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May 6, 2014

Land dispute between BWS and CET in San Ignacio

There is growing discontent in San Ignacio tonight over one acre of land. The land is a portion of a five acre plot on which the Center for Employment Training sits. The institution doesn’t own the land…government does. And government wants to build a new fire station there. CET has no problem with a new fire station, but the management of the school naturally does have a problem with the location chosen. The school had plans to expand, and wants the land for its own use. Like we said, G.O.B. owns the land…so there’s no dispute about rights – but the school’s management is not happy, and plans to stand strong. Mike Rudon was in San Ignacio and has the story.

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Mike Rudon, Reporting

The story starts here, at the BWS water treatment facility in San Ignacio. It’s old and inadequate so there are plans to build another larger, more modern plant. That raises the issue of space. And that’s where the adjoining fire station comes into play. BWS needs that land to put its plans in play, so the fire station will have to go. And therein lies the bone of discontent. BWS Chairman Alberto August says Fire Department personnel chose one acre of land located, unfortunately, on the CET compound.

 

Alberto August, Chairman, Belize Water Services

“They came up with this property behind the Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio. The Center for Employment Training sits on five acres of land. Only one acre is being used right now for the present facility. We know that they have plans for future expansion. They have had plans for future expansion for many years now. And the fire department identified a portion of the unused property that CET sits on. Its government land. The Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio does not hold any legal document for the land. It is government land. And the fire department personnel are of the opinion that a portion of that land is suitable for the relocation of the fire station.”

 

Alberto August

With the site located, August met with the Board of Directors of CET, and what happened then is a source of some confusion.

 

Alberto August

“When we approached the Board of Directors of the Center for Employment Training they recognized that they do not own the land. The arrangement was for them to hand over one acre of land to the Government of Belize in exchange for ownership of a title for the remaining four acres of land. That was the arrangement and we began the process.”

 

But today we understand that the Board of Directors is dead set against the idea. CET Manager Maria Smith told us that they’ve drafted a letter voicing their disapproval of the move. That might be too late, since based on information provided by BWS Chairman Alberto August Cabinet has already given the green light to the new fire station on that site.

 

Orlando Espat

Orlando Espat, Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors, Cayo CET

“We have been fighting. We went to see Minister Faber. The Board, myself and the manager…Minister Faber told us that he is so sorry he was not in Cabinet when this was approved. I can only guess why this was approved, but I am not here to speculate. We are here to fight for this land not to be dissected because there is no need for a fire station here. They have enough land around San Ignacio that they can do it. The whole Board of Directors has vehemently opposed it.”

 

The primary reason for what seems to be unanimous rejection of the idea is that CET had its own plans for the parcel of land.

 

Amir Castellanos

Amir Castellanos, Staff Representative, Cayo CET

“We have intentions of building more facilities, offering more trades, opening doors to the community like we have done in the past…offering trades such as growing vegetables. We wanted to start a welding class, which was offered years ago…and we can’t because we don’t have the space. If you take a look around the campus we have two buildings, main buildings, and the others have been sitting here since this place was known as Camp Belizario. It’s just a lack of finance that has delayed us in moving into constructing more buildings for future trades to be offered to the community.”

 

Orlando Espat

“We have plans to expand out here, not only for agricultural purposes, not only for the other disciplines, but also, we are already drawing plans, we have been talking about it…to put a small hotel exactly where Mr. August wants his one acre because this will serve for the students of hospitality and tourism, and it’s not only going to be for our students. As I told Minister Faber…this is going to be for other students of ITVET to come here from other parts of the country and to learn. So by taking this off from us, you are not damaging the Board of Directors…you are damaging the people of San Ignacio and surrounding areas. It’s uncalled for.”

 

David Morey

The dispute seems to have nothing to do with politics – it is just a school fighting to hold on to its land. Whether their cries will be heeded remains anybody’s guess.

 

David Morey, Instructor, Cayo CET

“A lot of people would know who I am. I am affiliated with a political party. But I believe we have to move from red or blue. It is a fight for a cause that will enhance the ability for every student who comes here…that will help build a different attitude in order to move forward. And I don’t think this is political.”

 

Alberto August

“Like I said this is news to me and news to the company. But if there’s some resentment then of course we might have to go back to the drawing board. You know but as far as I’m concerned this is news to us. We might have to revisit the situation.”

 

According to instructors, surveyors have already started marking off the one acre plot. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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