Efforts are afoot to have Mabaruma become a model town in Guyana’s hinterland with a focus on a green economy and youth development.
This was disclosed during a recent interview with Mayor Henry Smith and Town Clerk Barrington Wade, the latter of whom related that with a “skeleton staff” of only four permanent employees, the Mabaruma Town Council endeavours to be “service oriented,” as it strives to accomplish the big plans set out for the development of the town.
“We have a very small staff and I was telling them the other day that this is not a place for talks, it’s a place for action,” Wade said.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Town Council encountered difficulties in garnering the support of the “Opposition’s elements,” as a result of on-going court proceedings regarding the appointment of Smith as Mayor by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, both men said plans are underway to transform Mabaruma into a model town in Guyana’s hinterland.
“Every time we tried to have them at a meeting they wouldn’t come, or if they came they would walk out. My personal view is that had they been willing to sit down with us from the inception we would’ve been far ahead, but it was not until Mr. Ward came as Town Clerk that we were able to develop strategies to have them sit and have dialogue with us and things started picking up,” Smith said.
Looking at what they have managed to accomplish since the Local Government Elections (LGE) which were held last year March, the Town Clerk began by mentioning the efforts made to build cohesion among the councillors from the two political parties.
Wade, a re-migrant was appointed Town Clerk last August to replace Ovid Morrison who now serves in the capacity of Regional Executive Officer for Region Five.
“One of the things I noticed to be lacking when I came in last year was the cohesion among the Councillors from the two different political parties. However, we were able to work through that and bring everybody to the table, so as to allow somewhat of a united front in the interest of the municipality,” Wade told Stabroek News.
Noting that the town was established in what he considers to be a very strategic area in Guyana, Wade said the council is looking to incorporate certain aspects of Mabaruma’s history and culture of its first Peoples in the modernization and development of the town.
Consisting of six constituencies, namely Hosororo Hill, Mabaruma Settlement-Barimanobo, Kumaka, Thomas Hill-Smith Creek, Mabaruma Township/ Mabaruma Compound and Broomes Estate, as well as Barabina- Koberimo, the Town council sought to ensure that efforts were being made to have each constituency properly organized to ensure that there is democracy.
Wade also alluded to the plans in store for Hosororo, a constituency he says has an important role to play in the development of the town.
It is with this in mind that the council is looking to upgrade the playfield in the community and develop a “complete package” for young people in the area. This, according to Wade would include the establishment of a hard court volleyball area and a green park.
Another focal point would be the use of sports as a vehicle for the development of youth from the Mabaruma Township.
Just recently, a team from the sub-region was signed as official members of the Guyana Football Federation, a step in the right direction according to Wade who noted that while the youth of Mabaruma and others in the township are “very talented,” they lack the facilities and opportunities to excel beyond the confines of the Region.
Efforts will also be made to have a pavilion erected there, which can also be used as a meeting place, and market place, all of which will help in it becoming the hub for activities for surrounding communities.
“At present, Hosororo is at a transition point for many villages, such as Bunbury Hill, Wauna, and Koberimo and so what we want to do now is establish a marketing centre there, where people can come out and market their produce and other items such as crabs, cassava bread and casareep,” he said.
“Well, as we believe that not everyone should have to come all the way to Kumaka to do their shopping…this would also help in the cut down some of the activities and movement of people,” Wade added.
Also, focusing on the production of avocado pears in Hosororo, the Town Clerk said efforts are underway to establish markets for the exportation of over 5000 avocados, since it is one of several products that are abundant in Hosororo and surrounding communities.
Further, the installation of street lights and road works there will be undertaken by the Regional Demo-cratic Council and Central Government, while an improvement of the water supply in Hosororo is being looked at by the Guyana Water Inc.
Another key area of focus for the municipality is Kumaka, as it is one of the main ports for the town and has been described as a very diverse community since people from all parts of Guyana live there.
At present, Wade said the municipality has taken over the once controversial Kumaka Market Tarmac and has begun rehabilitative works, which includes the construction of 22 stalls on the tarmac, with the intention of eventually housing over 100 vendors who currently inhabit stalls at the Kumaka Waterfront.
In addition to the market stalls, Wade said that with the right amount of work, he hopes to see the variety of services offered at Kumaka improve, to possibly even include businesses such as dress shops, restaurants, and barbershops, just to name a few.
“What is interesting is that people in Kumaka are used to selling one type of goods and that is dry goods, but we are trying to get all areas involved to see what types of service we need so as to lift the community… We want things like bridal rooms, barbershops, restaurants and the rest. If you walk around Kumaka now and ask for 10 lbs. of ice you can’t find it. So we are talking to people to come in and put in a little ice depot; these are some of the little things we need up here,” the Town Clerk related.
It was on this note that Wade disclosed that the council had engaged the Department of Public Health to assess the food stands at the Kumaka Waterfront since they have been deemed the most vulnerable.
“We want to have them trained in the preparation of food, so when they come from the aircraft and go to Kumaka, they know the water is safe, the food is safe,” the Town Clerk shared.
In addition to this, the council is looking to partner with three businesses to filter and package drinking water in Mabaruma.
“Every year we bring tons and tons of water from Georgetown and other parts of the country. However, we are currently in discussion with three companies, whereby we are going to do the filtering and packaging here on the ground; not only would this mean more employment opportunities for the people, but we would be cutting down transportation costs while having a better product, at cheaper price,” he explained.
Commenting on the infrastructure aspect of things, Wade said the council is also looking to construct a stelling which would accommodate the sale of fuel in a regulated and organized manner. Part of that area will also cater for the fishermen.
This being said, Wade disclosed that the council has engaged two companies who are interested in the packaging of salted fish which would be an asset to Mabaruma, more so since it is a hub to mining areas in the sub-region
“We are also looking to move all those disorganized shops from Kumaka and bringing them to order on the tarmac, and building ambiance with the establishment of play parks,” he added.
In places like Silver Hill and Koberimo, efforts are being made to address the construction and rehabilitation of roads.
In the case of Silver Hill, Wade said that by addressing the road issues there, students who travel from there to the secondary school would be helped a great deal, while adding that two million dollars from the council’s annual subvention of $15 million has already been allocated for the first phase of construction for the Koberimo road.
“I want to say that the time we started that it was difficult for some persons to understand that we are gearing to township status with the very poor infrastructure but we are moving very, very fast and I can see that by next year we would be in a very strong position in moving forward.
Tax and Revenue Collection
“It is very frightening when people hear taxation and collection, but we were able to use the kinds of strategy that brought some comfort to them and we have seen the results already, especially when it comes to garbage collection,” Wade noted.
A burning issue in the developing town is garbage disposal, since, according to the Town Clerk there were never really any plans in place for garbage collection there.
Making mention of the National Solid Waste Management Strategy (NSWMS) which will eventually be rolled out countrywide, Wade said the council has put in place a programme that started about a month ago, where the municipality’s tractor would be picking up the garbage at Kumaka until the national programme comes on stream.
Further, efforts will be made to have the Department of Health engage those who own or operate guest houses on sanitary disposal, while the other constituencies with smaller amounts of garbage output will be encouraged to undertake composting.
Notwithstanding all these efforts, the town council has already identified 10 acres of land to be used for garbage disposal with preparatory work set to commence soon.
“What is happening is that a site has been identified and they are using that now, but we have identified another site that is going to be developed in the right way and that will be coming on stream very shortly,” Wade said.
As it relates to rates and taxes on homes and other buildings, the Town Clerk said, “At the moment based on the laws, we can only collect rates from stalls in the market, and that is what we are doing at the moment…The Ministry of Communities as well as the Ministry of Finance will have to come and do an evaluation in terms of all the buildings, and then go through the legal requirements before declaring that we can collect rates and taxes from homes.”
However, once this is achieved the monies collected will account for 75 percent of the Council’s revenue.
Notwithstanding, the council will be embarking on other forms of income generation, some of which include the development of spaces that can be rented, as well as some focus on tourism with the review of places like the Hosororo Waterfall and Barima End, with the latter being opened for sport fishing and canoeing.
Commenting on the response from residents, both Wade and Smith agreed that though the initial challenges caused the council to start off on the wrong foot, once the arrangements were put in place, they started to receive positive feedback from residents, both in and out of the Town.