Stabroek Market is hazardous
Its two-tonne bell can come crashing down any time

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
August 11, 1999

IMAGINE shopping one day and a massive iron bell, probably two tonnes heavy and four feet high, falls, barely missing you and injuring others in the process.

This may well be the scenario one day if something is not done quickly to ensure the bell remains where it belongs - in the Stabroek Market clock steeple.

Clerk of Markets Mr. Schulder Griffith yesterday said that the entire Stabroek Market is hazardous and the bell is not the only thing that may one day come tumbling down.

The heavy clock's bell, broader at the bottom than a petroleum drum (commonly used as a garbage bin), is held in place by rotted rods which can give way at any time Griffith said.

"It's very heavy," Griffith stressed.

As if this was not enough, the eastern dome of the market, at the Water Street entrance, can also collapse, if work is not done urgently.

Griffith said he had asked the City Engineer to examine the dome. This was done and, according to Griffith, the officer pronounced the dome structurally unsound.

"It can collapse at any time," the worried Griffith said, adding that vendors sell under this dome.

Frequent electrical fires are also another problem at the market. Griffith said the wiring is as old as the market which was built in 1881.

The wiring is so old that the insulation on electrical lines are gone in some places. And exposed wires rest on metal supports beneath the roof of the market.

As a result, workers cannot climb up to remove cobweb from the market's high roof.

Checks made yesterday found long strands of cobweb hanging from the roof and wire tangled in some places and hanging in others.

A vendor recalled when a wire caught fire by a nearby stall and made its way over his stall where a bit fell off. Everyone ran, he said. There was another wire that burnt every day, not so long ago, he said.

Then there was the time when the power in the market went off and a wire turned blazing red as it probably overheated, the vendor said. Vendors once more fled.

Like Griffith, the vendor said that the wires are old and are joined haphazardly together. And so they spark whenever the breeze blows, he said.

Griffith is also unhappy about the toilets' condition and has asked the Medical Officer of Health to inspect them and recommend whether some should be closed.

Griffith's office, located on the wharf, is also in danger since the dock's columns have rotted.

Observing that provisions are made in the budget for work to be done to the market each year, Griffith said nothing is ever actually done.

Bourda market also needs some repairs. Together with Stabroek, Bourda earns the City Hall an average of $7M per month.

This can be increased if the markets are refurbished, Griffith said.

But rentals cannot be increased and the City Council will soon run out of excuses to satisfy stall-holders about the market repairs not being effected.

"If you have a cow which is giving milk, you have to ensure that the cow gets grass," Griffith said.

The Chronicle understands that it will take $30M to renovate the market.

If money coming from the market is ploughed back into it, many of the problems could have been avoided, Griffith said. Instead, the money goes to the Council's general fund.

Asked what should be done to both Bourda and Stabroek markets, Griffith referred to a long term recommendation he had made for the facilities.

Both markets should have flood lighting and the Bourda structure should be extended to encompass the green. It would then be made into a double decker market, Griffith said.

This would solve most of the vending problems there, he said.

With Stabroek, the fire service should be more strategically located, probably near the Cuffy Monument. City Hall should then try to acquire the space and use it to put up a modern mall. The Stabroek Bazaar could also be converted into a double decker facility.

The entire square there ought to be resurfaced and cleared of all vendors and the Stabroek Market spruced up and painted, making it the showpiece it should be.

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