City still owes hundreds of millions to contractors

A cash-strapped City Hall still owes hundreds of millions of dollars to contractors and two major projects have been temporarily shelved due to the cash crunch.

“We owe almost all of our contractors’ monies for works they have done because there has been a shortage of financial resources,” Town Clerk Royston King told Stabroek News on Thursday. As a result, works on the Kitty Market restoration project and the Presidential Park between Orange Walk and Cummings Street, have been halted.

Stabroek News was told that about $200 million is owed to Chung’s Global Enterprise for work on the Presidential Park which is supposed to be an open space in honour of past and current presidents.

 The current state of the Kitty Market
The current state of the Kitty Market

King also said that the inclement weather conditions contributed to the temporary halt on the projects especially the Kitty Market. The city had previously announced that some $240 million would be spent on the restoration of the market, which began in February.

Sourcing the right type of materials for the restoration of the market also resulted in the setback, King said. He added that works on the market should have recommenced on Thursday while work is slated to restart on the Presidential Park in two weeks.

 Works ongoing at the market.
Works ongoing at the market.

The town clerk noted that within the last year, City Hall has undertaken some massive cleanup and developmental projects within Georgetown. “We have had several projects and if citizens compare the last 10 months to the current state of the city and the physical condition, they would see we have strained our resources [and] the municipality is indebted to all its contractors,” King said.

He emphasised that the municipality’s treasury is very shallow and there is a threat of a financial crisis which is why they are moving to implement revenue-generating projects such as the controversial parking meters project. Under the deal struck between the city and National Parking Systems/ Smart Cities Solutions, it has been proposed that $125 be charged per 15-minute rotation. However, there has been an outcry given the secretive nature of the deal with only a few top officials privy to the details. The government has asked Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan to examine the contract.

King said City Hall is working to overcome the financial strain by seeking to collect outstanding rates and taxes from property owners and implementing other revenue generating measures. He emphasised that the projects are being done to transition Georgetown from a “shantytown into a modern city. We are putting in certain features of a modern city…”

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