It had always appeared to be the case that the assurance given the citizenry by Town Clerk Royston King in a statement last week that following the withdrawal of services by City Hall’s substantive service providers, Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers, the City was putting in place contingency measures to manage, in an environmental friendly manner, the city’s waste disposal, was little more than just another example of the municipality getting ahead of itself. No less fanciful was Mr. King’s assertion the City Hall will “re-tool, re-fleet and re-equip” its Solid Waste Department “to haul and dispose of at least 60% of the city’s waste by the end of December 2017” and that “Technical teams and mechanics will be retrained to service and maintain trucks with new technologies.” As one of City Hall’s own employees with whom, this newspaper spoke, put it, “pigs will fly first.”

Anyone who has even a remote understanding of how City Hall works would be aware that these pronouncements are no more than the vocalization of wishful thinking. But perhaps more than that they are manifestations of the low esteem in which the municipality holds the citizenry.  

No environmental assurances

As it happened Mr. King never really fooled anyone. In their dealings with City Hall the citizens of Georgetown have learnt to endure, to trap the eye pass and the cynicism of the municipality and throw it right back like balls of rolled up cigarette paper. By Friday of last week the stench of garbage that had sat in bins for long enough without being cleared had begun to rise in some inner city communities. In some downtown areas, business houses had begun to enter into bilateral agreements with the terminated garbage disposal companies to have their garbage removed…and Mr. King’s undertaking about disposing of the garbage in an “environmentally friendly manner” had vanished like butter ‘gainst the sun.

Over the weekend the situation grew worse. By early this week the media was providing evidence of the yawning gap between the Town Clerk’s undertaking and what was on offer as an environmentally friendly service…an assortment of canters and larger trucks laden with often dripping garbage, depositing small puddles at intervals.

What City Hall is only too well aware of is that the status quo is what it is and that the municipality is not as accountable as it should be for the Town Clerk’s failed undertaking and the environmental consequences. Large deposits of garbage in one place create their own unpalatable public responses and those responses do not always come in the form of remedial action.

But the Town Clerk’s attention has long refocused (or at least so it seems) to the prospects of litigation which, somehow, can pin the blame for the present garbage crisis in the city not on the collapse of his undertaking to provide an environmentally reliable replacement  for Cevons and Puran Brothers but on some clause in their respective contracts with the Council dictating that whatever the degree of absurdity into which their conditions of service might slip, withdrawal of those services is simply not on the cards. King clearly seeks to be in the position of holding on to his sugar cake whilst devouring it at the same time.

The government’s silence up to this time is worrisome If no one is mindful of a needlessly interventionist central government there is nothing to be gained by anyone by central government remaining mum on the matter. If it remains true that the debt owing to Cevons and Puran is a substantive municipality responsibility, in circumstances where City Hall finds itself in the customary position of being unable to liquidate its debts, central government must step up and fill the breach. The option of leaving these two private sector entities out of pocket, each to the tune of tens of millions of dollars whilst holding fast to the position that it is a City Hall matter and no concern of central government is not a viable option. Contextually, we need to remind ourselves that the available evidence already manifestly suggests that in the period ahead there is no reliable garbage disposal alternative to the two out-of-pocket service providers.

City Hall has, in the recent past, proven itself to be adept for ‘toughing it out’ even from the most awkward positions, hoping that the other side would crack first. As it happened the other side, in the instance of the Parking Meter saga, succeeded in out-hustling the municipality in the court of public opinion. Contextually, it was heartening to see the response of the private sector to the appeal of the two companies for their support. That response came at a time when City Hall appeared to be assuming that it could smother its two contractors with its political weight.

As things stand, however, one cannot say unequivocally that we have passed the worst. The situation could still slide into a state of brinkmanship with its attendant consequences, not least a horrendous pileup of garbage and all of its attendant consequences. Accordingly, and if only out of the  concern that arises out of what we know to be City Hall’s propensity for indulging in public bellicosity in situations such as this, we need to put this behind us quickly.

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