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Saturday 20 July 2019
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Sandy: T’dad firm hired for surveys, legal work

Residents in the dark on land acquisition process

Property owners in Crown Point and environs whose lands may be acquired with the construction of a new terminal for the ANR Robinson International Airport are calling on central government and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for information on the project.

A spokesperson for the group of property owners, Rhonda Hackett, told Newsday Tobago on Friday said that residents are in the dark as to what is happening even as they note workmen in the area.

She said no one knows who these workers are, which entity they represent or what exactly they are doing in the area. “All we have is what we would have heard from different residents, who received whatever little information from the workers. They really didn’t indicate clearly who they were, so we are really still uncertain since no official word was given as to who were coming.

“Some residents said the workers are requesting social survey information, but I have not had any interaction with them,” she said.

“At this point, we are calling on the powers that be, which would be the THA or even the central government, to do what is appropriate and call a meeting just as they had done in the beginning and let the residents know what the current position is so that persons would know how they need to prepare themselves in terms of their future,” she said.

Hackett said if the workers were collecting information for the terminal project, the approach was unprofessional and disrespectful to the residents.

“We were told that we would be called into a meeting subsequent to the previous meetings, so that persons would be brought up to date as to what the latest plans are and what are the changes.

“Now we are just hearing a set of speculation of all different versions and varieties of what is happening and that really isn’t healthy as persons lives have been placed on hold literally, not knowing whether they can jump, stand or sit,” she said.

Contacted for comment on the residents’ concerns, Chief Administrator in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Raye Sandy, said Government has contracted a firm called ECQ to meet with residents on the matter of land acquisition.

“ECQ is on the ground now… they have lawyers, valuators, surveyors and so on. So they are on the ground now, they’ve evened open up offices in Canaan,” said Sandy.

“They’ve been on the ground for the last two weeks or so and their role is really to meet with the people and start treating with the issues of land acquisition in terms of doing the surveying and the legal work as far as acquiring the lands are concerned.

“It is a firm from Trinidad, but they have engaged two locals to assist them with the ground work… they would communicate with the residents in going forward as that is their role. The THA has seconded two people to assist them, two persons that know the area and as far as I am aware they are on the ground meeting with the residents individually, measuring the properties because at the end of the day they have to submit the report to the Valuation Division who would then value the properties,” he said.

In May 2018, officials of the THA and Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) held a public consultation at the Rovanel’s Resort and Conference Centre in Store Bay. At that time, residents were informed that the Government was seeking to acquire 84 acres of land and relocating 120 land owners to facilitate the construction of a new terminal building and that construction was to begin in December 2018.

A parcel of land then identified for acquisition spanned the area south of the Store Bay Local Road between Gaskin Bay Road on the east and Store Bay Feeder Road on the west.

At an August 23, 2018 “Conversations with the Prime Minister” forum at the Scarborough Library, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told residents that acquisition of lands for the new airport terminal will be done in a civilised, sensible and professional way, and that the THA’s public consultation in May was premature.

On January 16, this year, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced at a media briefing at the Ministry of Finance in Port of Spain announced that work has restarted on acquisition of land for the terminal.

“Land acquisition is ongoing, in terms of assessment of properties that have to be acquired. That project was always a project of the government and will continue.

“We are continuing with the airport and marina project and other Tobago projects. We are not stopping,” Imbert told reporters.

He said the ruling People’s National Movement had put in its manifesto for the 2015 general election that it would build a modern, world-class airport terminal in Tobago.

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