RESIDENTS of Bon Accord and Crown Point remain in a limbo and unease as there has been no official information on how badly they will be affected by the construction of the ANR Robinson International Airport terminal.
Speaking with Newsday last Wednesday, spokesperson for the group Rhonda Hackett once again appealed to members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for help.
She said, "We would like to know what is the new plan... What is the architectural plan for the airport construction? We have heard so many variations, but nothing official.
“At this point, we are calling on the powers that be, which would be the THA or even the Central Government, whomsoever it is, 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.”
Hackett said they have seen notices in the newspapers and heard some information via a drive-by loudspeaker about a survey expected to take place. She wondered how residents are expected to answer questions when surveyors show up.
"The lack of information is disconcerting," she said, "We expected that subsequent to the meeting with the Prime Minister last August that there would have been an information area so members of the community can go to gather information, and even more importantly, that a meeting would be held so that persons would be brought up to date on the latest developments."
Hackett recalled within the last month the residents have noticed crews mobilised in the area. She said the treatment meted out to residents so far has been disrespectful.
“What is happening, we really don't know. All we have is what we would have heard word of mouth from different residents within the area, who received whatever little information from the workers and the little we saw in the newspapers and heard on the loudspeakers. I found that to be highly unprofessional and a little disrespectful where the residents are concerned...That really isn’t healthy as persons lives has been placed on hold – literally – not knowing whether they can jump, stand or sit,” Hackett said.
With a fear that their lands may be taken away or more so that they won't be properly compensated, they intend to seek legal action to ensure that their best interest is taken care of.
Contacted for a response, THA chief administrator Raye Sandy said a firm was contracted by the Government to act on behalf of the Government.
“ACQ (and Associates) is on the ground now… they have lawyers, valuators, surveyors and so on. So they are on the ground now, they’ve even opened up offices in Canaan. 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.
He said, “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.”
Responding to a question in the House last Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the airport terminal project is 'well underway", adding that construction of the new building will progress despite the pull out of Sandals Resort's project in Tobago.
In May 2017, the Assembly held its first public consultation at the Rovanel’s Resort and Conference Centre for stakeholders who may be affected by the land acquisition process. The consultation provided a forum to inform land and property owners of the details of the plans for acquisition and construction and to begin the formal process for the registration of owners of land, residential or commercial properties in the identified area.
At that time, residents were informed the Government was seeking to acquire 84 acres of land, relocating around 120 land owners and construction would have begun in December of that year.
During the meeting, a presentation was made by project consultant Patrick Drakes, showing the demarcation of the parcel of land spanning the area south of Store Bay Local Road, between Gaskin Bay Road on the east and Store Bay Feeder Road on the west that has been earmarked for acquisition.
Questioned about this during an August 23 "Conversations with the Prime Minister" at the Scarborough Library, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley informed residents that acquisition will be done in a civilised, sensible and professional way, adding that the THA’s public consultation in May was premature.
However on January 16, Imbert said, “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 said the PNM had stated in its 2015 general election manifesto that it would build a modern, world-class airport terminal in Tobago.