Solid Waste Director says city garbage contractors overstretched

-warns council of ‘alarming’ situation at Stabroek Market

Walter Narine

Even with the city council’s garbage trucks non-functional, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has refused to approve the hiring of a sixth contractor to remove the garbage currently accumulating in the commercial areas as well as in Alberttown and Queenstown.

At yesterday’s statutory council meeting, Solid Waste Director Walter Narine once again informed the councillors that the city’s current management of its solid waste is less than ideal. “The situation at Stabroek Market is becoming alarming,” he said as he stressed that although the small contractors currently working with council try their best, Alberttown, Queenstown and some parts of the commercial district have not had waste collected for the week.

Narine explained that these areas are actually the responsibility of his department but since the few pieces of equipment allocated to the department have been used non-stop for four months, they have all malfunctioned and are currently in the workshop. “The one garbage truck we have was working 5 am to 10 pm for six days a week, from November 26 to last week when the truck completely shut down,” he explained, before noting that this is concerning since a compactor which had been placed in front of the Stabroek Market is also in the workshop for repair.

“We put dumpsters there and the truck that removes the dumpsters is in the workshop,” Narine said of the area, which generates 11 tonnes of garbage everyday

He repeatedly stressed that the truck had been experiencing problems since February, around Mashramani, and the department requisitioned for a clutch assembly to remedy the issue. This requisition was not honoured until yesterday, when the workshop manager received a cheque from the City Treasurer’s Department.

Despite both Narine and acting Town Clerk Sharon Harry-Munroe informing the council that the small contractors have been unable to alleviate the problem, the council refused to approve the hiring of a sixth contractor and argued that the five contractors currently on the payroll should be able to do the additional work at a reduced cost.

Narine had informed council that a compactor would have to be rented at a cost of $45,000 per day or $315,000 per week, while $175,000 per week would be required for Cevons Waste Management to clear dumpsters across the city and $420,000 per week for clearance in the commercial areas. It was proposed that Sandip Waste Management, which had previously worked with council, be engaged to provide clearance in the commercial areas.

“If we want to deliver the citizens at a certain level, we need council’s fiat to employ these persons,” Harry-Munroe said in support of Narine’s proposal.

The councillors, however, refused to give its support to all but one of the proposals. They agreed to pay Cevons for the emptying of the council’s dumpsters across the city, directed that the compactor at Stabroek Market be replaced with skip bins and repeatedly argued that the currently overworked small contractors should be able to provide extra clearance at a reduced cost.

“In business, you make economies… in an emergency situation they should be able to fit in,” Councillor Heston Bostwick argued, with support from other councillors, including former deputy Mayor Akeem Peter.

Currently, solid waste contractors are paid based on the volume of waste generated in the area they are contracted to clear.

This situation is the latest of a series of problems plaguing the council’s solid waste management since the suspension of its contracts with Puran Brothers Waste Disposal and Cevons Waste Management.

The two companies on November 26th withdrew their services from the municipality after it failed to pay a total of $160 million for the work they had done since last June. The two companies subsequently issued a joint statement calling on Central Government to intervene in order for them to be paid.

Responding to their call, the Ministry of Communities intervened and agreed to pay off a substantial amount owed to the two companies, resulting in both companies signaling their readiness to return and provide their services to the city.

The Ministry of Communities agreed to pay the contractors the full sum of $160 million owed to them after initially saying it would pay $130 million, with the city responsible for the remainder.

On December 31st, the council agreed to reengage the two companies in a “temporary arrangement” and entered into a verbal contract to have Puran Brothers work in City Groups 7 and 9 and manage the static compactor at Albouystown market, while Cevons operates in Group 5 and 6 and manages the Bourda market compactor. The companies returned to work in the earmarked areas on January 1st but have not been paid, since according to Narine, their invoices reference the rates within the 2015 contracts rather that those agreed to in the “verbal contract.”

Also accommodated under the temporary arrangement are the five small contractors, who agreed to work along with city’s Solid Waste Department to maintain the garbage collection service offered to businesses and citizens. The agreements between the five contractors–Garbage Eaters, Grandison, C&S Garbage Collectors, Trash Tech and Tristara–has been extended month after month while councils claims it is waiting a definitive legal opinion on the status of its contracts with Puran Brothers and Cevons, which it believes were in breach when they suspending their services.

 

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