by Shawn Cumberbatch
Barbadians still making a song and dance about the burning of Glendairy Prison might yet have reason to literally do so at its historic St. Michael location.
Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development, Denis Kellman, under whose responsibility the 14 acre property now falls, said today that not only would he examine a new proposal recommending its transformation into a multipurpose entertainment centre, but he was prepared to present it to Cabinet.
The Government spokesman also told Barbados TODAY that his ministry would develop plans to resuscitate other state property now out of use, including the old Louis Lynch Secondary School at Whitepark Road, and property along Jemmotts Lane, both in St. Michael.
But as he reflected on the Glendairy proposal, which architectural historian Senator Professor Henry Fraser said he submitted to Government “a few months ago”, Kellman said private interests advancing such projects would be expected to provide ideas to fund them.
Speaking during the Estimates Debate in the Senate this morning, in the context of what he called the “tragedies, scandals, dereliction and decay of the treasures of Barbados”, Fraser said Glendairy could be salvaged and become a prized money earner in the same way that many international prisons were now popular museums.
“I have put before this Administration a few months ago a private sector/public sector proposal for creating the most magnificent … multipurpose entertainment centre at Glendairy,” he said.
Friday will be exactly seven years since the prison complex was burnt by rioting inmates, but Fraser said Barbados’ “magnificent building” after the Houses of Parliament could still be salvaged.
“The only part of Glendairy Prison destroyed by the fire is the central portion, the entrance hallway on three storeys, the top floor of that west wing and a part of the kitchen dining area. The portion of Glendairy Prison which was destroyed by that riot and that fire is not more than 10 per cent of the built structure,” he stated.
In response, Kellman said Government welcomed all suggestions, adding that “Senator Fraser is a very creative man and his ideas are not ideas that I would ignore”.
“We have Glendairy Prison, we have got Louis Lynch (school), all those are things that I will be looking at, in fact, all such Government properties we will be looking at to see how we can put them back to good usage. So I will not ignore good ideas,” the St. Lucy MP said.
“You have Louis Lynch, you have buildings in Jemmott’s Layne, we have got a lot of properties that we will have to look at, but it takes money and we will be looking to see where we can find useful partners to join us.
“I am glad that you called because people have to understand that we cannot continue any longer to bury our talents and if the Lord has blessed us with sources of funds we have to utilise those funds to the best of our ability. So the only way you can do these things is by using the money you have, and using it to the best of your ability and looking at the opportunity cost of it.
Kellman said while he had not yet seen the Glendairy proposal submitted by Fraser he remembered having a discussion with the Independent senator “about a year or two ago” when he headed a different ministry.
“Whatever he (Fraser) comes up with we will look at and if I have to put them before the Cabinet I will put them, once we can find the financing, and knowing him he will be able to help us find some,” the minister said.
There has been no widespread use of the Glendairy complex since its partial burning on March 29, 2005.
It has been utilised as a temporary court house, and a previous Democratic Labour Party plan announced when current Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was Minister of Home Affairs suggested it would be converted into “a publicly-funded modern drug treatment and rehabilitation centre”.
Parliamentary representative for the area in which it is located, St. Michael Central MP Steve Blackett, has also previously suggested that it be used to help ease the housing problem in urban Barbados. firstname.lastname@example.org