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Transport Authority spends millions to secure rat infested building

Published:Wednesday | October 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
The Jamintel building at the corner of Duke and North streets in Kingston.

Members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday called on the Transport Authority to get rid of the asbestos-plagued Jamintel building at the corner of Duke and North streets in Kingston, pointing out that close to $50 million was going down the drain on security for the property.

Since 2014, the Transport Authority has spent $200 million to acquire the property and to defray security and other costs at the facility.

Cecil Morgan, managing director of the Transport Authority, told members of the PAAC yesterday that the entity had no plans to occupy the building, citing security concerns and the lack of funds required to refurbish the building.

He said that it would cost $450 million to refurbish half of the building. "The decision was taken at this time that the Transport Authority could not afford that kind of expenditure."

The Transport Authority purchased the Jamintel building from the Urban Development Corporation for $150 million in 2014.

The current value of the property is $160 million, with a forced-sale value of $140 million.

Leslie Campbell, MP for St Catherine North East, suggested that the decision to acquire the property had been ill-conceived. "It's a waste of public funds, and it points to a level of incompetence [on the part of] persons who are not properly trained or have the interest of the State and the taxpayers at heart.

"Make a very quick decision ... the disposal of this waste has to take place and take place quickly," he said.

The committee was told that the Norton Hines-chaired board of the Transport Authority, in 2014, made the decision to purchase the property.

Alando Terrelonge, St Catherine East Central MP, called for the immediate divestment of the property. "We are spending about $40 million of taxpayers' dollars to secure a building that is infested with asbestos and where rats and pigeons live."

Morgan said that some entities have expressed an interest in purchasing the building and the matter was now before the minister of transport.