The plea of the Belmopan Market Vendors continues and today we spoke with the acting City Administrator Yolanda Chun, who updated us on the Council’s position in the matter.
“The process that we took is that we had looked at the history of our market vendors. The history had shown us that we have 79 vendors that have been with us and have started actually with the market and we also looked at the link with payments. So, those that we did out, we tried to give preference to all those who are first time vendors”.
The First matter we asked her to address was the fact that only a select few of the Market Vendors were invited by means of a letter to have a spot at the new market after the refurbishments have been completed. Chun conceded that over 100 vendors were relocated from the old Civic Center but only 79 were offered a contract that would secure them a spot at the new market. We asked Chun to explain the selection process for these 79 spots.
Ms. Yolanda Chun: “It was stated in the letter that it could be paid in a quarterly basis- January, April, July and October. This would be, or the full payment on the 21st December, 2013. The letter did say to them that they would appreciate the acceptance of the conditions given them on the letter by 31st of October, so that they will confirm if they will utilize their space at the Civic Centre, the new market that is being refurbished when they are moved back from the Show grounds”.
Another aspect of that letter which evoked much distaste on the part of the vendors is that the City Council will no longer be sending tax collectors to the market daily; instead the vendors will be required to pay their annual rental fee of $1,040.00 for the stall plus an annual garbage collection fee of $144.00. Apart from the garbage collection fee, which is a new fee, the annual rental fee is equivalent to what the Market Vendors had been paying before, but in smaller portions. Yolanda Chun explained the two payment plans that were being offered for the Market Vendors.
Ms. Yolanda Chun: “They will be taken back to counsel and then, they will have to make their decision how they will communicate and to continue our relationship with our market vendors. We want to have them pleased as well as to be happy with the council. We don’t want to be a harsh council, but we too need to be fair on both sides”.
According to Chun, 39 Market Vendors have already made their down payments; however, the rest of the Market Vendors are crying out injustice, claiming that they, financially unstable as they are, are not able to meet such requirements. In this regards, some 20 Market Vendors and supporters gathered in front of City Hall this morning to petition for a meeting with Mayor Simeon Lopez to discuss and come up with different payment plans. Janice Bain, the petition organizer, related to us the outcome of the scheduled demonstration.
“We were fortunate enough after expressing ourselves through different placards for the Mayor to agree to meet with us Wednesday at 10:00 o’clock. At that time, we will present the Mayor again in writing with the concerns that we have; we will try to secure a safer date, then December 31st for the ones that are not able to sign up for this new movement. While we add it though, we have some concerns: we are trying to think about how, something like this could have conceivably even been put on the table. We can’t even understand it. So, in turn, we would like to ask the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance if he can just maybe check this out for us and see if they are in one accord in what they are doing to us and also we’d like to ask Mr. Hulse: Mr. Hulse,. You are the Minister of Local Government; can you check into the movement of the council and see if you can work something out for us? We are traditional market vendors that are in dying need of some intervention at this point”.
We were unable to get comment from the Mayor himself but we were able to confirm that Mayor Lopez has indeed scheduled a meeting with the Market Vendors for Wednesday at 10:00 am.