As he predicted some time ago, Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley is once again confronting the spectre of the sanitation contracts owned by Belize Maintenance Limited (BML) and Belize Waste Control (BWC). The latter sent officers of the courts to crowfoot City Council assets to settle a debt.
The Mayor details how the Council has reached this point.
“I would just ask you to harken back. In December of last year they were saying that they were owed five hundred and something thousand dollars. The judgement summonns was for fifty-nine thousand dollars. So we are better with our financial position.
The truth of the matter is that I think that has something to do with the elections coming along the season. I think that that has to do with the poor relationship that we have with both sanitatiion contractors, and it is something that members of the public have to appriciate that happens every single year. Every single year, we’ve been in litigatiions with them around this time of the year, when the City Council isn’t really collecting any revenues form our own source of revenue, which is pur tax revenue. So that should be no surprize.
What I want to assure members of the public is that we deal with our financial position very seriously. We have paid off a significant amount of our debt, debt that I inherited.”
As for the new suit in court, the Mayor contends that it is for the same, or part of the same, judgment owed and so constitutes legal double jeopardy. But what will be more difficult to run away from are the 170 workers that expect to stay on with the Council when the contract with BML expires next January.
The Mayor went on record again to say that he has crunched the numbers and found the edict from Prime Minister Dean Barrow to City Hall unworkable, but he was at pains to add that this does not mean there is a disagreement between them.
“I have to account to members of the public, interms of my stewardship of City Hall, and I must admit to people that as mayor I see difficulty in that, and that shouldn’t be something hat I’m criticised for. That shouldn’t be something that I’m labeled as not being a loyalist.
That should be something that we sit down and we say, ‘OK then, these are the things we can do. These are the things that we can’t.’ Because I could see that in the future, essentially what we’re going to have is you’re going to have a new BML, because you’re going to take on a hundred and seventy more people. You’re going to realize, as I have realized, – and I’m not an idiot, so I know how the City Council works – so I’ve realized that we have problems in terms of existing staff.
What we’ve done is that we’ve taken steps to snall down the City Council. We’ve privatized the Security staff. We’ve narrowed the staff by 30%. Now we’re growing it by a significant amount, and that’s going to be a challenge. I can’t see something like that working too well.”
So that is lukewarm comfort, but it appears the Council cannot and will not turn back now.
“The first tranche of the Municiple Bonds is being paid back now, and we have a surplus in the City Fund at the Central Bank, and they’re being paid back comfortably. We’ve paid four interest payments, because that has been in place for two years now. The first tranche was a two year maturity date, and that’s being repaid back as we speak. So the financial position, obviously the Council has improved tremendously from what I inherited.
Notwithstanding that, I have always maintained that the cost for sanitation services is too high, and we will always run into problems with the sanitation contractors through litigation. But when we come into a high season, we always pay.”
During the interview the Mayor noted that the Council has had to deal with alleged thefts of its property by its own workers in recent months. Nonetheless it is moving forward with plans to streamline the Council’s staff and ensure tenure and other benefits – things that may go by the wayside if the BML plan proceeds.