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Jul 8, 2020

P.S.U. and Belmopan City Council Sign Agreement Which Includes 1.2 Acres of Land

The Belmopan City Council and the Public Service Union settled their almost two-year long dispute over the Hilltop property in Belmopan. As a part of the settlement, the Belmopan City Council has given the P.S.U. a one-acre property, among other commitments. You’ll recall that the P.S.U. has been leasing the Hilltop from the Belmopan City Council for more than twenty years when it was sold off to business man. Since then the Council and the Union have been at odds – and they have finally found a mutually beneficial solution to the problem. The media was invited for the signing of the agreement today in Belmopan. Here’s the story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This sprawling one point two acres on Unity Boulevard in Belmopan is where the P.S.U.’s new headquarters will be built. It’s a land valued at four hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. In a month’s time it will become the titled property of the P.S.U. President, Gerald Henry Jr. says this settlement gives the P.S.U. it first real home.

 

Gerald Henry Jr.

Gerald Henry Jr., President, P.S.U.

“For ninety-eight years now that the P.S.U. has been in existence, this will be the very first time that it will have land to call home for its headquarters. Certainly it is a good feeling to know that we have achieved this approaching our centennial.”

 

Khalid Belisle, Belmopan Mayor

“The one point two acres that the P.S.U. now comes into possession of is being granted to them free, simple title by the Belmopan City Council. So, it is not a matter of it being leased to them for any period. The P.S.U. will have this land in perpetuity as far as I am concerned, going forward.”

 

Belmopan City Council and the Public Service Union formalized their agreement with the signing of a document of the deliverables. Mayor Khalid Belisle outlines the P.S.U.’s requests, including that parcel of land, which the council will now fulfill.

 

Khalid Belisle

Khalid Belisle

“The first is a parcel of land comprising one point two acres which sits just west of Unit Boulevard in the City of Belmopan. It is in the vicinity where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently constructing their new headquarters. So, that is the land aspect of it. The second aspect of it is what we call the works, wherein the Council has committed to undertaking specific works to assist the union in constructing their new headquarters here in Belmopan, basically boiling down to provision of materials, white marl and the like, as well as equipment hours from the Belmopan City Council equipment garage; so it is basically boiling down to the backhoe. The third component is an offset of payable fees that the union would have due to the council now and in the future and those are basically the three planks on which this agreement is built.”

 

It’s a deal, according to Henry, that they couldn’t turn down.

 

Gerald Henry Jr.

“It was an offer that we couldn’t refuse.   I believe they have gone over and beyond. As the mayor rightly said just now it could have been that they had given us a lease compared to directly property, fee simple, for me. For me, I believe it was a gem and we couldn’t let it go. The land compared to where we were before at Hilltop, although it has a lot of connections in terms of our emotions and so on, the land is actually a better piece of land and it is more centrally located for our members to access and everything. So, we are in a better position than we were before and it is certainly a pleasure to be here today and to have signed off on this agreement.”

 

The P.S.U. will vacate Hilltop property at the end of August. They will set up a temporary structure on the new site, after which they will construct a new, permanent headquarters within the next twelve to eighteen months.

 

Gerald Henry Jr.

“We have approached so far Social Security but we are looking at other options that may be available as well and so that is just one of the options that we have available.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Are you able to share how much that headquarters will cost the P.S.U.?”

 

Gerald Henry Jr.

“We are looking at somewhere around three hundred and seventy-five to four hundred thousand dollars.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And so, once you’ve secured that funding until then you will be able to establish a timeline in terms of getting your new headquarters in place?”

 

Gerald Henry Jr.

“Well, hopefully, we are looking to a year and a year and a half. This is a very difficult period we are in right now and so we are certain of what the circumstances will probably cause a delay.”

 

The road to this amicable settlement was a long one. The issue started back in October 2018 when the Belmopan City Council sold the property for four hundred thousand dollars to Simplex Design Limited. The Council alleged that P.S.U. had defaulted on lease payments for years and were notified of this in 2017. The P.S.U., however, claimed to have paid over fifty-thousand dollars – although they were unable to provide receipts. At the time, the P.S.U., under previous leadership felt that the property they had occupied for twenty years was sold right from under them. The matter dragged on for the past year and a half, even went before the court, until this final settlement was reached. The mayor admits there’s a lesson to be learnt from all of this but they are leaving thorny issue in the past.

 

Khalid Belisle

“To be honest with you, we have agreed before coming here today that we really don’t want to dive back in the past. I will only say to you that ifs and buts were candy and nuts, oh what a wonderful world we’d live in.  So, I will leave it there.”

 

This settlement was in the works for the last several months. Both parties are relieved to have settled out of court.

 

Khalid Belisle

“It took a couple meetings I think it took the better part of seven to eight months to get this done only because he has a union to go back to and I have a council to go back to with back and forth discussions, negotiations if you want to call them that. So, that is why it took us a little while.  There is a sense of relief here this afternoon that we can put this behind us and I know that our council is the one that delivered to the P.S.U. their permanent home going forward.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

The property title for the land is expected to be completed in the next month or so.


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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