City councillors yesterday took a decision to use unspent funds allocated for the second phase of the Kitty Market restoration project to undertake emergency drainage works in South Georgetown constituencies.
A December 7th, 2017 decision to use $50 million from the $200 million Georgetown Restoration Programme for the market works was annulled upon a motion tabled by Councillor Oscar Clarke, of the APNU+AFC.
The motion was seconded by fellow APNU+AFC councillor Heston Bostwick.
Areas in South Georgetown, including North, South, East and West Ruimveldt, East La Penitence and Riverview, have been flooded in recent weeks during May/June rains. Streets in North Ruimveldt at present have been inundated for weeks as flooding frequently recurs in the community due to poor drainage.
After an hour-long debate, with councillors speaking for and against the motion, 16 councillors, including Team Legacy’s Carolyn Caesar-Murray, voted in favour of the motion, while PPP/C councillors Bishram Kuppen and Khame Sharma abstained with APNU Councillor Wellton Clarke. Carlyle Goring, AFC constituency councillor for Kitty/Subryanville, voted against the motion.
Clarke’s motion said Mayor Patricia Chase-Green met with community leaders and other residents three weeks ago. “In some areas storm water remains on parapets, thoroughfares and other reserves with no sign of abatement. This has potential for huge public and environmental health challenges. It is also affecting the integrity of physical properties of residents in those communities,” it stated.
With the council not in possession of the money to undertake the immediate drainage works, the motion noted that it has received the blessing of central government to reassign the use of the funds after an approach by the Mayor’s office.
Clarke noted that during a discussion at Cabinet, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan committed to making the money available. He stated that the minister in his wisdom had initially suggested that since the $50 million that was made available for phase two of the market restoration was not used, it should be redirected and that was agreed upon.
“The Minister wrote to the Mayor of Georgetown indicating to her of the decision in this regard and this motion is a formality… This is a formality and we need to do so, so we do not break the law,” Clarke added.
He said the drainage works are estimated at $61 million and while the $50 million will be sourced from the Restoration Fund, the additional sum would be gifted to the council.
In seeking support of his fellow councillors for the reallocation of the funds, Clarke assured that there was no “ulterior motive” for the decision. “…It is a very straightforward motion, having regard that there is an emergency situation in south Georgetown with the drainage system,” he said.
Also speaking for the motion was its seconder, Bostwick, who said that he was pleased to see the funds directed to a “crisis” project, instead of returning to the Consolidated Fund. “It is better to have this money utilised and bring relief to residents than go back,” he said.
Meanwhile, Goring, while expressing empathy with the residents of South Georgetown, said he was disappointed that the market project is nowhere close to be completed. The project was initiated in 2016. “I am disappointed as councillor of that constituency because we procrastinated and didn’t use the money and now we have to find our own money. This should be a lesson to act and make use of what is given to us. If we had used this money, Central Government would have been able to help some other way,” he lamented.
Goring pointed out that the longer the market takes to be completed, the longer vendors continue to suffer.
Clarke’s motion stated that the cash-strapped council would continue to use its own resources to complete the Kitty Market project.
While the debate was ongoing, Councillor Andrea Marks, of Constituency Six (Cummings Lodge North, Central & South, Pattensen/Turkeyen South) managed to remind the council that the main drains of her constituency also need clearing. “We understand the plight of those people but when are you going to ask for money to come look after my people drains?” she questioned as a burst of laughter erupted from her audience. “Them ain’t remembering me or my area, so I have to get up and remind them,” she added, when she was later told to sit by a fellow councillor.
The works in the community are likely to commence immediately as a plan of action has already been formulated between the Ministries of Communities and Public Infrastructure and M&CC, Clarke informed the council upon the passage of the motion.