Las Alturas built on gravel heap
Saturday, October 6 2012
lThe PNM government, in 2007, built a million-dollar apartment complex on what was essentially shifting sand and was warned that it would be dangerous to place human beings in the building, even before work on the $26 million structure began, according to Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.
“In layman’s words, they built a building on a gravel heap,” Moonilal told MPs as the Government went on the offensive, attacking Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley over his record as a former PNM housing minister. Moonilal said the PNM ignored the warnings.
Moonilal was referring to the Las Alturas housing development at Morvant, two towers which were supposed to house 48 units, but were never occupied. The buildings stood empty for years but were filled with one thing: huge cracks.
“Today the Government took steps to demolish these two buildings,” Moonilal said. He read the details of a technical investigation of the site which was done before the Housing Development Corporation began work in late 2007.
The report noted problems with “slope stability” and the presence of large cracks.
“Slope failure is highly likely,” Moonilal said, quoting the report. “We cannot put persons in block F. The area of concern straddles the weakest slope profile, indicating the likelihood of collapse.”
Moonilal said, “they went ahead and constructed two apartment towers on land like this. They were rushing to build. They did not care about geo-technical reports. My friend opposite (Rowley) is a geologist. They were ramping up home construction as per a political agenda.”
Rowley twice objected to Speaker Wade Mark, citing rules against imputing improper motives. Rowley said he left the post of Housing Minister in November 2007.
“Mr Speaker, I must object Mr Speaker. The member is going out of his way to impute improper motives. This project was done after I left there. I had nothing to do with it!”
Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox, jumping to defend Rowley, declared the remarks by Moonilal were “foolish”. She was asked to withdraw the word by the Speaker and complied.
At a press briefing after at Parliament, Rowley said, “It was mischievous and wicked for the Minister of Housing to come here to say these things. He would know when the contract was awarded. I have never heard of those towers and I don’t know what he is trying to say. I left the post of the Ministry of Housing in November.”
Moonilal said the State spent $23 million through the demolition of the project.
At the same time, he said the State, under his tenure, saved $25 million in relation to the purchase of land recently bought at Central Park, Couva, by the Housing Development Corporation.
Moonilal said the land — 50 acres — was valued at $180 million by the Commissioner for Valuations and $200 million by the seller (not named).
He said the State’s negotiators knocked the price to $175 million and noted the land came with infrastructure such as drainage, roads, a sewerage treatment plant and streetlights, items which inflated the price.
He compared this purchase to a recent private acquisition in the same area at a cost of $125 per square foot. He said the Couva land worked out to $87.57 per square foot.