City Hall too broke to manage landfill

-acting Mayor

While acknowledging that the government intervention at the Mandela Landfill site was welcomed, acting Mayor Robert Williams stated that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is too cash-strapped to properly manage the site.

Yesterday, at a press briefing at City Hall, Williams said that currently it costs the M&CC $500,000 to operate five bulldozers and at times two excavators at the site. However, he emphasised that the landfill should have been closed 10 years ago.

The briefing was in response to the ministerial visit to the landfill by the ministers of Public Works and Local Government, who announced on Tuesday that they are intervening to “fix the problem” at the facility since the M&CC was managing it poorly. Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall had said, “I keep saying the thing is not managed properly. I don’t think they lack the resources. They have a lot of resources but [it] is management of those resources….”

But Williams said yesterday he did not see the logic in Lall’s statement.  “Resources that are required we don’t own. To get them, you have to get money. Since July we have been pointing out that the site has reached its limit,” he explained.

Williams said that for months the City Council has been in meetings with the two ministries discussing the management of the site. It was agreed since October that the government would intervene, he noted.

The delay in the opening of the new landfill at Haags Bosch is what led to the “deliberate decision” by the council to raise the refuse higher. “We will not close an existing site that another contractor was contracted to close,” Williams added.

According to him, the intervention came at an opportune time since taxpayers could no longer be burdened with the excessive cost to pay for added machines.

Meanwhile, health officers have been visiting the surrounding area of the landfill making observations and warning residents to visit the nearest health centres at any sign of symptoms, in an effort to combat the health risks that the site poses. Flies and a horrid stench are generated by the site daily.

The ministers on Tuesday visited the landfill to “make a proper assessment of what needs to be done.” They concluded that “the contractor cannot handle the situation and secondly we need to bring in additional equipment to deal with this situation.”

The landfill has been encroaching on Le Repentir Cemetery for some time. In a move to address the situation, the garbage was allowed to be stacked some two metres high. Recently, following the overflowing of cell three at the landfill, it was announced that cell two would be partially reopened as a solution to the lack of storage space.

As for the new Haags Bosch landfill site on the East Bank, it is supposed to be opened on January 15, 2011 which is its contract date. The site has suffered some delays; the latest being ground works interrupted by the rainy season.

Meanwhile, Williams announced that the extended amnesty on rates and taxes which came to an end earlier this month generated just over one million dollars—monies which was used to pay city workers and carry out priority works. He said payment to garbage contractors will be made when the government pays the last tranche of monies owed to the council. Williams also announced that City Hall’s budget for next year will deal with “reduction of staff through none-filling of certain vacancies” and “restructuring to accommodate that reduction and focus on the core delivery of service.”