LEADER of the House of Representatives Edmund Bartlett is confident that the renovations to Gordon House to accommodate a resumption of sittings of the House of Representatives, will be completed by mid-November.
Bartlett told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that there would be no need for an extended delay of the works to be completed, and that he was satisfied that team that has been contracted will complete it within this timeline.
“It could be completed earlier than that, based on the responses from the team which is carrying out the renovation. But, it would be safe to say that we will resume meeting at Gordon House by mid-November,” he said.
Preliminary work started at the building Monday, and Gordon House sources said that it should be in full swing by weekend. The challenge is to create a chamber in which all 63 Members of Parliament, particularly the overwhelming 49 Government MPs, can be seated on either side of the aisle under COVID-19 social distancing rules.
In the meantime, Bartlett acknowledged that Parliament will need to fork out just over $200,000 per sitting for the use of the Jamaica Conference Centre, which was originally built to host the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
Gordon House and the conference centre are situated less than a mile away at different ends of Duke Street in downtown Kingston, but while the huge centre is a much more accommodative venue, it does not have the parliamentary trappings of Gordon House.
Efforts by a committee led by Bartlett to get the work going as quickly as possible after the current session of Parliament started on September 13, following the September 3 General Election, were also delayed by the positive COVID-19 test result returned by House Marshall Captain Wayne Blake. This led to a brief closure of the building for full sanitisation, before staff was allowed back in.
“We owe payment for the two meetings so far, and we expect to meet there on October 27 and November 4. After which the renovation of Gordon House should be completed. I am sure the work will not go beyond mid-November, the latest,” Bartlett told the Observer.
He also suggested that with the Government’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC) operating the venue, Parliament could end up paying less. No payments have been made so far.
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