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Mar 20, 2018

Questions About New Civic Management

Chad Eckert

On Monday, we introduced you to the new team of managers for the Belize Civic Center. The Government signed a three-year contract with Apex Events Services LLC of Florida, whose sole proprietor is Chad Eckert. Eckert won the bid as manager of the complex on Central American Boulevard, and has since set up a locally-based company. He has promised to keep it in use year-round to recover the millions invested in it through Belize Infrastructure Limited. But the question tonight is who is the real Chad Eckert? Is he legit? A Belizean is presently in the courts accusing him of not keeping his promises in another venture and briefly getting him arrested for theft. Gustavo Cardenas, a West Indian Sea Island Cotton farmer from Orange Walk, has a lawsuit pending in the courts with Belize Sea Island Cotton, a company based in Miramar, Florida, half an hour north of Miami, whose proprietor is Eckert. According to Cardenas’s fixed date claim filed last year, he entered into a partnership with Eckert in 2016 as proprietor of Belize Sea Island Cotton to farm cotton. Almost a year later, Cardenas found certain breaches in the agreement, including Eckert’s attempt to terminate the agreement by letter and a dispute over ownership of the farmed cotton and cotton seeds that saw police arrest Cardenas for theft. The case is still pending, but Cardenas is seeking damages for his losses in the venture.  Earlier today, the contract for the Civic Center was discussed by the People’s United Party.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that story.

 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Civic Center has a new management team in place that will be overseeing its day-to-day operations for the next three years.  Apex Events Services Belize Ltd. has signed on to an agreement with government to activate the multimillion dollar edifice as the premier sporting and convention location in the country.  The ink on that contract is barely dry and stakeholders are already coming under fire.  Today, Deputy Party Leader Cordel Hyde, during a press conference called by the People’s United Party, ran down the arrangement between the Minister of Sports and Chad Eckert.

 

Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde, Deputy Party Leader, P.U.P.

“I think it’s incredible that the government builds a thirty-three million dollar building and then looks on us and says well, we can’t find anybody in the public service to manage it.  We have fifteen thousand public officers, some people say seventeen thousand public officers; some of those persons are trained in some of the most prestigious universities in all the world, and you tell me you can’t find one public officer or a few public officers who can manage a facility like that, or learn to manage a facility like that?  Something about that doesn’t make any sense.  At the end of the day you hear some foreigner who has gotten the contract, along with some silent local partners, it’s just mind-boggling to me.”

 

Indeed, the contract has been awarded to a Florida-based company, however, it has formed a local subsidiary to be headed by Belizeans.  The decision to outsource the management of the building is one that Minister of Sports Patrick Faber firmly stands by, notwithstanding the disapproval.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Sports

“While we have received many a criticism for the time taken, and also even the decision to have a management company manage this very expensive facility it is one that I absolutely, it’s a decision that I absolutely stand behind and I am pretty sure that in years to come, Belizeans will acknowledge and of course recognize how important a decision we’ve made on their behalf in terms of having a management contract for this facility to ensure that it is kept in a pristine manner.”

 

Hyde, who has been critical of the building and proposed management of the facility from the onset, maintains that the contract should have gone to a truly homegrown entity, since it was constructed by Belizeans and will ultimately be paid for by Belizeans.

 

Cordel Hyde

“At the end of the day, it’s Belizean labor who built that; it’s Belizean taxpayers who will have to pay back for that loan, but some group will own it, in effect; some group will decide who uses it, when they use it, how they use it and all that stuff.  I don’t know.  I’ve said it before, if we ever reach Belmopan, we should just tear up the contract, rubbish that mein.  I don’t see what’s so incredibly difficult about managing a stadium; it’s not rocket science.”

 

Since announcing the completion of the project in December 2017, the Civic Center had remained unused pending the outcome of a tendering process.  Following that procedure, Faber says additional due diligence was done to ensure the company’s credibility.

 

Patrick Faber

“I am absolutely convinced that in signing this management contract that the government is operating in a manner that is fit and proper.  I am pleased that under my leadership we can sign this agreement with such a reputable firm.  You may have heard Christy say that even after the evaluation team did its work, that there was some extra work that we did with Apex and I want the Belizean people to understand what happened.  We wanted to make absolutely sure, one hundred percent, that we are engaging with a company that has Belize’s best interest at heart.  We are engaging with a company that has a good and clean reputation internationally and that is why the delay, we delayed a little bit in ensuring that all of those checks were done.”

 

Hyde’s suggestion that the facility can be overseen and maintained by qualified persons within the public sector can be countered by an argument which takes into consideration an estimate of the overall operation expenses annually.

 

Christy Mastry

Christy Mastry, General Manager, BIL

“What we did on the completion of the building facility was, we had the contractor team work together to put together exactly what we would anticipate if this building was running at a certain phase level.  Now this management company will optimize it much more, but we were talking in the range of somewhere around eight hundred and fifty to a million dollars annually to run this facility, to keep it as pristine as it is today.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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