Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase-Green says the Private Sector Commission (PSC) needs to allow City Hall the latitude to run its business accordingly.
“It is unfair for the private sector to tell me how to run the city. I don’t tell them how they manage their business,” the Mayor told Stabroek News.
She was at the time giving an update on the $25,000 Container Tax that the city is charging business owners.
Town Clerk Royston King has told this newspaper that businesses unloading containers in the city are already being charged $25,000, for the privilege of using the collectively owned space that is the city parapets.
“Council decided some years ago to charge for the offloading of containers on city streets. They were of the belief that businesses should compensate the city for the use of the space which is collectively owned by all citizens. The fee is expected to aid in speedy clearance of the public spaces,” King explained.
Asked how the sum was arrived at, King said it was calculated based on the average size of containers being unloaded within city boundaries. King did not provide any information on when the public was notified of the implementation of the tax.
The PSC has since said that it is seeking legal advice on whether City Hall has the right to implement the $25,000 container tax.
According to Chase-Green, the tone of the letter sent by the PSC to her was offensive but she would look past that and still meet them. “I have received a very rude letter but I am ready to talk with the private sector if they want to come in,” she stated.
Chase-Green informed that store owners have not complained about the fee and have been paying it since last year and believes that the money was needed to offset the damage done to the roads and pavements caused by the movement of containers.
“They are damaging our roads. If you go now or this afternoon on Water Street around Fogarty’s …you would see what is happening. All the trucks occupy the roadway and taking up the parking place and parking willy-nilly, for days and pay nothing to the city,” she asserted.
“I am not going to sit and just accept the private sector and business people doing as they like in the city, we have to put a stop to it. I know it will be challenging but we have to look at the best interest of Georgetown. We have wardens working and checking on the situation but what is happening is, some of the business people are trying to smart it and bring the containers at midnight. When it is not empty and morning reaches, that is how they are caught but we are looking at ways to deal with this,” she added.
Stabroek News spoke with business owners in the capital on the issue and while some informed that they pay, others say that the sum was too much and believe that city hall is not using the monies for the purpose collected.
“We paid $40,000, not $25,000 for this container. It depends on the size that is what they charge and they supposed to take that money and fix the roads but you look right there…deh look like deh doing anything?” one business owner on Water Street said as he pointed to the several potholes on the street.
An Upper Regent Street store owner informed that he unloads his merchandise from the containers at the wharves they are docked at and transfers his goods to trucks to transport them.
Other business owners said that they were only informed of the fee from newspaper reports and have not received any correspondence from City Hall on the issue.
“Nah, Nah we don’t pay anything right now and I offload a container last week. We only hear about this thing in the papers you know. City Hall aint tell me nothing, well at least not yet…I aint going looking for expense to say I leffing here to go and ask them either. Ah look stupid?” one man stated.
“Look, City Hall know money yeh. Everything is a charge, this money here that money there is something…that money is too much and they don’t understand that the more they put the pressure pon we is de more we got to squeeze the people them that buying,” he added.
According to Stabroek News reports the “container tax” was first proposed by the council in December 1999 as one of several measures to improve the viability of the city by diversifying its revenue base.
Despite repeated requests by the then council to meet with government to have these issues discussed and possibly implemented a meeting was not held until December 2010. Officials of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry met with President Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss the decision by the city to implement the container tax from January 2011.
A report on the meeting quoted then Chairman of the PSC Ramesh Dookhoo, as stating that clarity was being sought after there was an expressed intention to tax containers for parking purposes effective from January 2, 2011.
The meeting with President Jagdeo was sought after dialogue between the M&CC and the Chamber on the issue was unsuccessful and Dookhoo stated that the matter had been amicably resolved with a decision being reached to “shelve” the tax.