For the past 16 years, residents of the northern Armenian town of Vanadzor have only dreamt about taking a leisurely stroll in a park and sitting on a comfortable bench in the warm summer months.
It seems that they will have to dream some more since the town council last month nullified a 2009 agreement signed by Mayor Samvel Darbinyan and Karavar-Tan LLC to make renovations to a run-down eyesore locally known as Chemical Workers’ Park.
The council’s November 14 decision also wiped clean the company’s 3.3 million dram rent debt it owed the town as compensation for the 3.4 million it had invested in the park.
The decision was passed by a vote of 14 in favor and 2 abstentions.
Gayaneh Kalantaryan, one of the council members who abstained from voting, told Hetq that they weren’t made aware of the contents of the contract signed between the mayor and the company in 2009 and that monetary amount of work done at the park was adjusted to equal the company’s rent debt.
Council member Seyran Ghambaryan, who also sat out the vote, told Hetq that he too wasn’t privy to the contracts. The same is true for Aram Khachatryan, who while voting in favor of the decision to nullify the 2009 contracts, confessed that he didn’t know their details.
Khachatryan later found out that the 2009 lease contracts signed between Mayor Darbinyan and Karavar-Tan was done without the council’s approval.
Khachatryan says that the mayor followed Article 76 Of the RA Land Code, according to which community mayors have the digression to allocate community lands for lease or construction, but that he failed to follow Article 16, Point 20 of the RA Law on Local Self-Government which stipulates that a council has the power to: Take decisions on lease or alienation of the property owned by the community; approve rates of rents, alienation prices and terms as well as the floor price of a property to be alienated through an auction.
In the Armenian State Register, Karavar-Tan LLC is registered under the names of Nounik Asryan (finance division head of the Lori Provincial Government) and Ashot Khoumaryan.
Mrs. Asryan said that while she founded the company, she transferred all her shares to its director Ararat Karapetyan four years ago. He just happens to be her husband.
“We haven’t worked on the park since 2012. This spring we repaired the southern park walls,” said Karapetyan.
According to one of the 2009 contracts signed by Mayor Darbinyan, Karavar-Tan was leased a 5265 square meter parcel of the park at a monthly rate of 126,025 drams. On the same day another contract was signed whereby the company leased a 23,655 square meter parcel at a monthly rent of 155,365 drams. The two lease contracts covered the period March 6, 2007 to March 6, 2057.
The company failed to pay its lease obligations that came due at the last day of every month.
In the case when the lessee failed to pay rents for two or more months, Samvel Darbinyan was empowered to demand early payment from the company for the next four months or to terminate the contract.
Instead, Darbinyan modified the original lease contract and extended the payment deadlines from July 1, 2009 to July 1, 2012.
The company’s rent arrears continued to grow, reaching 3.3 million drams by July 1, 2014.
Under the provisions of the two lease deals mentioned above, Karavar-Tan was obliged to carry out 24.3 million drams of construction work at the 5,265 sq. meter parcel and 73.2 million at the 23,665 parcel.
In a letter dated June 26, 2014, company director Ashot Khoumaryan informed Darbinyan that the company had carried out 10 million drams worth of construction and renovation at the two sites.
A separate evaluation of the work, conducted at the behest of Darbinyan, appraised the work at 3.4 million.
Six years after the lease deals were signed Chemical Workers’ Park remains an eyesore with its dilapidated carousel and skeleton benches…memories of better times indeed.