25 Sep 2013

Lack of maintenance a factor in Marshalls capital building disrepair

4:54 pm on 25 September 2013

A report into the Marshall Islands' ailing 20-year-old government building has identified lack of maintenance as a major factor in its decline.

The 150-page report by a Honolulu-based engineering firm found structural damage to columns and the roof on the fourth floor has reached an extent where it is unsafe to occupy.

Our correspondent in the Marshall Islands, Giff Johnson, says the report cites 20 years as the point at which that sort of building requires a major reinvestment.

But he told Annell Husband the building has not been systematically maintained.

GIFF JOHNSON: I'd say heavily it's a lack of priority. There are a lot of facilities here that lack for maintenance - another one, the national gymnasium, which was built by Japanese aid about 15 years ago, was closed two years ago because of heavy termite damage in the roof. And again that was just a building that was built and very little was every put in to keeping it up. There are other examples of that, but it tends ot be a trend not just in the Marshall Islands, but I hear around the Pacific. So this engineering report that's been done on the Marshall Islands capital building really puts the spotlight on the fact that, one - the long-term use of the building does need to be addressed, but also it points out that there are hazards to people using the facility.

ANNELL HUSBAND: Yes, and they are still using the facility, aren't they, just not one of the floors?

GJ: The top floor has not been use for several years, and the engineers say it shouldn't be used until the whole facility is reviewed and a renovation plan put together. Aside from that issue, the engineers have pointed out a health concern about the mildew and biological growth in the building from all the humidity that's around the pipes and in the walls and ceilings such that I guess you could say it sort of resembles a Petri dish in a science lab.

AH: So it sounds like it's going to require being completely stripped back. Is that something that's likely to be able to be done?

GJ: There are so many demands on government funding right now. The government's national airline, Air Marshall Islands, continues to need and to get subsidy, the utility companies here have been being subsidised, and so many agencies - state-owned enterprises and what-not - are in this position. The government is really pressed for cash. So whether this will rise to a priority is really an open question, and whether they have the resources to do it is a big issue for the government.