St. Maarten Parliament debates sale new government building

POSTED: 04/21/16 7:51 PM

Plenty of questions but no new insights

St.  Maarten News – Parliament debated the purchase of the new government administration building in a meeting yesterday afternoon but it did not provide any new insights. Minister of General Affairs William Marlin answered a plethora of questions that mostly covered issues so far in the past that they have lost their significance or that addresses issues that are already public knowledge.

Marlin said that at this moment there is no accurate assessment of the office space the government will still need outside of the new building after departments have moved in by September. Later the minister said that “80 to 90 percent” of the civil service would move into the building.

The minister also clarified an earlier statement that he would move into the building himself on July 1 if it was more or less ready to accommodate him. Yesterday he added “give or take a couple of weeks” indicating that it could also be September.

Marlin said that SZV will invest 15 million guilders in the completing of the building, but that the exact amount is currently a point of discussion.

“The front of the building will be redone; there will be more parking and there will not be a fence with barbed wire,” he said, adding that there would be “most likely some additional costs.”

After the civil service has moved into the building, the government will pay around 3 million guilders in rent per year, while it will have to spend another 1.3 million on external offices to accommodate departments for which there is no space.

Initially Marlin said that the move would generate 8 million guilders in savings, but he almost immediately corrected himself. “Strike that answer, because this cannot be correct,” he said, adding that the savings are more in the neighborhood of 300,000 guilders per month. That would add up to 3.6 million in annual saving.

UP-leader Theo Heyliger quizzed the minister about buildings that are currently occupied but of which the lease contracts have apparently expired. “There are at least twenty buildings in this situation,” he said. “The lease is up; what is happening with these buildings?”

MP Leona Marlin-Romeo was under the impression that SZV would supply the government with 15 million guilders to finish the building, whereas in reality SZV will control the project and invest this amount – or more, if necessary.

Based on the deal with the government, SZV collect 6 percent in rent on its total investment in the project. This means that additional costs will result in a slightly higher rent.

MP Frans Richardson (United St. Maarten party) asked for the removal of the mangroves in the Great Salt Pond. “They should be moved to another location. We have a beautiful building, but people cannot see it because of the mangroves. They also create congestion of the movement of water,” he said.

The last piece of wisdom came from MP Drs. Rodolphe Samuel: “Let us emancipate from this problem that is sitting there creating a problem.”

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