Three years after it was closed under the former administration the toll booth at the Kara Kara Bridge reopened yesterday, in a bid to increase the revenue in Linden.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Mayor of Linden Carwyn Holland dubbed the reintroduction of toll booth as “a day that Lindeners eagerly awaited.”
Explaining why the council decided to reintroduce the tolls, Holland said, “We brought it back mainly because… Linden needs revenue. The municipality needs the revenue to pay salaries, to pay NIS, to pay gratuity,” Holland explained, while stating that in the past several corporations had agreed to pay monthly after the toll both had closed but it wasn’t long before they stopped doing so.
“They [companies] became reluctant to pay and then they stopped paying in total. We don’t know why it was closed then but it had significantly impacted Linden in a negative way,” Holland said.
He further explained that since closing of the booth other businesses from outside of the town found it easier to enter Linden and ply their trade, opening new competition to the Lindeners. “Residents and local businesses were starting to have to compete with out-of-town mobile shops that came into the township and weren’t required to pay anything. They continued to sell all around offering stiffer competition to residents and businesses,” he said, stating that the closure of the toll booth echoed through the town and greatly assisted with the further decline of its economy.
A large number of persons lost their jobs since businesses were forced to close down.
“I am happy today that we can see the return [of the toll booth]. …Persons had claimed that it wasn’t gazetted but the new council put it back on the table and did it the right way to have it legally opened and operated.
It took us several months back and forth, several consultations and several changes but we are happy that today we would’ve had a handshake between the loggers and the municipality to share a common goal,” he said.
But Holland explained that even though the reintroduction to the toll booth will assist the economy positively, it will not answer the town’s economic problems. “It will just contribute to a small fraction of what the town needs to cover our expenses. However, we are looking at several other areas of bringing revenue into the town,” Holland explained.
He said one of the options that the council is lobbying for is the relocation of the Linden – Mahdia/Lethem bus park to Wismar, Linden. “Right now all that happens is that they pass through Linden and maybe if they are relocated to Wismar and then you would have to take a bus from Georgetown to Linden and then get a bus from Wismar to either Mahdia or Lethem then we would be able to garner some revenue from that,” he said.
Holland also highlighted eco-tourism and sports and said the council will be reevaluating the rates across the town.
“We renewed the call and I reminded the Regional Chairman [Rennis Morian] it is the municipality who revised the call for the municipal airstrip and we are calling for it to bring in the much needed revenue,” he said, pointing out that this was one of the promises made during his campaign for local government elections and he intends to fulfil the promise.
Holland said the council was also placing special emphasis on alternative energy. He is of the opinion that if they were to reduce the amount of money they spend on energy they could save a lot.
Present at the launching of the reintroduction of the toll booth was Attorney General Basil Williams who made brief remarks.
A representative of the loggers expressed his joy at the council and loggers finding common ground.
The purpose of the Kara Kara Bridge toll booth is to collect revenue from vehicles transporting lumber and other resources through Linden. Stabroek News understands that the proposed fees reflect a 39% increase over the old fees.
The toll was stopped by the former PPP/C government in 2013, much to the chagrin of the cash-strapped Interim Management Committee of the Linden Town Council, which depended on the funds. Then local government minister Norman Whittaker had sent a letter to the council stating that any council employee who manned the booth would be dismissed immediately and anybody employed to work there would be charged with extortion.
Since the closing of the booth, the town council and the residents have been back and forth with proposals to have it reopened.
However, while it was initially proposed that Lindeners would have to pay a bi-annual fee to enter into the town, after several consultations, with the final one being just over two weeks ago, the council came to a decision where they had agreed that businesses registered in the town would pay 25% of the revised Kara Kara tolls.
Holland had pointed out that while there is a base cost for persons outside of Linden, persons who have registered businesses in Linden will only have to pay a fraction of the base cost. “….Especially the loggers, they will have to pay 25% of whatever the toll is. So let’s say that it is $7,000 for a hauler then a Lindener will only have to pay 25% of that at the booth,” Holland had explained.