…as City Hall approves heavy payments
The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) on Monday approved proposals to implement new fees for the collection of commercial and industrial waste from business places in the capital city. Effective September 1, small business operators will pay a $5000 per month fee while medium businesses will contend with $8000 per month. However, large business operators across Georgetown will be required to pay the most significant figure of $12,000 per month for their waste collection. These soon to be implemented fees are separate from rates and taxes, which businesses are expected to pay each year.
Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Green, who presided over Monday’s statutory meeting informed Councillors that the fees are “not too exorbitant” for the amount of waste that emanates from business places across the city. She emphasised the “cash-strapped” nature of City Hall has led to the need for more revenue. Moments before the proposal received its approval, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Councillor, Bisram Kuppen moved that the matter be taken to a vote by Council but the Mayor retorted, saying that several consultations on the increases were held but many Councillors and business persons did not show up.
Nevertheless, Kuppen maintained his position that the fees should be taken to a vote, surmising that while he supports the work of Council, there should be additional consultations.
“I am not against the Council, I understand that we have a lot of expenses but a matter of this nature where fees are being charged, there needs to be further discussion by the Council,” he stressed.
His viewpoint was shared with fellow PPP Councillor Khame Sharma who raised objections to the fees, and expressed that he hoped City Hall did not have “rubber stamp” Councillors; a comment which the Mayor reprimanded him over. APNU/AFC Councillor Junior Garret highlighted that the new fees were taken into the account when the budget was prepared, which was approved by Councillors. Mayor Chase Green claimed that “everything is quite transparent” and said that the fees will go directly to the City’s Treasury.
Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran supported his superior’s position.
“I think it’s a fair fee,” he expressed.
Solid Waste Director, Walter Narine, in his presentation told the Council that while the originally approved fees for commercial garbage collection were $5000, $10,000 and $15,000; the latter two were reduced to $8000 and $12,000 after consultations. When probed by Councillors at Monday’s meeting, the Mayor disclosed that road vendors will not be considered in the “small business” category for fees.
The M&CC has long been saying that it operates as a cash-strapped body and in many instances, work around the city has had to be halted, since the municipality was unable to pay workers and waste disposal service providers. Councillors heard Monday that salaries cannot be paid.
Puran Brothers Disposal and Cevons Waste Management withdrew services on July 30, 2017, as City Hall’s debts had risen to the multimillion-dollar range. According to the companies, the issue of non-payment has been a long standing one, with many debts going as far back as 2015. Many Councillors at Monday’s statutory meeting commended themselves for keeping the city clean despite the withdrawal. A Councillor however noted reports that a truck (registration number provided) was going around and charging some residents $500 to empty their barrels – a service which currently attracts no additional fees for homeowners.
It was at a meeting with stakeholders in April 2017 that the Mayor informed the Council was cash-strapped; hence requested businesses to pay more for commercial waste disposal. Mayor Chase Green had told the businesses that City Hall cannot afford to keep up with the weekly amount of $1.8 million only to clear commercial waste.
Town Clerk Royston King has in the past said that even if citizens pay all of their outstanding taxes, the Council would still fall short of enough money to cover everything it has to do. King said the implementation of a new fee is in order because the service of waste disposal is a very expensive one that the Council cannot afford at the moment. At that time, Councillor Kuppen had held out that matter must be carried to a vote.
In July 2016, City Hall imposed a $25,000 container fee on container trucks each time they moved items across the city. After an uproar from the Private Sector, City Hall slashed the fee to $5000 as an interim measure after discussions with the M&CC and the Private Sector Commission.