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Negotiation with land owners at Argyle ongoing – Gonsalves

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While it is expected that the International Airport Development Company (IADC) will pay about $138.4 million for the acquisition of the airport site in Argyle, so far only $102.4 million has been paid out to home and land owners.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, responding to a question in Parliament on Wednesday, gave a detailed outline of the payments made to people who owned homes or parcels of land on the site of the international airport.

“Within the area earmarked for the airport, there were 143 built properties; houses, structures that were purchased and demolished and 452 parcels of land were acquired by the Argyle International Airport,” Gonsalves said.

“The total estimated cost of the 143 built properties is $61.8 million, while the total estimated cost of the 452 land parcels is $76.5 million. This means that the total estimated cost of acquiring the site for the Argyle International Airport was $138.4 million.”

According to Gonsalves, who is also the minister with responsibility for finance, only 139 property owners were paid amounts totaling $60.4 million. He noted that the four homeowners to whom payments are outstanding have not yet been paid for different reasons and an estimated $1.5 million is set aside for payment once all matters are resolved.

Additionally, the Prime Minister revealed that to date, the International Airport Development Company (IADC) has paid out approximately $42 million to owners of 259 parcels of land. He also declared that the negotiation process in these cases is ongoing.

“The process of negotiation and payment for these land parcels is continuing. During the year 2014, 43 land owners negotiated with the chief surveyor and arrived at final settlement prices for their acquired land parcels. The negotiated amounts for these parcels of these 43 land owners are approximately $16 million,” he said.

“These monies will be paid to them in the first half of 2015. In addition, there are 44 land parcels for which owners have already submitted deeds to show ownership of the lands acquired for the project. Negotiations with the land owners are pending and are likely to be concluded during the coming year. These additional 44 parcels [are] estimated to cost $6.4 million.”

However, the Prime Minister indicated that owners of about 106 parcels of land have not yet submitted deeds to the IADC to indicate that they legally own the lands.

Until this evidence and documentation can be presented, Gonsalves highlighted that roughly $12 million will be put aside to cover this cost. Furthermore, while the land owners are waiting for all legal processes to be completed, the Government has made provisions to pay 5 per cent interest for each year from the date of acquisition up to the time that transactions are completed.

“I want to say this; we realise that this process is a time consuming one and we have had to proceed by way of acquisition because if we had to proceed by way of negotiation and conclusion [until] everybody had sorted out all their legal difficulties, we would never be able to get the work done on the airport. But we acknowledge that because this Government is always a caring government, a government of good conscience – and I repeat this is not a government of bandits – from the date of the acquisition until we finally settle, we took the decision to provide payment of interest of 5 per cent per annum,” the Prime Minister revealed.

“So while the person is waiting for all their legal processes to go through…from the date at which we acquire to the date when everything is in order, we pay what is the price which is assessed, plus 5 per cent on the date of acquisition so we do not disadvantage someone.”(BK)

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