Sun | Dec 4, 2016

KSAC land mess

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A residential property on Constant Spring Road which was initially listed by the KSAC as one of those it owns.-Ian Allen/Photographer
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Municipal body doesn't know how much property it owns

Tyrone Thompson & Corey Robinson, Staff Reporters

The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), the municipal body which manages billions of taxpayers' dollars in the two most populated parishes in the island, has no clue about how much property it owns.

However, town clerk Robert Hill is arguing that this could be the same for most municipal bodies across the island.

According to Hill, while he worked at the Ministry of Local Government he realised that there is complete confusion about the tenure, title and ownership of several properties believed to be owned by municipal bodies.

Hill was responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner after the KSAC presented our news team with a list of properties which it believed it owns but which proved to be totally incorrect.

Responding to an access to information (ATI) request on the number of KSAC-owned properties, the agency's information arm released a list of 1,961 properties.

But checks by our news team at some of the listed properties revealed that several were never actually owned by the KSAC while others had been purchased from that entity more than four decades ago.

scramble for legitimacy

Presented with that data, officials of the KSAC were in a scramble to determine the legitimacy of the list which had been provided by its ATI officer.

"The executive branch at the KSAC has no knowledge of any of these properties on the list," stressed Izualo Campbell, chief revenue officer at the KSAC.

"As far as I know, there are only 65 properties which the KSAC is currently responsible for the maintenance of," added Campbell, who said he would have to discuss the matter with Mayor Angela Brown Burke and Hill.

According to Campbell, a detailed investigation would have to be done to determine the exact number of properties owned by the KSAC. He argued that the dissolution of the body in the 1980s might have led to mix-ups regarding the titles owned by the entity.

The list provided to The Sunday Gleaner by the KSAC outlined the location of the properties, the registration information, the date of title registration, volume and folio number.

The properties are spread across the Corporate Area, ranging from premises in volatile communities in downtown Kingston to prime commercial and residential areas in St Andrew. The list also included roads, beautification projects and markets which are currently being maintained by the KSAC.

At least seven of the properties visited by our news team are business establishments, others are residential properties, while some are open lots which provide a haven for the homeless.

"We own this before we first child born and we use to operate a little shop, a cookshop and every little thing you can think of on it, right now we just rent out the house dem," asserted Devon Steele, as he relaxed comfortably on a bench in his yard at 136 Orange Street.

"I have lived here for 35 years and all my kids have grown here and I pay my taxes every month. So nobody can't tell me I don't own this," added Steele.

One occupant of premises identified on Gem Road in south St Andrew told our news team: "I pay rent. All a we in yah pay rent. The owner fi di yaad was one big man but him dead long time. But a him did own it."

According to Fong Chin, owner of Super Value Home and Things at 52 Mannings Hill Road, one of the addresses listed in the information presented by the KSAC's information team: "We have nothing to do with

KSAC. All we do is pay them property tax from month to month."

Operators of the Electrical Depot at 169 Constant Spring Road, also located on KSAC's list, offered a similar story, noting that the property has been owned by the company for decades.

In the meantime, Dean Thompson, caretaker for a premises owned by a Sheila Powell-Porteous on Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston, said she was befuddled as to how KSAC came to have her friend's home on their list of owned properties.

"I pay the land tax every year. I have no idea how KSAC get that property on their list," argued Thompson. "That lady has been married for 25 years, and she bought that property years before she got married. That is her house," declared Thompson.

"But KSAC always do a lot of rubbish. But this is one that they better not push because they are not dealing with stupid people," added Thompson.

With the property owners adamant that the KSAC was incorrect, Hill, late last week, admitted that during a two-week research period the KSAC confirmed that there were errors in the list sent to our news team.

"There has been a lack of proper record keeping over several generations," said Hill.

"What we now have to do is to have a series of meetings will all concerned, including the Housing Association of Jamaica, the National Lands Agency, the National Works Agency and others as we try to determine what we own," added Hill.

no formal transfer

He noted that the inspector of the poor will be a key part of these meetings, as based on the Poor Relief Act, when the KSAC assumes responsibility for an indigent person it also takes control of any property they owned.

However, in some cases there was no formal transfer of the property or the indigent person did not have a title, leading to confusion in the ownership.

Hill said the KSAC is now putting together a project team to work out the property ownership issue based on directives from the mayor.

"However, there is a need for funding because this will be a massive project."