After months of delays, the General Post Office was finally relocated to the Town Centre Mall yesterday.
The post office staff celebrated the occasion during an opening ceremony, which was attended by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and other cabinet ministers and MPs.
Some members in the crowd stood and joined in as the Bahamas Public Officers’ choir sang “We’ve Come This Far by Faith”.
Zinnia Watkins, who works as a mail sorter at the post office, said the new location is “200 percent better” than the old one.
For years, employees of the General Post Office complained of substandard conditions they claimed impacted their health and safety.
In November 2017, nearly 100 employees protested conditions at the “rat and mold-infested” facility.
“It means a great deal to me, because I was only at the post office for about two years, and I couldn’t take it,” Watkins said.
“There was a lot of mold and my hands broke out because of the environment.”
She added, “We have air conditioning…we don’t sweat. We’re not in any dust. We’re not in mold.”
As the newly finished space was unveiled, Minnis announced plans to develop an information center at the post office for people who have disabilities or lack access to computers at home to receive help in filling out forms and accessing services.
He also said that the government is forging a partnership with a major private postal company to help modernize operations.
Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells identified that company as FedEx.
“I don’t know whether the agreement is signed as yet, but I know that we are in the process of forging a relationship with FedEx,” Wells said.
“We’re also looking to expand the online mail ordering part of the postal service, and we’re going to be looking at how we can get a dedicated section of the post office that will deal with those purchases from Amazon and other global companies that will be coming into The Bahamas, so that we can help increase the revenue stream in the post office.
“This is a long time coming and we had projected what we wanted to do with regards to trying to provide a safe working environment for the employees at the post office. It was a very vexing problem. We as a government decided to make what some would consider a very hard decision.”
Wells said that the post office is open for business and that the staff will be working full days. The staff was previously working half days at the old East Hill Street location.
He also said that more sorters would have to be hired now that the move has taken place.
He also said that the demolition of the old post office building will be the responsibility of Central Bank, and will happen when construction of the new Central Bank begins.
The move of the post office had been delayed numerous times.
In December 2018, Wells said the move was expected to take place by early January because the post office would be audited by the Universal Postal Union in February, but that did not happen.
The government is leasing 75,000 square feet of space at the Town Centre Mall for the “concessionary” rate of $12 per square foot or $900,000 a year.
Immigration Minister Brent Symonette and his brother are the principal owners of the mall, and were responsible for the $3.5 million cost of renovating the building.
Symonette was present during the ceremony yesterday.
Minnis defended the decision to use the space.
“Despite the political games and the misleading rhetoric by some, this new location is far and above superior to the locations proposed by the former administration,” Minnis said yesterday.
“Indeed, the other locations would have proven more expensive and taken considerably more time to open. Additionally, the proposed locations by the previous administration were bogged down and riddled with disturbing questions and troubling allegations.
“Our decision was the quickest, easiest, most cost-effective and better way to resolve a longstanding and vexing matter that dragged on far too long.
“But today is about the future not the past. Today is a new day for The Bahamas.”