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Joined: Oct 1999
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Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley is coming to the end of his two terms in office, that's six years at the helm of City Hall.� Now, he has undertaken massive infrastructure works in respect of one hundred and sixty streets and roundabouts through a twenty-million-dollar bond.� But there is one project that has eluded him and remains an eyesore in the downtown area. The mayor had intended this to be the crown jewel of the city; but that is not likely to happen before he demits office. News Five's Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize City Commercial Center stands on its last legs, despite a solemn promise by Mayor Bradley in August 2014, that the building would have been renovated in a most timely manner.� The municipal leader is nearing the end of his second term in office and it's apparent that his swan song will not include a spanking new business hub in Market Square.� For now it is a much publicized and eagerly anticipated venture that proves to be a spectacular flop, despite monies being earmarked for the project.

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

"It continues to be a frustration to me in relation to the upgrading of the commercial center.� I actually had maintained that this was a signature project for the city council and I would leave office and it still has not been commenced.� We are at the stage where we have sourced funding from our financial institution Heritage Bank.� They've approved our loan, all the plans with the contractor we've executed the contract.� We have a supervisor of works, so that there is a consulting engineer who is about to supervise these works and we are just awaiting the permission from the Minister of Finance who has to approve the funding source.� Sometimes that takes a longer period of time.� Sometimes that takes a shorter period of time.� Sometimes they have certain concerns, but we had actually negotiated quite a good finance package with Heritage Bank."

Until the prime minister gives his stamp of approval on the source of funding, the decrepit structure endures as an ugly sight, attracting its share of vagrants in the downtown area.

Darrell Bradley

"We have noticed that people are now loitering in the vicinity of the commercial center. �It is becoming a nuisance spot, so this is actually a concern from multiple vantage points why it becomes an urgency.� We actually need the space because the city council currently, is renting two spots for office space.� We had to close down an area of the commercial center because the bathroom, the plumbing and so forth was no longer permitting people to work in the facility."

The Belize City Council has instead resorted to tenancy, renting private properties to house the municipal court, as well as other administrative offices.� Admittedly, Mayor Bradley says that these are monies that can be used to cover a mortgage facility, which would in turn serve a better purpose.

Darrell Bradley

"We are now operating the lower flat of the Sagicor property and by where the Mona Lisa building is in the downtown [where] we have our municipal court.� So that it actually costs us a significant amount of money to be paying rent.� This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea, because rather than paying rent, pay a mortgage and it's a facility that we own and we are going to upgrade it.� We're only waiting for that permission and once that is given then the monies will be released from the bank and we can start the project.� We've done pre-demolition work, the building is entirely evacuated so that the contractor can go in there and they will renovate the building in eight months."

With an established timeline for the actual renovation to be completed, minus the pre-demolition work that has already taken place, the question is whether or not there is the political will to give this project the go-ahead.� Of late, Prime Minister Barrow has been consulting with Councilor Dion Leslie, the UDP's mayoral candidate for Belize City, on other municipal projects that don't seem to include market square.

Darrell Bradley

"I'm hoping that works could start before the ending of this year and definitely before the ending of my term in office because as I had indicated at the beginning part of this interview, this was something that I made a big issue of that there needs to be remedial works to the commercial center.� There has to be a significant amount of investment in the downtown."

Even with the delay, Mayor Bradley has been able to figure out a repayment plan for a loan from Heritage Bank.

Darrell Bradley

"We have an existing facility with them and they will extend that funding at the current outflow so that we are going to extend the loan facility and they're going to keep the flows at a certain point.� Don't quote me on this, but I think it's about twenty thousand dollars per month that we pay them on that existing facility and they will keep the payments at twenty thousand dollars to 2019, so that that actually helps the City Council because our cash flow will maintain at the current levels.� And what will happen in 2018 is that we will pay off half of the municipal bond so that our cash position will increase and we'll have a series of judgment debts, including to BML that we're still paying off and those will finish in 2018, as well, so that in 2019 when we are supposed to pay additional monies for this commercial center facility, we can quite comfortably pay it because those debt servicing that we are paying off for judgment debts would have already been settled."

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
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Commercial Center, Months Later, Mayor Promises It's Coming

We heard that one loud and clear, he IS the mayor - but for all Bradley's bluster today - we still haven't seen any movement on the Commercial Center renovation project. It's been promised for months - and nothing has happened. Today, the mayor said, this month, surely:...

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"You will demit office and the commercial center will still be an edifice that is unpainted, that gives a ghastly appearance to the entire city."

Darrell Bradley, Mayor - Belize City
"I will agree that it's a thing that we have made quite a bit of in terms of the renovation of the commercial center and I think that it's a project that we've been working on for the last 3 years and I think we are right at the precipice where we are actually trying to see if we can get the project going. I have had meetings with the contractor, I've had meetings with the supervising engineer. We've communicated with the bank. We've communicated with the lawyer for the bank and we also have the support of the Minister of Finance. So it seems that the project might actually get going before the end of the year."

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"But it will actually start? Because you set us up before."

Darrell Bradley, Mayor - Belize City
"One of the things that you had pointed out and I think rightly so, is that the building looks unsightly. You have a lot of homeless people now who sleeps in the lower flat of the building. It's a security risk and so forth. So that the building must be renovated. It's a big blight in the downtown."

In late June 2017, the mayor promised that demolition of the old commercial center would start in early July - and that work would be finished by March of 2018.

Channel 7

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Mayor: Commercial Center Coming

Last month, we showed you Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley promising that finally after an extended delay, the renovation works on the Commercial Center was finally starting.

It's been a long wait, from April of 2015 to be exact, and today, the Mayor said that the contractors have already started the construction work:

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council
"Actually, I am to go to a meeting right now, which is at 2 o'clock, which is - of course, I will be late for that meeting, but that's a meeting with the independent engineer, the engineers on the project, and our technical side. The timeline for the project is 10 months, beginning December. The interior of the building will be worked on first. So that there will a total gutting of the interior, and then renovation of the interior, including a plumbing, electrical, bathrooms, everything - closing up the floor, and remodeling the building. So that, the top floor and the second floor will be the new City Hall, and the ground floor will be occupy 14 commercial spaces. It will also occupy a large hall so that we will have public meetings in there. So, usually, when we have public meetings, we go to parks, we have to rent space. You will actually be able to have public meetings now, at City Hall itself. We are going to locate a series of what we consider first hand services on the ground floor, like planning permits, traffic services, and so forth, and our payment services."

"It's roughly about 3.5 million dollars, including sales tax. In terms of affording it, the council has an existing facility at Heritage Bank, and what we did is that we renegotiated that facility. Currently, we pay $20,000 per month on that facility. And we will continue to pay $20,000 until 2019, a date in 2019. So, actually what we did is that we just re-structured that facility. So, doing this project, while we are going to have the building right now, will not entail the council paying any more on that existing facility. We're stretching it out, and we're keeping the same interest rates. They reason why we asked for that grace period to 2019 is because we are still paying on several judgement debts that I inherited as mayor. So, we're still paying some monies to BML. We're still paying some monies to - I believe SEL, and we're still paying monies on judgement to an individual by the name of Ramclam. Those 3 payments amount to about $90,000 per month. When we finish all of those payments, we're going to finish all of those payments by this date in 2019, then we will devote more of a payment towards paying off this 3.5 million dollar loan."

The mayor has committed to take us on a tour some time next week to see how the construction is going.

Channel 7

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