City Hall’s helplessness in another potentially emerging crisis

The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over. We are back to the proverbial square one where there is no extant contractual arrangement for garbage disposal and even if there was one City Hall has no resources with which to liquidate whatever debts it incurs, going forward. We understand, too, that the short-term help which the City had pressed into service earlier this year may no longer be available since they too are now owed outstanding amounts by City Hall.

What City Hall should have done late last year was to utilise the last five weeks of 2017, during which time the burden of meeting the City’s garbage collection bill had been removed from its back, to do what it could to try to reach some sort of modus vivendi with its two key contractors by last year end. Instead it dithered. Town Clerk Royston King waited literally until the last day of 2017 to write to the two contractors calling them to a meeting to discuss a resumption of their respective garbage disposal services.

To say that Mr. King’s letter reached the giddy heights of the ridiculous is to indulge in considerable understatement. Setting aside the fact that to wait until the day of the expiration of the arrangement with government to write to the two contractors requiring them to engage the Council was an act of unfathomable disrespect, City Hall also appeared to overlook completely the fact that it had earlier notified the two companies that their services had been terminated. In effect, there was no basis that allowed for City Hall to demand anything of either Cevon’s Waste Management or Puran Brothers.

On Wednesday last, Cevons Waste Management made it clear (and what it said appeared to have the blessing of Puran Brothers) in a media release that it was not prepared to engage with City Hall in circumstances  where the letter of termination still stood. In fact, Cevon’s Chief Executive Officer Morse Archer told this newspaper over the phone that while he believed that the parties should put the interest of the City first he was altogether unprepared to have his company return to the quagmire in which it had found itself prior to central government’s intervention. It is difficult to disagree with Cevons’ position.

Assuming that the conditions become convivial for a discourse between the two private contractors and City Hall, however, there is still another huge mountain to climb. Between the end of November when government agreed to meet the City’s liabilities to the contractors, including bills for garbage collection up to the end of December 2017, there emerged absolutely no indication that City Hall had placed itself in a position to foot the bill for urban garbage collection. In the circumstances one might well ask whether the real issue here is not the thorough helplessness of City Hall in terms of its ability to strike a realistic garbage disposal deal with its contractors and if so, aren’t we, whatever the outcome of any engagement between the parties, aren’t we batting on a sticky wicket anyway.

The reality is that for all its bluster the Georgetown municipality has demonstrated a patent inability to generate sufficient funds to meet its routine obligations. It is no secret that but for the aggressive lobby mounted by Cevons Waste Management, in particular, the two companies would still have been considerably out of pocket.

Contextually, one may well ask whether, in the circumstances, there is any real point to discourse between City Hall and the contractors in circumstances where it is almost certain that City Hall will be unable to offer any reasonable assurances with regard to uninterrupted garbage collection.

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