City unable to handle growing garbage crisis

-Town Clerk faces blame after sacking of contractors

As the city grapples with another garbage crisis, Solid Waste Director Walter Narine yesterday said that his department is not properly equipped to handle the situation, which is being partly blamed on the Town Clerk’s decision to sack two collection services.

“With regard to the question if the department is equipped to handle the garbage situation at the Stabroek Market, my answer is no. What I would like is that at the end of today’s meeting we have some solid recommendations,” Narine said at the Mayor and City Council’s statutory meeting yesterday.

Narine said he is working with only two trucks, and this is not sufficient to execute the work properly. “I asked the council to give me sufficient equipment. I have only two trucks. I asked for three trucks and a tractor- trailer. With these trucks, I will be able to work effectively…I will be able to do two shifts,” he said.

Another problem he said was “The market closes at 11 pm and when I complete my job at 4 pm, whatever happens after that I have to clean it up the next morning and the staff is being constantly hassled by the police as we are blocking the traffic when we pick up the garbage.”

Garbage piled up outside Stabroek Market in the vicinity of the Timehri Bus Park. (Arian Browne photo)
Garbage piled up outside Stabroek Market in the vicinity of the Timehri Bus Park. (Arian Browne photo)

Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green stated that the city as it is right now is in a serious health crisis, although not all councillors agreed and one of them even argued that the city is now cleaner.

She said that Town Clerk Carol Sooba took it on herself to terminate the contracts of Cevon’s and Dartmouth Contracting Services, which were responsible for the Stabroek and Bourda markets, without putting proper measures in place.

Chase-Green said the termination of the contracts occurred since October 16 and to date they have been bombarded with calls from persons about the condition of Stabroek Market. “…Inter-views were done on the 24th. This tells us clearly that the town clerk was not prepared for what is happening…,” she argued.

A decision was made by the Mayor and Councillors to reinstate the contracts of the two services, but Sooba refused to act. Sooba had said that the unsatisfactory performance of the two services led to their contract termination.

Mayor Hamilton Green said, “Without consulting the council or anyone else, a decision was made to change the terms of employment. The records will show that the joint committee did not recommend the removal of any of the contractors because it is known that even with the two compactors, that we did not have the capacity and staff to manage.”
Green said measures need to be put in place so that the matter can be resolved. “We need to avoid what clearly is the possibility of a crisis and we re-engage the other contractors who were not allowed to continue their works. The council does not have the capacity and we need to engage the assistance we had before. The director himself said that he needs help and when I approached the town clerk on the matter she said that they are examining the situation,” he said.

“When council was duly elected in 1996 and had to do the management of Georgetown… the council at the time, even though it had more vehicles than it had now, could not have managed the garbage disposal and so the council agreed that there be contractors,” Chase-Green pointed out.

She said that as the busy Christmas season approaches, the situation will become more serious. “There is a mountain of garbage at the Stabroek and Bourda markets that this city cannot handle, we cannot take charge of the garbage as it is,” she said.

The deputy mayor called on all of the councilors to put political affiliations aside and address the garbage situation that exists in the city.

The deputy mayor also made an appeal for President Donald Ramotar to tell citizens if he is comfortable with incompetent ministers running the Ministry of Local Government. “On a daily basis, the minister is micro-managing this city… The incompetence lies in the level of the ministry. The ministry is responsible for all 65 NDCs and we here at City Hall are experiencing the most difficult task in managing the city of Georgetown, we are not given the opportunity to manage the city,” she said.

“The Town Clerk has overridden her authority. Why were we elected and placed here? Were we placed here as ornaments? Her role is to carry out the decisions of the council. She has not been doing that,” she also said.

Several councillors, however, were not in support of the reinstatement of the two contractors. “The genesis of the problem came from at a meeting right here at this horseshoe table. It was said that both of the contractors were not doing a good job; the solid waste director two months of being on the job made that recommendation,” one of them said.

One councillor said that there has always been a garbage problem and it was not fair that Sooba was being targeted for trying to carry out her duties. “Everyone is trying to crucify the Town Clerk for trying to clean the city. There is also no proof that the minister is trying to micro-manage the city. From the time the Town Clerk was here, there have been many things have been done and we can see that the city is much cleaner now,” the councillor added.