cannonier told The Royal Gazette that Government-owned property would continue to be renovated to enable employees to be moved out of rented office space.

The Valerie T Scott and the Dominica Cottage in Hamilton have already been refurbished and now house the Information Commissioner’s Office and hotel inspectors respectively. Meanwhile proposals to upgrade Teucer House and the old Hamilton Police Station are going through the Department of Planning.

Mr Cannonier said. “We pay approximately $1.7 million in rent every year within the city.

“We are moving our people back into real estate that we own and renovations are going on.

“The refurbishment plans for the old police station make sense. It is going to be a capital project and we are looking to get the building done this year.”