Sooba denies imposing exorbitant fees for Mash Day vending

-says Banks DIH pullout due to internal issue

Acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba has said that Banks DIH was never asked to pay any exorbitant fees for spots along the Merriman Mall on Mashramani Day, as recently claimed by Deputy Patricia Chase-Green.

“Banks DIH, I think they have some internal issue. Banks owe us since last year for the spots by Lamaha and Vlissengen Road and they refused to pay our staff. They took three spots last year. We raised it just a little, nothing exorbitant,” Sooba told reporters yesterday.

“We just raise it by $40,000. Before it was $360,000 for several spots on Vlissengen Road. We have all the other major companies and we have no issue with them. I don’t know why a major company like Banks (complained) for such a meagre sum and then they go and publish it is $800,000,” Sooba said.  Banks DIH has not responded to Sooba’s statements.

(from left to right) Superintendent Errol Watts, acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba, ‘A’ Division Commander George Vyphuis and another senior policeman discussing preparations for Mash Day at the Merriman Mall yesterday.  (Arian Browne photo)
(from left to right) Superintendent Errol Watts, acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba, ‘A’ Division Commander George Vyphuis and another senior policeman discussing preparations for Mash Day at the Merriman Mall yesterday. (Arian Browne photo)

Chase-Green at a recent press conference had accused the Town Clerk of charging Banks DIH triple the fees that they were normally charged for spots. “Throughout the years up to the year 2012, [they] were… paying $225,000 [for a spot],” she said. She explained that last year, the Town Clerk raised the fee per spot to “$456,000 and this year they were asked to pay in excess of $800,000 for that spot. It is a great blow… you have major companies withdrawing. What has happened is that spot has now become an economic venture for the council… to gain money and that was never the intention. The intention was to get money for immediate clean up, to pay contractors,” she had said.

Chase-Green had opined that she saw this new initiative by the Town Clerk as a way of “destroying Mashramani” as it was exploiting vendors who were trying to do business on that day, while adding that small vendors are now being asked to pay $10,000 and $15,000 for spots.

She had pointed out that the main reason for collecting fees for spots on Mashramani Day was for the council to earn some cash so as to clean up the garbage after the celebration. She said the clean-up exercise costs between $356,000 and $400,000.

Mayor Hamilton Green in an interview with Stabroek News earlier this week had said that Sooba had not consulted the council when she decided to hike the fees. “It is a national holiday; we can’t charge people to watch the parade. We are going to tell people don’t pay a cent,” he said.

Meanwhile, ‘A’ Division Commander George Vyphuis has said that the police are prepared for Mashramani Day and are going to make sure that security is at the highest level.

Amsterdam said that they would deploy around 300 policemen on Mash day. “We would have deployed approximately 300 ranks, which include plain clothes and traffic police. We will work in two shifts. We are prepared to work long hours to maintain safety. We are prepared to do that,” he said.

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