The never-ending saga of Belize City’s sanitation woes wound up once again before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin this morning, as Belize Waste Control, one of the City’s two sanitation partners, once again pressed for action to be taken against Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley.
The Council is once again in arrears to the company, though the situation is not as dire as in the teeth of the so-called “slow season,” when payments reached 15 weeks behind. Mayor Darrell Bradley spoke to the press on the current state of affairs.
“At the current date, we are six weeks behind. We have been ensuring that we make the weekly payments, and when we get inflows in terms of tax revenues, we do a double payment. We just came out of court; w are supposed to go back in, on Friday. I estimate that by Friday. I estimate that by Friday, we would be able to bring it within a week period. It is our position that under the terms of the contract, we could lawfully be in arrears for four weeks. That itself means that we owe four weeks, but that does not constitute a breach of contract. So, our position, when we are at this four weeks precipice, then that would ameliorate some of the issues in terms of the litigation, and we are making good faith efforts to try that we can maintain that four week period”.
According to the Mayor, the Council seeks the company’s indulgence to be behind in payments, four weeks as per the contract between them.
Darrel Bradley- Mayor of Belize City
“I have maintained this; I have communicated it to the principals of waste control; I have communicated it to their attorneys, that this is a perennial problem. We always equalize in the months of March and in the month of April, and we widen with what the city council calls our slow season, so that when August comes around, the gap widens. We are able to bring to within the four periods, but when we are not collecting tax revenues, then it goes up. Last year it went up to as much I think to eighteen weeks. So, we are doing better; we are paying them the $1.2 million that is under the judgment, we are at five weeks owing to them; I could at least say that we will be at the four week margin and we are trying to recognize our commitment here and trying to see how long we could keep it within that four week period”.
Much of the rest of the interview contained a summary of the Council’s constant contentions with regard to sanitation: that at 45% of all expenditure the Council cannot afford to keep up with payments, especially in the slow season, and that things will look up once the contract with Belize Maintenance Limited (BML) expires next year and in November when more cash is released from the first tranche of the Municipal Bond as it is paid off.
So there is not much new, and that annoys Belize Waste Control and its attorney, Eamon Courtenay.
The senior counsel blasted his junior as he prepared to leave, pointing out that City Hall reneged on its agreement with the company, leading to the present court appearance.
“We stood up right here, reach an agreement with the mayor, walked into the chief justice’s chambers, and asked the chief justice permission to withdraw the claim, based on a settlement agreed by the mayor. It took less than a week for the mayor to breach the settlement. Thank God, because I had confidence in his failure, I did not file the Notice of Discontinuance, and so, we are back before the court is for the very same claim saying to the chief justice, that we were led up the garden part believing that he was going to live up to his obligation, and he has not. So, we want the matter tried. Now he is attempting to say that he has a right to four weeks in arrears. The arrears is no contract in the world that gives nobody a right to be in arrears. Money is due on a weekly basis and the mayor needs to understand that he must pay on a weekly basis, or there is going to be a consequence for him personally”.
And according to Courtenay, the Council will soon face even more litigation.
Attorney Eamon Courtenay
“The council is going to be served with another claim for breach of that agreement. There continues to be people picking up garbage around the city for recycling, (breaching of the contract) and this same mayor signed on the dotted lines saying that he was going to stop it. This is the same mayor saying that he was going to stop other people picking up garbage in hot spots and giving that to Waste Control. He has not fulfilled that. We have instructions to commence another claim against the mayor for his continued breach. It seems to me that he is comfortable receiving litigation. We will have to do that, and it seems that the only way he performs, is when he is on the verge of imprisonment. Regrettably, that’s where we are with him”.