Whittaker says gov’t seeking closer collaboration with City Hall

-after $135M subvention

With the government’s approval of a $135M subvention for the city, new Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker yesterday said there would be closer collaboration with the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to ensure that citizens get the services they deserve.

“We want to work closely with the City Council to ensure that all funds that they receive whether from Government or the tax payers are spent for the purpose of delivering services to the people. Paramount right now is the service of garbage collection and disposal,” he was quoted as saying by the Government Information Agency (GINA) during a meeting of stakeholders that included Minister of Transport and Hydraulics Robeson Benn, Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, Town Clerk, Yonette Pluck and Chief Engineer- City Council, Lloyd Alleyne.

“At the end of it all we hope that the citizenry of Georgetown will feel a little better because the environment they must work and live in is spruced up,” Whittaker added.

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker, Chief Engineer- City Council, Lloyd Alleyne, Minister of Transport and Hydraulics Robeson Benn, and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams inspecting the garbage blocking the Saffon and Sussex Street trench. (GINA photo)

GINA noted that government has injected a total of $215M into the city with immediate effect to relieve the Council of its ongoing financial woes, and to enable the municipality to meet outstanding liabilities, including wages owed to staff and amounts due to garbage collectors for several months,.

President Bharrat Jagdeo had announced that the government will be paying $80M in rates and taxes to the Council immediately. This payment will bring government’s rate payments up to date to the end of the third quarter of 2011. In addition, it will be injecting a further $120M into the municipality to help meet its outstanding liabilities and to accelerate its efforts to keep the City clean. A further $15M will be provided by the central government for the purposes of cleaning up Le Repentir cemetery.

“Collectively, we would agree that we owe it to the taxpayers and to Local Government to have a clear understanding as to how this money will be utilised… we want to know about the disbursement of funds to the contractors who are owed, we want to leave here knowing that the two collectors who are owed are paid, the employees are paid, and pensioners who are owed are paid,” Whittaker was quoted as saying.

GINA said he indicated that preparations for the transfer of the funds has already been effected, thereby enabling the City Council to pay outstanding salaries to workers and contractors which will immediately accelerate the pace and spread of garbage collection and disposal.

“We do not want a repetition of the same scenarios and therefore we would look for ways by which we could prevent such,” he emphasised.

Whittaker, GINA said, also disclosed that with the support from the government and the Ministry of Public Works, it is now the expectation that the 10 wards of Georgetown will perhaps be divided between the City Council doing some of the garbage collection and disposal while the contactors will do the others.

The discussions also looked at the Council’s gradual taking over of some part of the garbage collection exercise using the trucks and other machinery made available to it through the subvention and support from the central government.

Following the meeting, the officials visited sites including Drury Lane (eastern side), Shell Road Kitty, Sussex Street, Independence Boulevard (Albouystown) and Stabroek and Bourda markets to assess the garbage situation and determine the way forward.

Minister Benn emphasised that the Ministry of Public Works has been continuously working with the City Council towards the improvement of urban areas, particularly in Georgetown, which has the most intense activities with respect to transportation, settlement and the exchange of goods, GINA said.

“Our interest of course is to improve and optimise the transportation network in the city and the safety, that is why we have made interventions with respect to re-engineering certain important intersections in the city during last year and this year,” he noted.

Minister Benn emphasised that it is important that the City Council work along with the Ministry to ensure the proper use of roads, particularly maintenance and safety to reduce, and avoid persons from encumbering the road sides thereby creating conditions that make the city more chaotic and less safe for not only city dwellers but those who visit.

As it relates to Le Repentir cemetery, Benn indicated that a small multi-interested stakeholder committee has been established and includes private citizens, the City Council and a number of churches. Together they will work towards the clean – up of the cemetery. Thus far work has commenced on the drainage system.

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