Gov’t still paying electricity bill for vacant Glass House

The former Government Administration Building has been empty for about five years. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

The Cayman Islands government is spending $180,000 to $240,000 annually – at least in part – to supply electricity to an office building that has not been staffed in about five years.

The total bill includes electricity for the empty Glass House, as well as for the neighboring George Town Police Station and Radio Cayman buildings.

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said the old government administration building, dubbed the Glass House because its exterior is made of glass, as well as the two other properties, are running Caribbean Utilities Company bills of between $15,000 and $20,000 per month.

“It’s costing government between $15,000 and $20,000 per month for electricity because you can’t turn the power off,” Mr. Tibbetts told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee on Tuesday. “The condition of that building, as it is, it is unsafe and to completely refurbish it is impractical.”

The reason government cannot simply “turn the power off” to the Glass House is because its meter incorporates the police station and radio station power usage and both of those buildings are still operational.

“There are plans to separate the services in the future,” government facilities manager Troy Whorms told the Cayman Compass. “The data to determine [the exact power bill for the Glass House] is not available today and will require further monitoring to determine the actual usage of each facility.” When the Glass House was still in use, government’s electricity bill for the property was around $55,000 per month, Mr. Tibbetts said.

Mr. Tibbetts said people have “all kinds of ideas” about what to use the 1970s-era building for, but he said the Progressives-led government is unlikely to agree to any use of the current structure in a redevelopment plan. He said the building is “unsafe,” and central public sector operations moved down Elgin Avenue to the modern government administration building in early 2011.

“Nothing … tells me that it is not better to knock that building down,” Mr. Tibbetts said.

The minister indicated that government has received a private sector proposal to build a park on the site, which is in between the new administration building and the George Town Police Station on the north side of Elgin Avenue. However, that plan is contingent on the building’s demolition, he said.

Other plans submitted to government have included ideas to refurbish the interior and lease the building back to government, but Mr. Tibbetts said information from studies done years ago have made those proposals moot.

In October 2015, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked whether the Glass House could be used for a new Royal Cayman Islands Police Service headquarters, since the George Town Police Station has been condemned by building inspectors and needs to be replaced.

Mr. Tibbetts said the Glass House has a number of building code violations that would be costly to fix. The worst example, he said, is the placement of the building’s elevators and staircases in the central core of the structure. Additional staircases would have to be built, reducing the available office space area, Mr. Tibbetts said.

“Even with major renovation, it would not be able to match the energy efficiency and seismic and hurricane resistance of … the new [government] administration building,” Mr. Tibbetts said.

A decade ago, a quantity surveyor estimated it would cost nearly $10 million to renovate the Glass House to an acceptable standard. In 2009, a further review put the renovation cost even higher – between $13 million and $16 million. Mr. Bush, the former premier, had plans at one stage to turn the building into offices for his Ministry of Financial Services, but that never happened.

“In light of the findings in the 2006 and 2009 reports … it is not considered practical or value for money to renovate the Glass House for any other use,” Mr. Tibbetts said in late 2015.

As of December 2015, the Government Administration Building was occupied at 86 percent of capacity. As more agencies move into the building, the government is expected to save money on annual lease costs in other buildings, which are still costing millions each budget year, Mr. Tibbetts said.


  1. Come on Mr Tibbetts , don’t be saying that the power can’t be cut from the glass house because they are all on one meter . Tell CUC that it have to be done , CUC knows how to and can do it . What a waste of money and electric power .

    This should show us how these politicians are spending taxpayers money. Money that could be used for a much needed program is going out the window to CUC shareholders. Shame on you Mr Tibbetts for making such a public statement , unless you are hidden something that you couldn’t say in that statement

  2. We always allow people to come here and tell us foolishness to waste money. Mr Tibbets, Please, stop the this should be done, this maybe done, this is likely to be done and DO SOMETHING. Take charge for once, without having to suck up to anyone. What is wrong with the Government anyway that they cannot make up their minds to take a “leap of Faith” All they do is plan, plan, plan and put off, and put off.
    Why Government simply cannot turn off the electricity is because they do not want to do what has to be done to take them to that point. It is only excuses being used because it is CUC , and do we have anyone in the Legislative Assembly office have any interest in CUC?
    I see this as the Government just dodging things again hoping that no one will notice.
    They could have had Radio Cayman and Police Headquarters on their own meter long time. But in Cayman, watch my word, anytime you see things like this happening, someone is getting something out of it.

  3. I am sure this article is mistaken.

    Obviously when the building was finally vacated someone flipped the main switch on the circuit breaker panel to cut off the power to the building without needing CUC to do anything. This would have dropped the power actually consumed in the building to zero.

  4. Seems like a non-issue and non-news. Just because the meter is still hooked up doesn’t mean it’s consuming electricity. The article states the bill for all three properties used to be 55,000 per month and now down to 15-20,000. I’m sure they aren’t lighting and cooling the building anymore. Any electrical draw would be minimal and leaving it connected may be necessary to do periodic inspections.

  5. The comments on this are all interesting, and come from a number of points-of-view. I would ask, however, was Mr. Fuller at the building to determine if any electricty was being wasted? The key word here is wasted.

    It would seem to me, and this is just a general comment, that there may be legetimite reasons for the building to be using electrical power. First, there is the fire sprikler system if there is one. This would be a wise investment to secure the building from fire and of course save lives in case of fire. Also, there could be emergency and security lighting both inside and out. Security is always a good thing and of course a necessity. Finally there could be elecricity used for sump pumps to keep the building dry, as well as some lighting in hallways for use while the building is being inspected for general maintenance purposes. All of this would lead to a nominal amount of electricty use given the size of the building. Remember, Safety First!

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