By Jeff Trotman
Linden’s Interim Manage-ment Committee (IMC) plans to reopen the Kara Kara toll booth next Monday, despite a recent decision by the government to revoke it.
The Region Ten Regional Democratic Council (RDC) has already signalled its intention to endorse the move being undertaken by the cash-strapped IMC, which has only $400,000 in its coffers and a $3.4M October wage bill. The IMC is hoping that the toll would provide crucial funds needed to avert a crisis in delivery of municipal services and a strike by workers.
Chairman of the Linden IMC Orrin Gordon said things would be put in place to get the support of the RDC as well as inform the people of Linden of the municipality’s decision to reopen the Kara Kara toll booth on Monday.
He said at the last statutory meeting of the Linden IMC, held last Wednesday, the decision was taken by majority vote to reopen the toll booth because there was a gap between what the town council had in its coffers and the wage bill for October month “and there was no seeming money coming on the horizon and that we recognise that we had to get money quickly to fill that gap and we were pledged support by the RDC.”
At a joint meeting of councillors from the IMC and the RDC on Monday, RDC Chairman Sharma Solomon said that he did not want to be intrusive in the affairs of the municipality but he would include any request by the IMC for support in his chairman’s report at the RDC meeting, which is scheduled for today.
The meeting is the continuation of the October Statutory meeting, which was adjourned on October 10th in protest of a seven month delay in the provision of instruments for the official appointment of two replacement RDC councillors.
Solomon said that apart from calling on the RDC to support the position of the Linden IMC, the RDC would take the necessary steps to ensure that there would be a level of community activism to ensure mass support at the toll booth.
The Local Government Ministry last month said that a legal opinion had found that the order for the toll was null and void because it had not been gazetted. The revocation came after the toll order was challenged by a “stakeholder,” who pro-tested to central government and urged a review.
During Monday’s joint meeting, Linden town councillor Gordon Callendar said that the Town Clerk Jenellor Bowen, as Chief Executive Officer of the municipality, had failed to carry out the mandate of the council and a strong stand should be taken against her.
Callendar, however, acknowledged that the Town Clerk had been in a peculiar situation in which she received conflicting instructions; on the one hand, she was told by the Ministry to close the toll booth and on the other, she was told by the Town Council to keep it open. He recalled the previous Town Clerk was sent home by the Ministry of Local Govern-ment because it was claimed that he failed to carry out instructions that emanated from the Ministry.
Highlighting other instances in which the Town Clerk had refused to follow instructions from the IMC, Callendar suggested that the IMC should take punitive measures. “I think that if the Town Clerk continue(s) to refuse to do the things that we ask her, we should do certain things. The last council we talked about the barrier at the Winifred Gaskin Highway. Instruction pass for that place to be locked off. To date, it still deh the same way and trucks passing through the road,” Callendar said. “I am saying… we should sanction the TC for what she has done. Mr Harry was acting chairman of the IMC and we talked to the TC… and told her what this council wants to see with that toll booth. Mr Harry went further by way of letter–other than talking. After the meeting, he sent letter to her stating our position on that toll booth. She defied our orders and she took her instructions from Mr Whittaker or Mr Ganga, whosoever and she is not listening to us,” he said.
“We are in a serious crisis, right now,” Callendar said, noting that the Linden municipality had a mere $400,000 in its coffers while it needed $3.4M to meet the October wage bill.
He said it was already October 28 and the workers had not been paid for the month. He suggested that money received from NICIL from the toll at the Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge amounting to about $800,000 plus $300,000 from another revenue source could be used to pay the workers, excluding the Town Clerk “because is she put we in this position.” He also pointed to the likelihood of the workers taking industrial action if they are not paid by Friday.
Callendar also said there are people within Linden who want employment and the Town Council should employ new people to man the toll booth “and draw we money fo people geh pay.”
He expressed admiration for the militant stance the RDC had taken to adjourn its October Statutory Meeting in protest at the delay in providing the necessary instruments for the installation of two replacement councillors. He said that in like manner, the head of the IMC should come up with a strong position and get the backing from his councillors since he is confident that support would come from the RDC.
Gordon said many members of the community have called on him to reopen the toll booth in order to collect revenue to provide municipal services. He said an Amelia’s Ward resident said that he relies on the regular Mayor and Town Council garbage collection and he does not want to burn garbage at the back of his yard. According to Gordon, such comment reflects appreciation for what the Town Council is doing with its revenue.
He also said the comment is relevant to inquiries from the Ministry of Local Government about what the IMC is doing with the money it collects from the two markets, the day care centre and other areas from which the municipality receives revenue. He said it must be clearly stated that the revenue from the toll booth looks after the operation of the entire Town Council and it came into being in 1997.
He said a lot of people are not au fait with the relevant information. “They get one set of information,” he said. “This happened last year during the struggle, too, you know, where people had their own view of what was happening,” he added.
RDC Councillor Maurice Butters, in his contribution to the meeting, said he did not hear any mention of an alternative position. He said it is important since the minister’s decision was different to that of the IMC and there were members of the IMC who were backing the Ministry.
Referring to Butters’ observation, PPP/C Councillor Orin Wilson said there had been no response to Butters’ observation. Wilson said that the Chairman of the IMC must bear in mind that the municipality has $105M in outstanding rates and taxes, $1.7M in arrears for rental at the Mackenzie Market and over a million dollars in arrears owed by stall holders in the Wismar Market. He added that emphasis should be placed on collecting those arrears.