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Governor forced to move out of ‘unsafe’ Government House

Urgent repairs are needed at Government House to make it safe for occupation (File photograph)

The Governor and her family have moved out of Government House because it is not safe to live in and needs “urgent” repairs.

Rena Lalgie, her husband and their children are staying in temporary accommodation paid for by taxpayers until the work is completed.

The news comes 18 months after Parliament heard that the 19th-century building on Langton Hill was suffering from extensive water damage because of leaking roofs and faulty windows but major repairs were deferred owing to a lack of cash.

A government spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette last week: “Following the receipt of an interim update on the condition of Government House, it has been determined that urgent works are required to make Government House safe for occupation.

“In the interim, the Governor is in alternative temporary accommodation, the cost of which is being met by the Government of Bermuda in keeping with our responsibilities to properly house the Governor and her family.”

The spokeswoman said: “Once a full assessment has been received, this will inform decisions regarding the remediation of Government House and its ongoing use as a working residence.”

She said payment for the temporary accommodation would come out of Government House’s capital development budget but did not answer a question about how much it would cost.

The most recent Government Budget listed $5.2 million in total authorised funding for Government House improvements, with $1.7 million having being spent as of March 31, 2022. This year’s allocation was $380,000 and last year it was $300,000.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, told the House of Assembly in March last year that the $300,000 allocation for 2022-23 would be spent on “ongoing maintenance” of the house, with major long-lasting repairs on hold because of a lack of funds.

He said: “It should be noted that Government House was initially constructed in 1871 and has a deteriorating infrastructure, which will require substantial capital investment to provide a safe working environment for staff and a safe residence for Her Excellency.”

Mr Roban said the windows needed replacing, at a cost of almost $2 million, and the roof needed replacing, at an estimated cost of $450,000.

The minister admitted water damage would increase “exponentially” until those major capital projects and associated operational costs could be funded.

The previous year, the Government was urged to take urgent action to prevent the Deputy Governor’s official residence from falling into disrepair, but decided against it.

Montpelier, a Grade III-listed building in Devonshire, had been empty since 2018 and the publicly owned structure had started to deteriorate.

Civil servants at the Ministry of Public Works sought to carry out internal renovations and upgrade outside facilities to include a swimming pool and garage but works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch withheld funding for the plan.

He said then: “At this juncture, I can confirm that work on this property will not commence at any time in the near future and that no funds have been budgeted or allocated for the same.”

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Published September 18, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated September 18, 2023 at 6:49 pm)

Governor forced to move out of ‘unsafe’ Government House

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