by Katherine Renton
Cabinet has decided on the compensation for small business/homeowners who have been given seven days notice to remove their structures and vacate the state land they have been occupying at Arnos Vale for decades.
The state is preparing to begin renovation work on the bridge leading to the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport tarmac and temporary schools, Chief Surveyor Keith Francis told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday.
He had sent a letter dated September 14, to the approximately eight business/home owners who are occupying the land alongside, or in the area of the river at Arnos Vale, in which they were informed that they had seven days to vacate the area.
This period of notice ended on Tuesday, September 21, but no demolition had taken place up to press time.
Measurements were previously completed to allow for an evaluation on the value of the structures, but the issue of compensation had yet to be decided by Cabinet.
However, when Cabinet met on Wednesday, September 22, the decision was taken how they should be compensated.
Area representative, Education Minister Curtis King, told SEARCHLIGHT it was decided that in addition to compensation for their structures, each individual will receive $2500 for the loss of business.
The operators were engaged in selling fruits and vegetables, meat and meat products, and running a bar.
The Minister explained that on communicating this information to the individuals, “Most persons expressed understanding and satisfaction that they were going to be compensated,” while “some expressed concerns about finding new places to set up their business operations.”
This was the refrain from the individuals who spoke with SEARCHLIGHT on Monday.
Maxford Nickie, who said he has been in the area for 20 years and has supported his children from the Ital shop he runs noted, “I can’t express how it made me feel because I support the current Government, I support them for years. I get beat down here many years because I support this current administration.”
He also said, “We’re not standing in the way of progress. If we have to move, we have to move. We need adequate time to move, and we need somewhere to relocate.”
Closer to the bridge is Maro’s bar, owned and operated by Marilyn John for “24 and odd years”. The paperwork would seem to indicate that John had obtained a liquor license for her operations.
The mother of four sons and grandmother of two, disclosed that she sells alcohol and cigarettes, and does barbecue, karaoke, and bingo or whatever other ideas may come to mind to keep herself afloat.
“I don’t have a problem with the government doing they project because the project is a good thing, they building over and making the place look good,” she said, “but then on the other end the government have to think about people like we, poor people who here struggling; this is how we live, this is how we make we daily bread, our livelihood,” she said.
“…What go become of us? What is my next move? I mean it really stressful and it real hard. I ain’t think they putting the people into consideration…” she had complained.
John also showed proof that she had been paying water and electricity bills, which usually can only be done with proof of ownership. This caused the Chief Surveyor to comment that this was concerning.
The business/homeowners have also said they were paying taxes as well.
“I live on this property for over 20/25 years, I pay this revenue tax, 10 dollars a year,” 58-year-old mechanic Clement Cox had said.
Standing near his home where he also makes his living fixing small engines, he contemplated, “I go get somewhere man. Might be far, but then you know, still have fuh go go live, can’t sleep and eat, you can’t live in the rain.”
Francis had said that the contract for the bridge works had not yet been awarded as at Monday and therefore demolition of the structures may not have taken place this week.
Further, “…those that can stay for the time period until the space is required, I would say maybe another few weeks, those would remain.”
He explained that, “…The bridge is too narrow to contain two flows of traffic plus pedestrian traffic, so we are going to build a temporary foot pedestrian bridge seaside of the bridge, on the downstream side of the bridge to accommodate the safe flow of children to and from the schools..”
He also claimed that there are several “violations” associated with these ,structures including some related to health.
The individuals’ status on the property is that of squatters, and Francis indicated that they would need to have been there beyond 30 years so as to extinguish the rights of the state. He also made the point that persons had been removed before but had returned, meaning therefore that they would not have been there continuously over the decades.