City councilors on Monday voted for the vendors from the Stabroek Market wharf to be able to immediately occupy the area at Russell Square, even as council awaits funding assistance from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure for completion of works at the location.
This will allow vendors to construct their temporary stalls while the council awaits the approval of supplementary funds to aid in the development of Russell Square, located west of the Public Buildings.
Monday’s vote came as a result of the Mayor and City Council reaching out to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure for help on preparing the Russell Square spot for the vendors to be moved. At the council’s final statutory meeting on Monday, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green brought the option to the table after receiving a phone call from the Minister of Public Infrastructure.
The mayor told the meeting that the ministry is expected to receive a supplementary budget on November 31st and the ministry would be willing to help the council complete works on and around Russell Square for the vendors to occupy.
Acting Town Clerk, Sharon Harry-Munroe, while addressing the meeting, stated that the current contractors, Chung’s Global Enterprise, was willing to get the works done while they await payment. That would, however, have to be approved by the council.
She then said that if the council was to approve, the contractor would move forward with the works immediately. She later stated that the council had contacted the Ministry of Public Infrastructure but was not given a response.
When the Mayor, through the Town Clerk, asked what would be the best way forward, Chief City Engineer Colvern Venture told the meeting that some sections within the fenced Russell Square area could be utilized by the vendors but it would pose a challenge once the council was ready to continue works in the area.
Another option which was brought up at the meeting was for the council to open another line of credit with Chung’s Global, which previously had a contract with the council to complete works and recap the said space.
According to the Town Clerk, the works that are yet to be completed would come up in excess of $12 million, according to a contract she reviewed.
The Mayor then noted that the council is currently strapped for cash and would not be able to pay that sum to the contractor. Chase-Green stated that even though the contractor is willing to do the work in a timely manner, the council does not have the funds to move forward with that option.
Councilor Ivelaw Henry, in response to that, stated that the council should be business-like in terms of dealing with finances but stated that the council needs more facts before moving on with a decision. Henry then questioned how much money is owed to Chung’s Global.
Councilor Khame Sharma chimed in in agreement with Henry, stating that more information should be provided so as to find a way forward. Sharma then stated that the vendors have been waiting for too long and something should be done so the vendors can get back to earning a livelihood.
However, Councilor Ron Persaud opposed and stated that the council should continue with Chung’s Global as it might be difficult to turn back at the last moment. Persaud said that the council should accept Chung’s Global’s offer, continue to pay them and service the debt.
Eventually, councilors were asked to vote on an option. Sixteen councilors voted in favour of the option to allow vendors to construct temporary, mobile stalls at Russell Square until the Ministry obtains the funds to lend help to the council.
Stabroek News had previously reported that vendors occupying the Stabroek Market wharf had been required to cease operations on September 14th, after a cease and desist notice was served due to the perilous state of the wharf.