Government Employees To Move Into Wyndham Hotel Tower

Monday, 28 September 2009 00:00 Business News Editor

Around 400 government employees may soon see their offices moved from Thompson Boulevard to a hotel tower on Cable Beach.

Serious discussions are under way between the Government and Baha Mar Resorts Ltd over the possibility of relocating the operations of two ministries to a disused Wyndham hotel tower on Cable Beach.

The move is intended to help alleviate the health fears of many of those employed at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Those staff walked off the job last Thursday over a long-standing mould problem at their current location, a National Insurance Board-owned building on Thompson Boulevard, which many believe is making them sick.

Yesterday, Education Minister Carl Bethel revealed that the arrangement with Baha Mar to accomodate the workers, which is "not yet a done deal" but "under serious consideration", could last for "upwards of six months".

Potential site, hotel tower "J", is one of two of five of the Wyndham Nassau Resort's five towers which have been closed to the public for eight months, awaiting demolition as Baha Mar moves ahead with its plans to re-develop the Cable Beach strip.

Another possible site to put the ministry staff is the Teachers and Salaried Workers Cooperative Credit Union on East Street, although it appears the hotel is the favoured location.

However, Mr Bethel noted that the Government has been informed by Baha Mar that they have an "aggressive schedule" to meet in terms of their own development prospects, meaning that the building will have to be vacant and ready for demolition sometime next year.

Robert Sands, senior vice president of external affairs for Baha Mar said: "We have been approached by the Government and we're trying to cooperate and assist the Ministry of Education and Youth in this venture.

"We have some space that can meet their short term needs and we're trying to match our space with those needs in shortest possible time period."

The Government recently received copies of floor plans of the vacant tower and is now seeking to determine whether it would suitably accomodate the temporary relocation of the two ministries' offices and staff. Mr Bethel anticipates that "no less than 100 rooms" would probably be needed to house them.

Neither Mr Bethel or Mr Sands would say yesterday how much it is likely to cost the government to rent the space, and Mr Bethel would not conjecture as to the cost to the govenrment to fix the problems at the Thompson Boulevard building or to physically move its operations to the hotel tower.

However, Mr Sands said the hotel accomodations are "certainly not gratis (free)". He also noted that currently the disused tower does not presently have the information technology or telecommunications facilities that the ministries would require.

Asked whether the Government had budgeted for the costs involved in moving two ministries and fixing the mould problem, Mr Bethel said "the government has the capacity to respond to many challenges."

"It's a question at the end of the day of reordering priorities," he added, noting that when it is no longer using the NIB building it can use some of the funds which currently go towards paying rent there to pay Baha Mar.

Mr Bethel also emphasised that medical professionals say the mould is not a threat to the health of workers unless they have "some other condition which makes them more susceptible."

"This is really more to do with comfort of the staff and their self-perception in terms of how they feel coming into a building that does have challenges that building on Thompson Boulevard has.

"I think it reflects the concern and responsibleness of government to seek to make the situation as comfortable as possible for the working Bahamian.

"We're looking at floor plans right now to detemrine availability of rooms and sizes and whether all or part of operations of ministry can be comfort accomodated there.

"We'll make some determinations early this week to make recommendations to the Prime Minister or requests in terms of him being Minister with responsibility for the public service dealing with rentals."


Source: The Tribune