City’s treasure in need of care

2019-02-06 06:00
PHOTO: IAN CARBUTTPaint peels off the walls inside the iconic City Hall.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTTPaint peels off the walls inside the iconic City Hall.

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PIETERMARITZBURG’S iconic City Hall building is falling apart due to lack of maintenance.

Signs of degeneration include paint peeling off the walls, holes in the floor and a leaking roof.

A municipal official, who wished to remain unnamed, said the City Hall had not been properly renovated for a couple of years. He said maintenance was supposed to be done on an annual basis as the building was used for municipal business as well as hired out for private functions such as funerals and music concerts.

“This building is a national treasure. It was constructed in the early 1900s. As Msunduzi we have a responsibility to look after it, not only because it is our city hall but also because it is part of this country’s heritage,” he said.

He suspected that the building had not been prioritised — in terms of the budget for maintenance — as the municipality was facing financial constraints.

“It started with minor things like the paint peeling off the walls and the plants dying because they were not being watered, then we started seeing gaping holes in the floor and now the roof is leaking.

“When it rains heavily you will see water running down the walls even inside the council chamber. I think we risk having the chamber and some offices flooded if we were to get heavy rains because the leaks are not just a few drops here and there,” he said.

He said the carpet was badly stained and had to be replaced in some areas due to wear and tear. One of the two female toilet stalls next to the chamber did not work the whole of last year.

The majestic red-brick building is reportedly the only one of its magnitude in the southern hemisphere. It also houses the largest pipe organ south of the equator — with 3 806 pipes ranging from 11 metres, with the smallest being the size of a knitting needle — which has also not been maintained.

According to Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo, maintenance on the hall is conducted on an annual basis.

She acknowledged that the municipality was also not satisfied with the condition of the City Hall.

“The municipality does not take lightly the fact that the City Hall is an iconic building that requires specialised care and maintenance and all efforts are being made to ensure that budgetary provision will be made over the next three financial years for the implementation of a comprehensive maintenance plan,” said Ngcobo.

She said the estimated cost for the repairs and maintenance to be conducted was R5 million per annum over a three-year period. This would start with fixing the leaks over the next six months.

“Since the City Hall is a heritage building, any major repairs have to be done according to the requirements and approval of Amafa. This is a time-consuming process and all plans and work has to be carried out by Amafa-accredited specialists.

“So, up until now the municipality has been working on the plans in accordance with the necessary requirements and we are now at a stage where we are ready for the implementation of repairs,” said Ngcobo. She said the City was also in the process of replacing the carpet and thereafter regular deep cleaning would be conducted according to the available budget.

She confirmed that the organ was currently not working.

“The municipality recently had a full inspection conducted on the organ by a certified professional. A report on this has been received and budget provision will be made for the organ to be repaired within the next six months,” she said.

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