Discussions on the city’s financial woes took top billing at the Mayor and City Council’s (M&CC) statutory meeting on Monday along with the garbage situation and the unavailability of minutes.
When the issue of a senior officer’s request to have a salary advance of $100,000 was brought to the attention of councillors, some baulked. Councillor Junior Garrett stated: “As soon as the government bail us out them people want advance. Do you think the government will want to bail us out again? We have to decide, no more loans for houses, only for education, health and funerals.“
Town Clerk Yonette Pluck-Cort asked that councillors refrain from speaking in that manner about an officer who has offered years of service to the municipality and who she says, is simply asking for a loan, and in this case, a salary advance.
Councillor Patricia Chase-Green then stated that a loan would not have been objected if the council could have afforded it. According to a verbal report, she noted, the collection for the month of September was far below the sum expected. “We cannot afford, as it is, to look at salaries for the month of September. So how can we give an advance for $100,000 to an officer…? We just cannot afford it with our financial difficulty,” she said.
The government recently gave the M&CC $216 million.
Councillor Devi Ross then requested an update on the city’s situation with regard to garbage collection.
Pluck-Cort said the solid waste director had indicated to her that some difficulty was experienced one day during last week, but no one informed the residents of the areas that were affected. This situation, she said, will be corrected.
Chase-Green then highlighted the fact that the Lamaha Canal, stretching from the Chinese Embassy to Hunter Street, has no less than 20 piles of garbage. Tiger Bay and the Albouystown area, she further stated, are a mess.
Councillor B. Sattan then requested a response from Pluck-Cort from a statement he said was made some 3 weeks ago. “Three weeks ago the Town Clerk said she was promised some trucks from Works and Hydraulics and I asked about it and she said she will follow it up. I want a response,” he stated. This went unanswered by Pluck-Cort.
Prior to this, the statutory meeting was disrupted owing to the absence of the minutes. “We must have recorded minutes,” Chase-Green demanded as she brought to the attention of her fellow councillors, the letter submitted and published by Stabroek News from the Mayor. “The Mayor said in his letter that if the behaviour of councillors is up kept then he’ll have to take further steps and that is in court. I would need the minutes for back up in court,” she indicated.
Pluck-Cort subsequently apologized for the minutes not being ready but added that there were personnel constraints in the department.
Chairman of the meeting, Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, said the excuse was unacceptable. “There was an extra week and the only reason the minutes should not have been ready is due to technical difficulties such as interpreting the notes and this is unsatisfactory,” he said.
Ross opined that the minutes were deliberately not brought forward at yesterday’s forum. “After three weeks we cannot get a 4-page minutes?” she asked.
“I feel threatened at this meeting this afternoon,” Pluck-Cort responded.
Councillors throughout yesterday’s statutory meeting continued to challenge Pluck-Cort as they considered her tone of voice to be inappropriate.
The Town Clerk was also upbraided by the councillors and the Deputy Mayor when the intended visit by Deputy Mayor of Fuzhau, Fujian Province, People’s Republic of China scheduled for today was highlighted.
Pluck-Cort stated that although she was aware of the visit, she had no details and as such had not mentioned it to the Deputy Mayor but instead, sent the secretary to gather the necessary information.
Councillor Oscar Clarke then stood up and said he had received information from the International Relations Secretary about the intended visit and he will circulate the information to other councillors. “The Town Clerk must have respect for councillors and the council. I don’t know why we don’t behave in a civil and straightforward way,” he added.
Councillor Prem Chandat had also questioned why accommodation for the media has since been removed. “This is nobody’s cake shop, we have nothing to hide,” he noted as he requested to have proper accommodation for reporters.