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Jan 31, 2019

Details of the P.S.U.’s Attempts to Recover the Hilltop Property

The Public Service Union continues to grapple with the sale of its hilltop headquarters in Belmopan. The land and structure were sold off secretly to a Chinese businessman last October by the Belmopan City Council. Since that became public, the Prime Minister stepped in to minimize the public relations nightmare caused by the sale. The Union has met with the PM and with Mayor Khalid Belisle to attempt to recover the property, but that it is proving to be a challenge. A recent meeting outlined options under consideration which include a land swap with the Chinese businessman who is also seeking two hundred thousand dollars more than what he paid for the property months ago. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The clock continues to tick as a six-month caution by the Public Service Union on their hilltop property expires, leaving the fate of its headquarters in the balance. The minutes of a meeting on January twenty-fourth, 2019 between the union and the Belmopan City Council Mayor Khalil Belisle were leaked to the media. Held at the YWCA Conference Room in Belmopan, P.S.U. President Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer, First Vice President Dean Flowers and Mayor Belisle as well as guest Edmund Zuniga attended the meeting. This was after Prime Minister Dean Barrow had twice met with the union and been in discussion with the mayor on the hope of moving forward as it relates to the property.

 

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer, President, P.S.U.

“The way forward for us is still to figure out how we can communicate mutually or negotiate in that manner before we go to court. So we are still planning to meet with the mayor and see what it is that they can offer us in regards to the property; what can be done in whatsoever form of discussion.”

 

From the minutes, it is learnt that the PM would serve as the middle man to facilitate discussions with the attorney for Simplex Design Company Limited. This is the company owned by a Chinese national who is currently the titleholder of the property. Mayor Belisle informed the union that the PM had brokered an agreement in which the P.S.U. would purchase directly from Simplex Designs at a price of four hundred thousand dollars, the value for which the property was sold back in October of 2018. The PM was willing to “facilitate the union with a loan to cover the overall cost as well as a contribution from government.” But there is a hiccup in that plan.

 

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

“They are saying that they want six hundred thousand instead of the four hundred thousand that was paid. Along with that is the stamp duty as well as the attorney’s fee. With that, we weren’t too please with that. That was basically the last discussion and information shared with us.”

 

Mayor Belisle also told the union reps that a resolution was passed by councillors in November stating that if the property is returned to the council, P.S.U. will get first option to purchase; the union would have thirty days to respond to its offer after which it will be off the table and will be designated as public property.

 

Khalid Belisle

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

“The union is willing to pay the hundred and eighty-seven thousand that was pending from 2001 whereby the value of the property at the time was four hundred and fifteen thousand. The union had already invested two hundred and twenty-seven thousand into the property, which leaves us with a balance of one hundred eighty-seven thousand plus. Nevertheless we met with the PM at the time and we had agreed that we are going up to two hundred thousand and that’s where we stand currently; we are not willing to pay nothing more than that two hundred thousand in order for us to acquire our property. And that would have been over a period of time.”

 

Mayor Belisle also offered to sit down with both parties until a successful resolution is reached. The two options he suggested was a land swap with Simplex Design Company Limited followed by negotiations between the council and the P.S.U. to finalise payment for the property…or for the P.S.U. to make direct payments to Simplex Design, close to four hundred thousand dollars, and the Belmopan City Council would supplement the difference with possibly with a piece of lot.

 

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

“At the end of the day, we sit down and they come up and give us an offer of anything or whatsoever because they still have an outstanding of two hundred twenty-seven thousand dollars for the P.S.U. so that is one that we want to make certain that that investment doesn’t go down the train and we are properly compensated for that.”

 

The meeting lasted just over an hour and both parties made commitments. Mayor Belisle was to reach out to the principal owner of Simplex Design Company Limited to see if he would be prepared to meet with the P.S.U.  The mayor was also to determine with his council how far it would be prepared to assist the P.S.U. in finding a permanent home in the event that a deal could not be brokered with Simplex Designs. Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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