The Belize City Council is reportedly under dire financial straits. A twenty-million dollar bond for the improvement of city streets is yet to be launched. Still yet, works have been ongoing on various streets which have been stressing out the City’s finances so much so that it is acutely in the red. Earlier today, employees of the Belize Waste Control Limited launched a protest claiming they had been fired because the company has not been paid in the range of six hundred thousand dollars. While Mayor Darrell Bradley says that payment will be met, he also argues that the City’s priority is in infrastructure not sanitation. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Workers of Belize Waste Control Limited were released from the job this morning and took to the streets to protest the Belize City Council. According to BWC General Manager, George Lamb, the council owes the company over six hundred thousand dollars.
George Lamb, General Manager, Belize Waste Control
“Since August—the council is outstanding for about three months, since August. I spoke to the mayor early in September and all of that conversation, I was given the impression that something would have been done. Now, it is almost three months and I’m sure that the Mayor understands how important it is to keep up with your payments because I believe everyone of the employees working at the Belize City Council and the mayor and all the councilors, they get paid on a timely basis. So for us to be working for three months and not getting any money, has some serious ramifications; it’s affecting families.”
But Mayor Darrell Bradley says, it’s nothing new for the council to fall behind on its obligations at this time of year and then it doubles up on payments in November and December.
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor
“If they could have done it with the last administration, the relationship that they had with the last mayor, I don’t see why they couldn’t extend that courtesy to us. We have always indicated to them that in the months of November and December when our tax season comes into play, we always make double payments to them. This is not unusual, these people are not being put at any great outlay, they have done this for years and years, it’s just in this particular situation they have chosen to put their workers out there and now they’re protesting.”
Bradley says payment was made to BWC as recently as last week, but Lamb claims they have been unable to reach him for three months to discuss the growing bill.
“It’s deafening silence. I don’t know if the council fell off its financial cliff. I would want to believe so but I believe with due respect that they should have given us something in writing or a verbal something. But I want to talk to the mayor; I don’t know if he’s in the country. Mr. Mayor, wherever you are please give me a day, at least an hour. I need to give some answers to my employees, our creditors; I need to tell them something. I cannot say to my suppliers I’m going to pay you when I get my money from City Council. They would need to know exactly when that is. So if the mayor is business sensitive and is concerned about what is happening in the city, then I believe this is important for him to look into.”
“That simply is not true. I have had a longstanding relationship with these people. These people are one of our major contractors. I meet with representatives of this company on a weekly basis. I’ve spoken to Mister Lamb on numerous occasions in relation to quality, in relation to picking up of garbage on certain streets and the statement that they have not been able to reach me for three months is just not true.”
The Mayor went further to point out that city council’s priority is infrastructure, not sanitation which has become an unsustainable financial burden.
“The reality of the matter is that the sanitation contracts is a significant burden for the city. I make no—it’s a reality—a significant amount of our outlays go to that. What we have been doing is that we have been trying to negotiate with these people to get these burdens to manageable limits but the reality is that those contracts are something that is unsustainable for the city. We cannot continue to pay these significant outlays for something which essentially is an obligation which can be handled differently. We pay seventy-eight thousand dollars every week to one sanitation contract and fifty-five thousand dollars every week to the other. The law says that our obligation as the city is to deal with the infrastructure, the streets and drains. That’s what I’m doing, I’m dealing with streets and drains. We’re putting in place measures so that the sanitation, we can easily bear this.”
“I have no problem with the mayor’s agenda where taking care of the streets is concerned; I applaud him. But my workers can’t eat cement. Having nice cement street won’t deal with the challenges that my workers are facing. We need to pay our suppliers. We believe that we are doing a good job; we play an important role in Belize City and we must be respected accordingly.”
As it stands, the BWC says it’s at the end of its rope, and while Mayor Bradley assures that he contractual obligations will be met, he says he will be intimidated by protestors.
“We have extended ourselves beyond reason. I don’t know if there is any other business in Belize that could operate like this. It’s simply a miracle and I don’t know—this is like the end of the rope because my employees—honestly, this is why we relieved them earlier this morning because I won’t be able to pay them come Friday. Now that’s terrible. We might call them low workers, we might call them garbage men but they are very important, they are human beings and if we expect to survive in Belize City, then they have that right also.”
“We’re going to deal with certain things in terms of the collection of garbage, we’re going to ensure that we meet our obligations if we have any contractual obligations with these people; we’re going to meet them but no person will hold this office hostage by having protestors downstairs thinking that they can demand anything. That—and I’ve indicated this—our priority of this council and it has been demonstration, is the infrastructure of this city.”
Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The City Council issued a release saying that it has deployed all its Sanitation employees assisted by a team from the Works Department to collect all residential garbage on the North Side tonight and the same will be done on the South Side on Tuesday. City Hall also owes Belize Maintenance Limited somewhere in the range of eight hundred thousand dollars.