At a press briefing at Committee Room of the Red House yesterday, chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) Jearlean John assured that the relocation would be completed “well in advance of the presentation of the presentation of the national budget by the honourable Winston Dookeran, Minister of Finance in September 2011.”
Udecott is the project manager for both the relocation and restoration project. Seven floors of the Tower D will be occupied and it also has a seven-storey car park which can accommodate 1,200 vehicles. John disclosed that the cost of relocation would cost $41 million before VAT. She said some of the floors to be occupied by the Parliament are currently “bare shells with major ceiling, flooring and finishing works to be done.”
From today advertisements will go out inviting tenders for the fit-out and construction work at Tower D. John said the project is divided into three packages to ensure construction and fit-out works on various floors at Tower D could be executed simultaneously.
“This division into packages will translate into work for various contractors and their labour force assisting in creating that multiplier effect which will no doubt assist in kick-starting our construction industry once again.”
Later in response to a question, she said Udecott must demonstrate that it can work on time, within budget and be transparent.
The decision to relocate the Parliament and its more than 200 staff was influenced by health and safety concerns. John said there was a “clear risk related to seismic retrofitting of the severely aged and structurally weakened Red House, along with the critical need to reconstruct and repair the roof membrane, ceiling, ceiling supports and floors could in no way be engaged while the Red House is occupied.”
She said for the “first time” in the nation’s history office accommodation specific to the Leader of the Opposition will be provided. The Senate will have its own chamber so both the House of Representatives and Senate could sit simultaneously. More floor space will be available for the public and media.
John said when Parliament returns to the Red House it will leave a well equipped state-of-the art conference centre which could be rented to add revenue to the Treasury. In response to a question, John said $86.9 million out of a budget of $174 million was spent on previous renovation work on the Red House which included, new plant room underground with an upgraded electricity system and standby generator, upgrade of the LPG fuel supply for the eternal flame, south wing demolition/clearance, temporary car-park. Roofing and associated work is 60 percent complete, with work on the south chamber ceiling being 50 percent complete. Engineering services are at different stages of completion. John said a cost had not been put on the Red House renovation because a scope of work is still be finalised. The original plan was “limited” and did not include ceiling work, roof replacement, seismic retrofitting, replacement of iron work, treating termite infestation. Local restoration experts will be used but John said a government-to-government arrangement with Ottawa, Canada would be pursued to get the architect who led restoration of the Ottawa Parliament to assist Udecott with the scope of work for the Red House.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Wade Mark said the Red House was in a “seriously deplorable condition.” The Red House housed various state departments until 2001.
Mark said there was a competition for space and Parliament staff had to labour with a shortage of space despite the growth in services demanded. Since 1996 the Red House has been listed by the Organisation of American States as a monument. In September 1997, Cabinet supported a decision of a House Committee of the House of Representatives that the Red House should be properly restored and dedicated to the sole use of Parliament. Mark said over 14 years there were failed efforts to begin restoration.
“All such failings being due, in no small measure, to the lack of respect and regard for this nation’s people and its heritage.”
In August last year, the People’s Partnership Government rescinded a decision by the PNM Cabinet that the Red House be restored and allocated to the Office of the Prime Minister.
The decision to temporarily relocate was based on the recommendation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee which reported to the House of Representatives and Senate.
While other options were considered, relocation was chosen because it allowed “faster and more efficient and cost-effective completion of the Restoration Project.”
Mark hoped by the end of the restoration the Red House would be a “fitting architectural symbol of strength, stability and dignity of our nation’s democracy.”
Media personnel were given a brief tour of the south wing of the Red House which previously housed the Senate chamber. The ceiling was removed and the space gutted for renovation.