Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells said the move of the General Post Office from East Hill Street to Town Centre Mall will happen by the start of the new year.
“That is my outside time frame now for the entire move to take place by January 1,” Wells said.
“I invite you to go down. It’s an active construction site but you will be able to see the renovations that are actually taking place in terms of the paving of the yard, the external works and even the internal works that is taking place within the Town Centre Mall.”
He added: “We’re looking to at least move the post office bank into the [Town Centre Mall] before Christmas. I know we’d put the deadline for the entire move, but given the desires and the needs of what the post office requires in order to function properly we’ve had to relook at the design for the post office.”
The government recently passed a controversial resolution to lease space in Town Centre Mall to house the General Post Office.
Immigration Minister Brent Symonette and his brother are the principal owners of the mall.
The government intends to lease 75,000 square feet of space for the “concessionary” rate of $12 per square foot or $900,000 a year. The landlords will bear the $3.5 million cost of renovating the building.
Wells said the move was “still on budget” for what had been anticipated.
He said the owners of the Town Centre Mall will also cover the costs of postal boxes at the new location.
“It was our intention to just simply look at moving the boxes, the existing boxes, from the post office to the Town Centre Mall,” Wells said.
“But in looking, we realized that was not going to be possible, so, we’re actually buying, well, the government isn’t, but the actual owner of the [Town Centre Mall] is buying the post office boxes and we’re looking at increasing the amount of post office boxes at the Town Centre Mall by some 10 percent so there will be an availability for additional boxes for Bahamians.”
He said it was necessary for the move to take place soon because The Bahamas will be audited by an international postal organization next year.
Wells said, “The last time they were here The Bahamas didn’t fare very well, so we’re looking at in February being able to pass that audit with flying colors and that was one of the reasons why we took the decision that we took in regards to the post office to ensure that we meet our international obligation.”
He said post office staff are still working half days “and rightfully so”.
“Like I said to you all during the debate, we can’t expect for folks to work in the kind of environment that I’ve seen,” Wells said.
“The conditions of that post office are horrendous. So, at the end of the day we don’t want folks in that environment any longer than they have to [be].”
In November 2017, employees of the General Post Office held a protest outside the building on East Street.
They took issue with the conditions including mold and proper ventilation which they claim resulted from a malfunctioning air-conditioning system.