City to charge residents garbage collection fee

Royston King

The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) will be moving to charge residents a per barrel fee for garbage collection from the start of next month, Town Clerk Royston King announced yesterday, while saying it would be used to assist the cash-strapped municipality in offsetting the extremely high cost of the service.

The implementation of the fee, which King said could be $200, comes just a few months after the city began charging businesses monthly fees for the collection of commercial and industrial waste.

From September 1st last year, city businesses classified in three categories, small, medium and large, have been billed $5,000, $8,000 and $12,000 per month, respectively, for garbage disposal. At that time, King justified the need for the introduction of the fees by stating that the council must spend in excess of $50 million per month to dispose of the city’s waste. There was no mention of a fee for residents at that time.

At a press conference yesterday, King said that the suggestion of a residential fee for the service was first made by the Director of Solid Waste Walter Narine, discussed at the level of the M&CC’s Finance Committee and approved by council. Asked by Stabroek News to identify the date or month during which these discussions took place and when approval was granted, both King and Narine were unable to do so.King, however, stressed that approval of the charge was given in principle and added that the council will work out the “modalities” of how the fee would be applied before February 1st, 2018.

He explained that the collection and disposal of solid waste currently costs council approximately $600 per barrel and, therefore, once the fee is implemented, the council will in reality be subsidising the cost at $400 per barrel.

Though disposal of waste is one of the legal mandates of the council, King explained that the current sums attached to rates and taxes—council’s main revenue source—are not enough to meet its expenditure and therefore the new fee is one of several measures which will help mitigate costs.

“We could no longer work with just the flat rate, which would include the collection of garbage… even though we’re asking homeowners to pay a small fee, the council will still continue to heavily subsidise the collection,” he said.

The city has repeatedly faced challenges with the collection and disposal of garbage. Several areas of the city had actually been without the service until yesterday, when the two largest contractors, Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers Disposal Inc, resumed their collection services for the M&CC. The contractors had stopped working on January 1, 2018 after a temporary arrangement with the Central Government came to an end.

Their previous decision to suspend their garbage collection services as a result of non-payment by the council in August last year had resulted in King, by way of letter, informing them of the termination of their contracts. This resulted in many residents and businesses having to endure several weeks or “unreliable” services by small contractors that were subsequently retained. However, Central Government, through the Ministry of Communities, intervened in November, at which time the two companies agreed to resume their work for the period November 27th to December 31st, 2017, after which time efforts would be made to review the council’s agreement with the companies early in the new year.

Despite this, both companies have said that the M&CC had failed to engage them during the five-week period and that it was not until December 31st, when their contracts with Central Government was up, that they received a letter from the council requesting them to continue their services.

However, it was the position of both companies that the continuation of work would only be done once the letter issued to them terminating their contracts was withdrawn since they wanted to be cognisant of the conditions under which they will be rendering their services.

These letters have since been withdrawn and King has noted that they are considering several proposals from both contractors as to the way forward. Meanwhile the contractors continue to provide services under their original contract with a verbal promise from the Town Clerk that the council will meet their financial obligations on time.

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