City Council to demolish derelict buildings
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2002

`For the first time the City Council will be disposed to physically remove people from the buildings and have (them) demolished' - Deputy Mayor Robert Williams
THE Georgetown Mayor and City Council will soon move to demolish several derelict buildings in the capital in the interest of protecting occupants and preventing damage to established properties near them.

However, the timing of such a move would only be determined after consultations with the Ministry of Housing and Water and the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, which would have to render necessary support services to prevent homelessness, Deputy Mayor, Mr. Robert Williams said.

At a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday, Williams told reporters that an initial check revealed about 200 derelict buildings in serious and dangerous condition in Georgetown.

He said, however, the owners of 50 of those are utilising the judicial system, restraining the Council from moving against them. There are also 100 for which the Council has issued appropriate notices, which treat with ruinous property, together with others for which judgement has already been given, but has not been effective because persons are occupying them.

Williams said that a recent survey also showed that there are also 4,000 houses or lots in the city that are not occupied and for which running water, electricity and access to good roads and drainage are available, but bushes are growing on them.

"For the first time the City Council will be disposed to physically remove people from the buildings and have (them) demolished. In the past, we had taken on the approach that we cannot interfere with the buildings because they are occupied by people," Williams said.

He added that the Council would first move on those that are not occupied and adopt procedures for their demolition, guided by the rate collection system. Letters will be addressed to those concerned according to property records, informing them of the process.

"We would be saying to them that according to the Municipal and District Council Act, any sums of money incurred in the demolition exercise would be attached to the taxes due to the municipality," Williams said.

He explained that the laws make provisions for the Council, if forced to demolish a building in the interest of security and sanitary and environmental safety practices, to attach the cost of such demolition to taxes due.

He, however, added that some properties occupied by illegal tenants, face possible demolition by the Council. The legitimate owners would welcome such a move, but are being warned that if they owe taxes and fail to pay quickly, they will be made to pay for the demolition as well, he said.

The Deputy Mayor noted that there are between 10 to 15 persons living in most of the buildings, which could collapse at any time, causing severe injuries. But in most cases, the occupants are not prepared to accept that reality.

Williams said the Council would not be approaching the exercise "as a squad of constables surrounding a building with arms and ready to discharge as is usually highlighted by some media houses, which put over their story as some inconsiderate approach taken by the municipality".

He said that the Council would be using its Engineering Department, which consists of carpenters and other labourers, who will do the demolition while the City Constabulary will be providing security and protection for the staff conducting the exercise.

"We have written to the Ministry of Housing and Water and the Human Services Ministry on the matter, bringing to their attention that the city will be pursuing the course of action. With the ministries' responsibility from a national level, the Council has a duty to intervene and seek some form of consideration for (the occupants), either by providing homes or by having them treated in a way prescribed by law".

Williams said some of the dilapidated buildings can fall on to lamp posts and transformers, causing disaster for other citizens.

In the interest of improving the aesthetics of the city and treating with situations where criminal activities occur as a result of some persons who occupy some of those buildings, it has become necessary for them to be removed, he reasoned.

Williams said the process of removal would be conducted based on the Municipal and District Council Act, which has by-laws empowering the city to take such action. - (JAIME HALL)