The Kara Kara toll booth has been in operation for sixteen years
On Monday August 5, and Saturday August 24, 2013 I saw articles pertaining to the Kara-Kara toll scenario in your newspaper. I assumed the first article was a misquote, but seeing it on Saturday forced me to respond. It stated that the toll was implemented to pay increased wages to workers. Also in Saturday’s article, Minister Ganga Persaud is claimed to have said the matter is nearing completion.
At the press conference on the matter held on Tuesday July 29, 2013 I stated the following:
1. The M&TC’s toll booth at Kara-Kara has been operating for sixteen years under stewardship of Mayor Stanley Smith after an order from Minister Clinton Collymore.
2. On September 1, 2011 Minister Norman Whittaker signed into the Act, 28:01, a by-law which governed this toll operation after the presiding magistrate suggested that a by-law was better than Section 301, subsection 27 which she deemed ambiguous and too general. Ministerial Advisor Mr Clinton Collymore made his written analysis of our submission and recommended a reduction of the tolls we suggested. The council accepted the recommendation to move the process along.
3. Road tolls have been regular revenue features on the council’s budgets over the past sixteen years and were signed by three Ministers in Messrs Collymore, Lall and Whittaker. As late as April 2013, Minister Whittaker wrote approving the council’s 2013 budget, exhorting the council to maximize its revenue collections from the various bases.
4. Most toll payers have responded positively, but a few miners friendly with people in high places have complained. Many lumber movers are happy with the move because they have always expressed concern over the years that they are bearing the brunt and the other interior movers are getting a free ride. The toll clerks and security have been lax in the past and this allowed for the mainly mining commuters being allowed a ‘free ride’ while the lumber movers were seen to be targeted.
5. With the imminent implementation of the minimum wage on July 1, 2013 the council was forced to put measures in place to maximize collection. The workers deserve the increase.
6.The day before the Minister (Whittaker) announced the decision (July 29, 2013) I was chairing a meeting discussing the implementation of the pay scales after workers became agitated and began protesting. I spoke with him informing about the meeting and the council’s decision. There was no hint of this decision until later in the evening when the Town Clerk spoke with him. I responded to the Minister’s letter (July 30, 2013) as soon as I read it the next morning.
7. The claims are so ridiculous it stretches credulity to its ultimate limit. What the council is projected to collect in one month to pay the poor workers, a business collects in one day for an interior crossing. The fees that started in 1997 are still in operation today. In those days trucks moved 3,000 bm of lumber and paid about $0.75/bm. Now the long hauler trucks are moving four times that amount of lumber. The cost per bm is therefore much lower. A fuel truck pays about $1/gallon of fuel. By what stretch of imagination are these fees exorbitant?
Since the matter became public I have spoken to Minister Whittaker once by telephone. We did not discuss cessation of the operation even though his letter to the council threatened legal action if we did not comply. This brings me to the point of Minister Ganga Persaud’s statement that an end is in sight. Readers should note that we (council and Ministry) have had no formal sit-down to discuss this matter. The closing of the booth will entail revenue shortfall which will impact severely on the staff and services. Tolls are charged in many interior locations in Regions 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,10. Isn’t this a script written for confrontation?