RM1.2m restoration bill hampers Chow’s move into official residence

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, during an interview session with theSun. — Sunpix by Edmund Lee
The Seri Teratai, at Macalister Road, which is the official residence of the Chief Minister.

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow's plan to move into his official state residence along Macalister Road has hit a snag after the state was slapped with a refurbishment cost of RM1.2 million for the Seri Teratai mansion.

The property was unoccupied except for a few months in 2008 for the past 28 years after the late former chief minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu vacated the premises in 1990.

Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Lim Guan Eng opted to stay in their own homes during their tenures as chief minister.

Chow planned to move into it to salvage the property instead of leaving it abandoned.

However, he is put off by the repair bill of RM1.2 million after an initial assessment by the state public works department (PWD).

He has directed the state secretariat and PWD to find ways to reduce the costs and seek alternative payment methods.

Chow said he is mindful of the high cost with the national deficit of over RM1 trillion left behind by the former Barisan Nasional federal government for the Pakatan Harapan coalition to manage.

"After deliberations, it would be better in the long-term to occupy the residence and to repair it. If we wait too long, the costs could escalate. And it is good to upkeep one of the state assets," Chow said in an interview.

He said the repairs could be carried out in stages to alleviate some of the costs of paying the contractors.

The 59-year-old Chief minister has to commute for over 60 minutes daily between his house in Balik Pulau and to the seat of the state administration at Komtar in George Town.

And if there is a major accident, his travelling time could be as long as two hours due to traffic congestion.

"I usually do not go home after office hours, especially if I have an evening function. I would stay at the office in because I also do not want to trouble the driver. At times I prefer to drive by myself, especially on weekends."

The mansion was built in the 1900s, and the architect was said to have been influenced by a German-born designer Henry Alfred Neubronner. Pest control was called to deal with termites in the mansion in 2008.