Each month for the past five years, someone in the new Government Administration Building has been receiving a bill from the Caribbean Utilities Company — in part to supply electricity to the old, vacant Government Administration Building — and has been paying those bills … amounting to between $180,000 to $240,000 per year.
Although the continuing expenditure on the abandoned Glass House, which has been identified as a candidate for demolition for 10 years, appears not to have raised any red flags within the civil service, to us it is the equivalent of waving a red cape in front of a bull. (Only, it is we the taxpayers who are the ones getting charged.)
More specifically, the $180,000 to $240,000 per year in CUC bills pays for electricity to three buildings: the empty Glass House, the George Town Police Station and the home of Radio Cayman.
Although we wish we could, we can’t get any more specific than that. You see, government doesn’t know how much electricity is going to each of the three buildings because they’re all on the same meter. Government facilities manager Troy Whorms said, “There are plans to separate the services in the future.
“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, electric bills were about $660,000 per year. So at least we know the Glass House when empty is using less power than when it was full.
In some ways, the fact that the power is still on in the Glass House is less disheartening than the fact that government doesn’t know how much it’s paying to keep the (lights? air-conditioning?) electricity flowing to the vacant office building.
Mr. Whorms said that’s because the three buildings are all on the same meter. Considering that these are three separate structures, we fail to see the special engineering challenges involved in installing meters (or sub-meters) to track the usage of electricity in each building. That sort of set-up is the norm around Grand Cayman. Think about apartment complexes, shopping centers or single office buildings with separate companies — all of those have separate electrical meters, and separate bills for each tenant.
But in regard to the Glass House, lethargy and inaction have been government’s standing orders for the past decade. In July 2006 (after the Office of the Governor’s hasty self-eviction because of concerns about fire safety), then-Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the Glass House would be demolished and the property underneath turned into a public park.
Although the last personnel moved from the Glass House to the new Government Administration Building in 2011, the anticipated demolition didn’t happen.
Last February, Premier Alden McLaughlin “re-announced” plans to get rid of the Glass House. It “will soon be demolished,” he said. Nope, not yet.
In September 2015, ministerial officials put the project out to tender, setting a start date for demolition of early October and completion date of January 2016.
Those dates have receded into history, but the Glass House remains.
On Tuesday, Mr. Tibbetts, who is now Minister of Planning, said, “Nothing … tells me that it is not better to knock that building down.”
Minister Tibbetts is right. He’s been right for 10 years. But there’s a difference between saying the right thing, and doing the right thing — which is to make the Glass House disappear, starting with its monthly utility bill.