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IADC recognizes homeowners relocated during AIA construction

IADC recognizes  homeowners relocated during AIA construction

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“I know in the process there were complaints, but the fact that all of you are here, I formed the impression that you feel yourself part of this and that we haven’t let you down.”

These were among the words of gratitude coming from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves last Wednesday at an appreciation ceremony, as he addressed a gathering of homeowners, who had to be relocated to facilitate the construction of the Argyle International Airport (AIA).

Along with chief executive officer of the International Airport Development Company (IADC) Dr Rudy Matthias and finance manager at the AIA Natasha Devonish, the Prime Minister hosted the appreciation ceremony on Wednesday, February 8, at the AIA’s Food Court.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sense of community and nationhood. You made this far easier than otherwise would have been the case…. I thank you on behalf of the Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” expressed Gonsalves.

He further recalled that on August 8, 2005, he gave a speech laying out his administration’s plan for the Argyle International Airport.

Noting that general elections were coming up at the time of said speech, he admitted: “I could have fallen flat on my face if you, the homeowners, had said ‘Ralph, go to hell!’ I remember there were some difficult moments.”

The Prime Minister noted that one of the homeowners in particular, had initially put up resistance to the project – which Gonsalves said he understood.

“I listened to him… I could have taken him on and quarrelled with him; but I said ‘if I were in your position, I would have cuss me more than you cuss me!’ Because what you could do? The man worked so hard in England, build his house… and along comes a politician!”

Gonsalves further added that on subsequent visits with the group of homeowners, they began to ask more specific questions about the process, which gave him a more positive feeling about successfully relocating them.

“I had laid down the principle that no homeowner would be put in a position less favourable than before.”

IADC chief executive officer Dr Rudy Matthias also expressed deep gratitude to the homeowners, pointing out that without their support and cooperation, the completion of the AIA may not have been possible.

“We took the time to make sure that everybody was happy… The process in which we engaged was a very fair and transparent one,” said Matthias.

“You have made – more than any other Vincentian – the sacrifice to get us here today!”

The Prime Minister assured the homeowners that the AIA is a “good thing”, insisting that the long-term benefits would be reaped by their children, grandchildren and future generations.

“I hear a lot of people talk, but they know the price of everything, but they don’t know the value of any. It’s easy to know the price of something… it’s a more difficult thing to know the value.”

He added: “The value of this here (Arygle International Airport) is more than the price. Better believe that!”

Gonsalves estimated that the AIA will cost approximately $20 million per year to operate and it is the intention of the Government to install solar equipment that will generate approximately two megawatts of power, in an attempt to help reduce the facility’s overall electricity bill.

“This year we are hoping to install 300 kilowatts of solar voltaic system, and I want to try and get the money by grant. It makes it easier for us to recoup,” explained the Prime Minister.

“We have come this far; grace has brought us this far and grace will take us home. And those who before were blind, I hope they see!” (JSV)

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