It has been several months since more than 175 former workers of Belize Maintenance Limited (BML) joined the Belize City Council to continue their employment after months of wrangling. With Belize Waste Control, BML has been quite busy extracting its pound of flesh from the Council for the many years of ignore and unpaid judgments. Today Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley declared that it is all over but for actual final payments. But first, he discusses the transition of the workers, noting that while it has worked out so far, the lethal cocktail of ingredients can still spell disaster for his nascent second term.
” I can say that the transition has worked well. I can say there are increased services that are going on on the ground. I do regular inspections. Our sanitation manager, both of them, are doing an excellent job of insuring that on the ground it is working. The problem with the wages, I think, will be a problem which will be with us for some time because it is easy when you owe a 3rd party, I shouldn’t say Its easy, but when you deal with a 3rd party. The problem with city council is not necessarily a cash problem. At the end of the day, we always equalize our bills. I am very pleased to announce that in the month of February, all our the litigations that were against us, they just discontinued, because we paid them. Our problem is not a cash problem, the City Council has reasonable funds to be able to pay off every single person that we owe. The problem is a cash flow problem. When I owe a 3rd party, BML and Waste Control, if I can’t pay them September, I can forestall that until the month of December. They don’t like it, but we have been doing that since the last 10 years.”
The Council’s bi-weekly wage bill is $310,000, and it also pays for equipment and other expenses. The Central Government had agreed to meet part of the wage commitment but there has been no indication of if that has ended or when it will end. As for the final judgments Bradley says the two sides have come to an honest agreement and the threats shortly before election of crowfooting Council assets have been dropped.
“There are two issues; 1 would have been the arrears position for the last fiscal period. BML had commence several litigations in relation to them collecting on their arrears. We have, to this point, fully paid them everything that we owed them for sanitation services. So, when we made the transition and took on the roughly 150 staff, we had several weeks that were withstanding for the last fiscal period. We have completely cleared that off and they are satisfied with that payment. The issue that you are speaking about is an outstanding judgement that we, the City Council, has had with them for approximately about 10 years. That judgement racked up a significant amount of terest payments. I think the interest payments alone were about $600,000aAnd then the principal for the judgement was something like $1.9 million. That brought it to roughly $2.5 million. That was what they were pressing in relation to wanting to do enforcement mechanisms. Of course we’ve tried to cooperate as much as possible with Mr. Ellis and also with their attorney Mr. Chebatz in terms of ensureing that they are settled.
The agreement, says Bradley, represents a yoke removed from the Council’s neck.
“Nobody really wants to crow foot anybodies assets. they really just wanted to be paid. Even though, in terms of the crow-footing, we have always been in communication from early January. They circulated a draft document proposal in relationship to payment terms. We’ve been back and forth. One time they even wanted us to pay off the monies in full. At one point they wanted several ballon payments. We finally agreed in relation to weekly payments. We are going to be paying them $15,000 per week for a period of approximately 3 years until we settle that arrears. They are satisfied with that, we entered that agreement sometime last week. I have already briefed the council in relations to that and the council recognised that it’s something we needed to deal with . It has been outstanding for some time. They have stopped the interest running on that, so we have to pay the past interest because the past interest was ignored for 10 years, but then we will deal with it. There won’t be any continuing interest. and our first payment under that agreement is due on the April 1st and we are ensuring that we will meet that amount every single week for 3 years.
In related Council financial news, Bradley says the Council has finally heard from auditors Castillo, Sanchez and Burrell about the incomplete 2013 financial audit for which the Council was hammered before the election. That report is due next week and expected to be available for public perusal thereafter.