The West End Development Corporation is to enter into new lease negotiations with the Bermuda Cement Company (BCC). WEDCO chairman David Burch made the announcement last night after staff at BCC - which leases its production site from WEDCO – went on strike because over the uncertainty of the company’s future at its current location. Yesterday Lt. Col. Burch said: “Let me first state for the record that BCC have held a monopolistic lease on the cement facility at the Royal Naval Dockyard for 40 years. “Currently the rental income to WEDCO is $48,000 per annum – an incredibly low sum for what is a multimillion dollar operation,” he said. “WEDCO’s board took the decision to broaden the economic opportunity to the wider community by providing for the participation of a wider cross section of the population through share ownership in the operation.”
He said that ten companies collected the paperwork to make a proposal for the cement plant but: “only three companies’ submitted bids”, although he declined to say who the three companies were. “Of these three companies,” he continued, “BCC was clearly the best, however, their bid did not include an opportunity to broaden the base as the board had stipulated. Communication was sent to the three bidding companies with a view to starting negotiations next week.”
Last night BCC general manager Jim Butterfield said the company welcomed the announcement of the new negotiations and was “willing to sit down at any time”, but said they wanted to “set the record straight” about some of Lt. Col. Burch’s remarks. On monopoly, he said: “We formed a company that found a way to get cement to Bermuda the cheapest way possible and the community have benefited– we have all benefited. But anyone can do what we do”.
They agreed that they did pay $48,000 a year in rent. “That rent was put in place 40 years ago by Crown Lands (Government) and it has been adjusted on an either yearly or three year term in keeping with the consumer price index,” he said. “We have always paid the rent as required”.