Friday afternoon, general manager for Belize Waste Control George Lamb confirmed to PLUS News that the company has filed a claim with the courts seeking “timely and reasonable” payment of ten weeks of arrears by the Belize City Council for the sanitation contract. The Council has managed to reduce the arrears from 15 weeks overdue to ten and says it plans to have it all cleared by next February. But Lamb told us via telephone that they are “pursuing legal action to have the Mayor settle the arrears in a timely and reasonable manner because we have to meet our creditors and pay our employees.” The Council today paid a little less than half of the second $600,000 lump sum payment to the company to settle a court judgment enforced in April. However, Lamb said no one in his office has any knowledge of receipt of any such payment. But the Mayor says they sent it, will send the rest next week, and that Waste Control is being unreasonable about the whole thing.
“It is very very unreasonable, it is bleeding the city council and that requires then that there be a certain level of flexibility and reasonableness on their part. One of the things that really caught me off-guard is, we owe them 15 weeks up until a couple of weeks ago; we have now brought that to ten weeks. We are making, before the end of this year, another double payment so that we would bring that to nine weeks and we are going to equalize with them before the early part of next year, bu the ending of February, we should have with them, a zero balance. The early part of the year, that’s our tax season. So, we shouldn’t run into arrears and they have sued us for those arrears; they are suing us for 9-10 weeks that we would have owed them up until this year”.
The Mayor continues to insist that the Council is labouring under a heavy burden with its commitment to fix streets in the City, but Lamb maintained that the accumulation is entirely the fault of this administration and not any previous ones. He told us that if the Mayor is practicing what he preaches, he should be ten weeks behind on collecting his salary. Waste Control, for their part, must pay their employees and suppliers on time. But the Council, the Mayor told us, can do what Waste Control does, and do it better and cheaper.
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “If they stop their service, then we will do it. The city council can do this service for 25% of what they are charging us. the other company, similarly. These contracts are unreasonable, they are exorbitant, they a bleed on our city. Every city that I go to, I discuss with them what the cost with them is for sanitation services and no city that I have been to pay more than 20%. It ranges between 12%-20%. We pay 45% of our outlays and sanitation services. I have always said that that is unsustainable. Last year, Jules, you were asking me the same exact questions. Next year, Jules, you will be asking me the same exact questions and the following year when there is a new mayor sitting in the seat, you will ask him or her these same exact questions because the system is broken and previous councils have chosen, through some insight to saddle this council with these burdensome contracts…and to just make it a repeated cycle”.
Lamb pointed to a “conflict of priorities” for the City and says Mayor Bradley has no idea what he’s talking about with that suggestion. We also asked about the Council’s enforcement, or reported lack thereof, of certain sections of the contract. The Mayor insists he’s getting it done.
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “We are contractually obligated to enforce the contract and also by law, are require to enforce the terms of the Settlement Order. All of these things are constantly under review and we are working as fast as we can to address any and all issues. We recognize that in order for this thing to be sustainable, if it is to continue, then we need to have a working relationship with the garbage collector and we need to address the issues that are important to them, but they need to address the issues that are important to us”.
“We informed the Mayor by text message this evening of Waste Control’s statement to us and he responded with this: “We sent payment to our attorney to transmit to their attorney and then to them.” Councilor Alifa Elrington-Hyde acts as the Council’s legal representative and Michael Young, Senior Counsel represented the Council in court earlier this year, so it is not clear which is being referred to.