Burglars break roof

2017-05-30 06:00
The damaged heritage building currently used as a substation in Observatory.PHOTO: NOmzamo Yuku

The damaged heritage building currently used as a substation in Observatory.PHOTO: NOmzamo Yuku

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Hundreds of thousands of rands are expected to be spent on rectifying a vandalised substation in Victoria Road in Observatory.

The heritage building was broken into last weekend and pine wood was stolen.

The thieves allegedly climbed up the building, broke open the roof and entered through it where they gained access to the pine wood parquet floors and beams. According to the report it is not clear what they used to break in but the building was left severely damaged.

When People’s Post visited to confirm the reports, the roof seemed to be slowly collapsing, tiles were falling down one by one and the upper part of the wall was badly cracked.

Community members were shocked to find not just a substation tempered with but, they say, they never expected something like this to happen to one of their heritage sites in Observatory. Resident Jasmina Hendricks says: “This is a heritage building, we admire it. I do not know what kind of person can do this, it is disgusting.”

Ward councillor Paddy Chapple says the building has always been a target as members of the Observatory Neighbourhood Watch once chased a group of men trying to gain access to the building. They ran away when they saw the members. The recent break-in could be related to that incident, Chapple says.

He believes the burglary could be drug-related as, he says, the area is highly affected by drug abuse. He said thieves target pine wood because it is expensive and in demand. “They are selling it to developers and individuals to make quick cash to feed their habit. I urge anyone who may come across a pile of this wood to report it to the City or the police.

“Someone out there knows something about this: Come forward and help us find these culprits,” says Chapple.

Mayco member Suzette Little confirms that the building has been a target for a while.

She says there have been three incidents.

“Once when we entered the substation to prepare for the Observatory main substation upgrade (on 31 March).

Another break-in occurred a few days later, though no additional vandalism or theft was reported.

The substation was secured after this incident. [An then] the recent incident where roof trusses were extensively damaged and removed, causing the roof to collapse.

“We are busy with concurrent projects. The first is the repair of the roof for safety reasons and the second involves the transfer of the cables from the old ‘B’ switchboard to the temporary outdoor switchgear.

The third is the permanent removal of the low voltage switchgear. The second and third projects are currently on hold until the system conditions allow.”

She says the City has spent over R1.1m, which was only for the switchgear and transformers, and replacement of the vibracrete fence with a steel palisade fence.

She said the cost of the roof repairs can be in the region of R300 000.

“It is anticipated that the final cost of all repairs will be in the region of R2m as we still have substantial cable work outstanding to relocate the supplies to the temporary outdoor switchgear,” Little says.

She explains that vandalism of City infrastructure is common throughout the city and anything with scrap value is targeted.

She adds that City officials are very concerned with the extent of vandalism.

“This selfish act causes supply interruptions to law-abiding residents and diverts staff who could be more effective elsewhere. Not to mention the extremely high financial costs of repairs and replacements.”

She asks members of the public to report vandals.

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