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Immigrant residence permit fees to help pay for Justice Park in St. Maarten

FRIDAY, 07 DECEMBER 2012

PHILIPSBURG–Immigrants will foot the bill for the planned US $100-million Justice Park in Cay Hill. Justice Minister Roland Duncan told Parliament in a Central Committee meeting Thursday that an amendment to the Admittance and Expulsion Law LTU seeking to establish annual fees for residence permits is before the Council of Ministers for approval.

The draft amendment has set the fee for a “basic” residence permit at NAf. 1,500 per year, NAf. 2,500 for residence permit holders in managerial position and NAf. 5,000 for permit holders who are directors. The residence permit fee for youngsters under age 18 will be NAf. 750. Payment of the fees will be for the account of the permit holders, not the business they work for. If the business wants to pay for the fee, it will be a private agreement between the employers and the permit holder, where such as relationship exists. Some NAf. 20 million is expected to be collected from these pending new fees.

Duncan pointed out that the proposed fees are not expensive when compared to countries such as Bahamas and Anguilla. In Bahamas, the lowest category of cooks, bartenders etc., pay about US $ 1,000. accountants and comparable professions pay US $5,000 and those in managerial position can pay as much as US $12,000 annually.

The funds raised from the residence permit fee, when implemented, will be used to cover the cost of the Justice Park. Other funding will also come from other pending increases for justice services. That’s another package of amendments awaiting Council of Ministers’ approval.

Duncan hopes to get the amendments handled soon by the Council of Ministers and then Parliament, so that early next year the fees can be implemented. The monies from the fees will accumulate until the first payments for the Justice Park need to be made, thus providing a financial base for the project.

Duncan was in Parliament to answer questions posed by Members of Parliament (MPs) in November when he presented the Justice Park project. Thursday’s meeting is on hold until further notice to give MPs time to review the documents presented by Duncan, so they can prepare for the second round of debate.

The minister used the meeting “to put the project into proper prospective,” saying that the Justice Park is needed to provide needed services, because present justice facilities and services are “inadequate or non-existent.” He pointed out that even the present building, housing his cabinet and the Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND) on A.Th. Illidge Road is not adequate. Fire Department personnel reminded him of such on Thursday morning. A hazard is the gas-selling company to the rear of the building.

The development of the Justice Park will allow for the Pointe Blanche House of Detention to be renovated and changed into a maximum security prison with provision for prisoners who need psychiatric care. The park in Cay Hill will house the medium security prison, youth correctional facility and youth detention centre, as well as the central kitchen, medical and conjugal visit cells.

The park project will allow the Justice Ministry to provide several of the accommodations required in the new Penal Code passed earlier this year, the minister said. Most of the departments of the justice chain will be housed in the park.

The Justice Park will also house the Courthouse and the Court of Guardianship. Duncan said the historical Courthouse on Front Street is too small for the needs of the justice change and has “serious security risks” being in the centre of town.

The Justice Park will also solve the need for the some NAf. 60 million upgrade of the Pointe Blanche prison as was put forward by construction company Ballast Nadam, a plan that did not take into account the need for a youth correctional facility. Duncan said upgrades will be made to Pointe Blanche prison nevertheless. However, the cost will be revisited by the contractor.

Explaining how he would acquire the land in Cay Hill for the Justice Park, Duncan said government first looked at expropriation, but later private company Kasmir Investment Limited made a sale and purchase agreement with the owners of the three parcels of land needed, which included that of “The Box.” The three parcels will cost US $25 million. Government will not be buying the land; it will hold a long lease for it for some 20 to 30 years and pay rent during that time. At the end of the period, government will take possession of the land and buildings.

Government will pay a rent of 10 per cent of the value of each building the Justice Ministry puts into use in the Justice Park. Rent will not be levied until the ministry has moved into the buildings. “This gives us flexibility.” Rental amounts paid to house justice departments elsewhere in the country will also be put to the Justice Park rent once the department is moved there. Rent levy for commercial buildings is set at 12 per cent in the rental regulation. Government will be paying 10 per cent in rent.

Putting the acquisition into perspective, Duncan said the Social and Health Insurance SZV was in negotiations to buy the parcel of land on the street side in Cay Hill for some US $23 million. The three parcels for the Justice Park will be acquired for US $25 million.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry started to use the old BBW building on Sucker Garden Road to establish its shooting range and other training areas. That building will also be used to house all the basic police departments.

A letter of intent still has to be signed between government and Elliot Holding to which the land was granted in long lease. The letter of intent will give Elliot a compensation for government taking over the long lease.

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