Mon | Oct 19, 2020

MoBay’s new mayor committed to ending Bogue lands saga

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 12:05 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Mayor of Montego Bay Leeroy Williams.
Mayor of Montego Bay Leeroy Williams.

Western Bureau:

Despite being of a less forceful demeanour, Montego Bay’s new mayor, Leeroy Williams, has said he plans to match the assertiveness of his predecessor, Homer Davis, in his bid to settle the long-running Bogue lands saga, which has had the current St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC) administration and the persons occupying the controversial property on a collision path.

The occupiers of the multimillion-dollar property, who are primarily People’s National Party (PNP) operatives who were allowed to occupy the lands under a previous PNP administration, are contending that they are being unfairly targeted by the current Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). However, the current StJMC administration, which is challenging the sale arrangement that was offered to the occupiers, is also demanding millions of dollars in back rent.

“The sale of the Bogue lands is high on the agenda because from these proceeds, we intend to build a modern arcade on the site of the Old Shoes Market for small vendors,” said Williams, who has been quite close to the Bogue lands issues, having served as Davis’ deputy prior to the ascension to the top office.

Davis, who was on a relentless path to regularise the land dispute, which many have labelled a political football, was forced to cut his chase after he won a seat in the nation’s Parliament following the recent general election, which meant he had to demit office as mayor and chairman of the StJMC.

Following a 2018 report from the then Office of the Contractor General, which revealed that a previous PNP administration at the StJMC had breached the Government’s land-divestment policy when it tried to sell the lots to the occupiers based on a 2009 valuation in 2015, Davis, who had become the leader of the new JLP majority, launched a relentless campaign to reverse the breaches identified.

GOING ON FOR A LONG TIME

“This is going to go on for a very long time because I think a serious injustice was done to the people of St James,” Davis said, as he launched his bid to scrub the controversial 2009 evaluation agreement as well as push to collect millions of dollars in outstanding rent.

“Under my stewardship, the current administration of the corporation will abide by the Government’s land divestment policy whereby the current valuation would be used at all times,” Davis stated then, in making his push.

The controversial five-hectare Bogue Industrial Estate property has been a source of much political wrangling over several years, with the JLP and the PNP taking contrasting views on how the lands should be disposed of. The property, which was valued at $700 million in 2015, features some 26 lots.

However, with a path to addressing the matter now in train, based on the actions initiated by Davis, Williams says he is committed to seeing the process through as plans are already in place for the monies they hope to generate from the sale of the property.

“Montego Bay sits on the cusp of greatness and I am confident that once the nation would have gotten over the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the perennial problem of crime and violence, the city will be well placed to fulfil its potential,” said Williams, in outlining his vision for the city.

“I committing to continuing the work (started by Davis) and in maintaining the high standard in ensuring that respect, accountability, transparency, cooperation, and commitment to the process remain upfront and centre in the activities of the St James Municipal Corporation,” added Williams.