Squatters no more - St Catherine Parish Council to purchase bus park site
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
AFTER YEARS of squatting on lands in Spanish Town belonging to the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC), the St Catherine Parish Council is to purchase the site that currently hosts a bus park and taxi stand.
Cabinet has given approval for the lands, measured at 0.81 hectares, or two acres, to be sold by the JRC to the parish council for $50 million, which would, in effect, remove the squatter label that has been attached to the local authorities.
"The property being purchased from the JRC has been significantly developed by the St Catherine Parish Council under a lease arrangement spanning many decades," noted a Cabinet document tabled in Parliament last week.
Spanish Town Mayor Norman Scott, who chairs the parish council, said, "The deal has not been completed yet, but it is in the process."
Scott said the matter was now with "the legal people" who are in the process of completing the transaction.
In January, JRC Chairman Joseph A. Matalon said the corporation has for years made strenuous attempts to get the council to sign a new lease arrangement for the use of the bus park and taxi stand on Burke Road in Spanish Town.
The council apparently entered into a 40-year lease with the state-owned JRC, but the contract expired more than seven years ago.
"The St Catherine Parish Council is squatting on a piece of land. They had a contract with us. The contract has expired and they have refused to sign another contract. It's in the hands of the lawyers now and I think we have reached an agreement where we will sell that piece of land to the parish council," Matalon told The Gleaner.
"We have never been able to get the parish council to renew the contract with us at a current rate," the JRC chairman said, adding that the council was making 'pepper-corn' payments.
Yesterday, Scott said labelling the council as squatters caused much embarrassment, and added that Cabinet's intervention "simplifies the issue".
"This has been a long-standing problem with the JRC and the parish council, and so this has settled the whole issue as to the tenureship of the council operating a transport centre in the Spanish Town metropolitan area," the mayor told The Gleaner.
Scott said the council would be using proceeds from the transport centre's operation to pay for the lands and expressed confidence that "whenever the time comes, we will be in a position to take care of it".