Public works minister Craig Cannonier has highlighted a $3.3 million commitment to school maintenance.
The figure of $3,283,000 represents a 64 per cent increase on last year in light of continuing infrastructure requirements and is in addition to $500,000 dedicated by the department to air quality throughout the Government’s public buildings. Funds have also been allocated by the Department of Education as they work in tandem to rectify neglect in school upkeep highlighted in the School Reorganisation Report.
Mr Cannonier said: “We know this has been a major concern as the buildings have become increasingly aged with some of the mould issues that we have had so in addition to the Education Department increasing its monies towards maintenance and the likes we also have moved in to assist in ensuring our schools are up to par.”
Teams from the building section have begun inspection of the schools to identify and prioritise repairs for the new fiscal year, Mr Cannonier said.
The minister applauded Public Works staff for “getting the job done”.
There was positive news from the Hustle Truck programme, introduced by the former government, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Employees of the programme will organise a celebratory event this year to highlight the work that is done. Describing the initiative as “extremely successful”, Mr Cannonier said some 216 people benefited from the programme over the course of last year though there are still 25 people on the waiting list.
Mr Cannonier announced that the One Bermuda Alliance was looking to rent out some government-owned buildings in order to raise revenues while creating savings on repairs and maintenance. Among those listed were Sound View Cottage and Warwick Community Education Office. It is hoped the move will generate $2 million depending on the response to the tender put out.
Some $1 million is to be spent on renovations to the Allen Hurst building. The building has been vacant since the police station moved to the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building in 2011. Reductions in expenditure will follow, Mr Cannonier said, as government presently spends $5.3 million on city centre office rent.
Meanwhile, Mr Cannonier reiterated that the “whole House” was committed to getting the Land Title Registry Office up and running this year. He said the LTRO had created an electronic register to record all the deeds held at the registry general and they are due to commence a project to scan such deeds so that stakeholders, including the public, can also have access to unregistered deeds online.
But he also revealed that the budget allocated to the LTRO had decreased because of the removal of the government-backed indemnity scheme proposed under the Land Title Registration legislation.
He said: “The Act has been amended so that the attorneys will continue to certify and guarantee the title of properties to their clients.”
Mr Cannonier said this was “a benefit to Government, as it is in the early years of registration, where the exposure to indemnity claims is the highest”.
“To pay for the indemnity fund, LTRO’s fees were originally set at 0.1 per cent of the value of the property in a transaction.
“Now that the indemnity scheme has been removed, the LTRO cannot justify charging the same fee. The new fees are now set on a sliding scale and fall in line with other countries that have introduced a sliding scale for land title registration.
“It is proposed that the LTRO charges the same fees as previously charged by the Registrar General and the Supreme Court for the work that would be transferred.”