Following a tense stand-off in which a member of the city police drew his gun, City Hall yesterday removed four large swimming pools that it says were encumbering reserves along Sheriff Street.
However, following the operation, the Managing Director for the Amazonia Swimming Pool Company Guyana, which owns the pools, said the company had been granted until Saturday to remove them and warned that the actions of the municipality would likely see the withdrawal of the Brazilian investor.
City council workers were attempting to remove the pools, valued at over $14M, when employees from the pool company showed up and attempted to prevent the removal. Tempers flared as one of the employees got into an argument with an inspector of the city constabulary. The confrontation resulted in the officer arming himself with a gun to prevent the employee from further obstructing the council’s work.
The city’s initial plan was to “cut up” the pools and have the pieces removed. However, a decision was eventually made to move the pools for storage at the Solid Waste Management Unit.
After the operation, City Hall spokeswoman Debra Lewis told Stabroek News that the pools were illegal encumbrances on the city reserves.
She added that the placement of the large pools on the parapets was also a traffic hazard and contributed to the breeding of mosquitoes due to the drains being blocked by their placement.
Stabroek News was told that residents also made complaints to the council since the pools were placed in front of other residential properties.
According to Lewis, the council visited the area last Thursday and tried to contact the owners but their efforts were futile. However, she said contact was made via phone and they informed the company it was in breach of the law.
However, a statement from Managing Director of Amazonia Swimming Pool Company Shelliza Allie, said that two Mondays ago she was contacted by City Engineer Colvern Venture, who informed that the company was in breach of the law by displaying the swimming pools on the outside of the building.
According to Allie, she was invited to a meeting to discuss reaching an “amicable solution” but she did not attend. “After discussion with the other directors we realized that we were in breach of the law and decided that attending a meeting would serve no purpose and may place us in a compromising position. We could not understand what amicable solution would arise from us breaking the law and felt as if we were being asked indirectly to offer bribes to officials to turn a blind eye to this situation,” she opined.
Allie said the company informed the City Council through Venture that it would comply and remove the swimming pools. She said she was never served with a notice, for which she had asked, although she was told that Venture had prepared one.
Allie added that she was later informed through WhatsApp messages from Venture that if he served the notice, she would have 48 hours to comply before actions were taken by the council. “I told him I am in the process of moving but needed the notice for my records and for the landlords of the premise,” she said, while adding that up to yesterday she had not received a notice although she provided an address where it could be delivered.
Allie noted that they had sought time for the removal of the swimming pools and they were granted up to Saturday.
She added that an attempt to move the pools to load unto the truck was aborted on Wednesday after the vehicle experienced a mechanical failure.
Allie, who noted she was attending a funeral at Berbice, said she received a surprising call from a colleague yesterday about the city moving to cut up and dump the swimming pools.
She said she was denied an audience over the phone with the officer in charge of the operation and later saw a video of his confrontation with an unarmed associate.
She pointed out that she has done the firearm training course and argued that the city policeman acted in breach of guidelines since a weapon should only be drawn for a definite use or upon the belief of a threat to life.
“This is bullyism and power drunk behaviour by City Hall,” she declared as a result. “I strongly believe after I refused to meet with members of City Hall, to come to a so called amicable solution, I angered City Hall’s officials who decided to pay me back by destroying millions of dollars in swimming pools,” she added.
Allie said while the government is seeking to attract foreign investment, such situations like yesterday’s operation will hamper progress. She said the Brazilian company will “certainly pull out their investment” due to the incident.
Town Clerk Royston King, at the site of the operation, lamented that some persons have become accustomed to illegal activities and had no respect for the law.