launching: THA Chief Secretary Orville London, right, applauds yesterday following the symbolic planting of poui trees to mark the launch of the Milshirv project in Tobago. Shaking hands are Agriculture Secretary Godwin Adams and director of Milshirv Joseph Rahael. —Photo: ELIZABETH WILLIAMS

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$143m Milshirv project starts

Stalled since 2012 by AG’s court action

 The $143 million Milshirv project which was initially stalled by a court action by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in 2012 was officially launched yesterday.

Ramlogan had filed civil proceedings against the Tobago House of Assembly  requesting a judicial review of its decision to enter into a BOLT (Build, Own, Lease, Transfer) arrangement with Milshirv Properties Ltd to build the complex on 12 acres of land at the junction of the Claude Noel Highway and Shirvan Road in southwestern Tobago. 

Since then, work had come to a standstill on the project.

Milshirv and First Citizens Bank Ltd were joined as parties in the proceedings. 

However, at the court hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain earlier this year, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in a consent order, stated Milshirv and FCB be removed as parties to the proceedings.

During the hearing, Alvin Fitzpatrick SC, representing the Attorney General, submitted a letter from Finance Minister Larry Howai to THA Chief Secretary Orville London which stated the BOLT arrangement for the project, without his consent, had been challenged and the THA had contended it did not require the minister’s consent to enter into such an arrangement.

Howai said he had been informed by the Attorney General it was proposed the proceedings be converted from a judicial matter to one of interpretation for the court to determine the true extent of the THA’s powers under the THA Act. 

Howai stated that, in the meantime, in view of the possibility the rights of innocent third parties, in particular Milshirv Properties Ltd and FCB Ld, may be adversely affected by the court proceedings, he had decided to approve under section 51(b) of the THA Act the construction of the office complex.

In a THA statement yesterday, director of Milshirv Properties Ltd, John Aboud, said at the launch the project was delayed for 12 months and construction by the main contractor, Beaver Construction Ltd (which resumed last month), will take 16 months. 

To mark the occasion two poui trees were planted at the entrance to the property at the corner of Milford and Shirvan Roads by Chief Secretary London, Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Joel Jack and Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment Godwin Adams.

Addressing guests, Jack said the Milshirv project was important to Tobago’s development.

It will comprise 82,954 square feet of office space for use by the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment.

He said on completion the building will be leased to the THA for between five and 30 years.

The Assembly will occupy the property and repay the project sponsor, Almera Ltd, on a lease-to-own basis, for a period of up to 20 years.  

“This is a $143 million investment by the project sponsor, and involves no initial cash outlay by the Assembly.  On completion, the Assembly will make annual lease payments and take ownership of the property, the land and the building after a maximum period of 20 years,” he said.

He explained the complex consisted of three acres of land valued by the Valuation Division of the Central Government at $12 million, the price paid by the Assembly, adding that the subsequent lease of the land to the project sponsors facilitated the financing of the project by the commercial banks, while at the same time reducing the costs of the project to the Assembly.  

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