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#479113 - 12/06/13 10:02 AM Waste Control On Go-Slow; City Owes $3/4 Mil
Marty Offline
And while bagasse is the issue in the north -in Belize City right now, it's garbage. If you live on the north side of the city, then you'll know that this morning your garbage probably wasn't picked up. That's because Belize Waste Control is operating at about 30% capacity. The company says they can't afford to fully deploy their work crews because the city council owes them more than three quarter million dollars!

Today we visited Waste Controls' headquarters on the Northern Highway to find out more:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
Today, most of the trucks in the Belize Waste Control yard remained parked. Only two of 9 trucks were out collecting garbage - because the company says that it can't go anymore. Why? The City Council owes it more than three quarter million dollars:

George Lamb, General Manager - Belize Waste Control
"I believe that we are at the end of our line. I am not quite certain if we are able to continue for another week or as a matter of fact if we might see the end of this week. To be truthful with you there is little or no funds there. I am hoping that we could make payroll this week."

Jules Vasquez
"How many people are currently employed right now whose jobs are hanging in the balance really?"

George Lamb, General Manager - Belize Waste Control
"It's close to about 60 or a little bit over we have at the company. On the trucks out there, it's around 45."

Jules Vasquez
"It's Christmas. No one can afford to be laid off, but you say you can no longer afford to pay them. What is the next resort for your workers?"

George Lamb, General Manager - Belize Waste Control
"It's difficult for me to even think about what my workers will be going through this Christmas."

These documents provided to us by Waste Control show that the last time the City Council paid was on November 29th. That's just a week ago, but they were paying for arrears as far back as August. Now with 15 weeks of arrears, Waste Control says this is the most extreme it's ever been:

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"We've never had this problem before ever."

Jules Vasquez
"How would you respond to the interpretation Mr. Griffith, that you all are just playing hard ball, you are just trying to hold the city hostage because you can afford to bridge these dry times, because you know when the city gets money it will pay."

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"We have to borrow money at an interest rate. The city doesn't pay the interest. We can't borrow anymore. Would you work for 4 months and don't get paid? Anybody would? Tell me."

"As I said, they expect us to keep working forever with no payment plan, just keep on working and working - find the money somewhere and keep doing the job. We can't do that. Nobody can."

"He can't run City Hall without collecting taxes right? And if you are late, what does he do to you? He is the mayor and he can do anything he wants. He is above the law, we are not."

So what should southside residents expect tomorrow when most of these trucks are again expected.

George Lamb, General Manager - Belize Waste Control
"We will do our best to have our trucks out there. I am not certain if we will be able to complete the entire Southside tomorrow. For us to ignore or to neglect garbage collection out there, the impact would be significant and so I think that City Council cannot take this likely. We must give attention to the collection of garbage, more so in the month of December."

Lamb says that during the Christmas time, the volume of garbage they pick up increases from 105 tonnes per day to 125 tonnes per day, 20% more.

And what's City Hall doing about it? City councilor with responsibility for sanitation Dion Leslie told us that their sanitation inspectors today confirmed that they only saw Waste Control picking up commercial garbage, not residential garbage. And so, the council mobilized and started picking up northside garbage after 11:00 this morning. He says they have four trucks out right now working a double shift to pick up all the garbage on northside. Tomorrow, they will resume on the southside.

He says the council has been making weekly payments and is surprised that Waste Control went on strike. Waste Control says the mayor promised to give them a payment plan over a month ago and he has not. The precise figure owed at this time is 776 thousand, 139 dollars and 23 cents.

And while there is finger pointing on both sides, no one can argue with hungry belly, and the Waste Control workers who have picketed City Hall in the past, may choose to do so again - and soon, we are told.

Channel 7


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#479186 - 12/07/13 09:21 AM Re: Waste Control On Go-Slow; City Owes $3/4 Mil [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

City Hall Canít Pay BWC; Go Slow Continues

Yesterday, 7News told you about the go-slow initiated by the Belize Waste Control because the Belize City Council owes them for 15 weeks, or almost 4 months of back payment in arrears. That represents just over three-quarter million dollars that the council owes the sanitation company, and the management is saying that they can't operate any more. BWC says that it can no longer expect its creditors to keep them operational when there is no sign that payment will be made from City Council on these arrears which keep climbing.

They have dialed back their operation, rotating employees and their garbage trucks to keep their staff employed, and they say that the go-slow is a necessity.

Well, what can City Hall do about the mounting bills that it hasn't paid to Waste Control? That's what we asked Mayor Darrell Bradley today, and he told us that basically, the council is broke, and can't meet its debt to BWC until after the tax revenues come in during the first quarter of 2013. Here's how our conversation went with him on the topic:

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"Nothing that they can say I will have any difficulty with. Nothing that they say I will dispute. Nothing that they say we will say it's unreasonable. The reality is that a past City Council signed these exorbitant contracts that I inherited and we do not have the money."

"I don't know the exact figures that they are owed. I know that being 15 weeks in arrears sounds about correct and my position is that they are entirely correct. The City Council has a contract with them. They City Council owe them the money. We recognize that we owe them the money. I have repeatedly said that the situation is not a situation of the arrears, the situation is more of structural and its more systemic in that we pay 45% of every dollar that we collect to sanitation services and that is too much. I have traveled to many cities in the region and far away and I have always asked about what they spend on garbage collection because we are always looking at more efficient and cost effective ways of doing it and its between 15% - 20%. The reality is that we just spend too much. At the end of the day after I pay salaries and after I pay for sanitation services the City Council is essentially broke."

"I recognize that we have this arrears situation with them. It's a situation that I have inherited. It is a situation which I will more than likely leave at City Hall."

Daniel Ortiz
"Not being paid for 15 weeks which is equivalent to 4 months and being expected to continue to work, it seems, it alien, you delay a payment for someone for what is owed to them for one day and they are outraged."

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"I am very mindful as it relates to employees. I recall that earlier that I had a conversation with one of their senior representatives, I assured her that at that time we were going to make 3 weeks back payment particularly because we were concern at it relates to the employment status of their personnel. We did not want people to be dislocated and to be out of work especially around the Christmas season."

"We have given assurances all along to them and I had indicated this previously; the City Council has the money to pay them. We just collect that money in the months of January, February and March. Every year we have a slow season, every year we run into arrears, every year we have a shortfall and every year in the month of January, February and March we make good on those payments."

Daniel Ortiz
"What will happen if they decide that they will withhold services?"

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"If they withhold services, we will ensure that as a matter of priority that we go and we pick up the garbage. We can do that service for far cheaper than they do it and that's something that we are prepared to do and I would want that."

One of the biggest criticisms that has been brought against Mayor Bradley is that his explanation of the council's inability to pay has always failed to take into serious consideration that the creditors of those his council owes are expecting them to meet their debt obligations. That's one matter he took issue with today, during our conversation on this ongoing garbage debacle. Bradley says, whatever financial issues that BWC is experiencing, has been carefully considered by him. They fact, according to him, remains that they can't pay with funds they don't have:

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"Nothing that they can say is unreasonable. You don't have to explain to me that when I don't pay a bill to a supplier, every person that that supplier owes likely gets a feeling and there is a multiplier and a trickle-down effect - that's common sense, that's rational. I am explaining to you the reality that we have at City Hall and what we need to deal with and that we have made assurances with them. What you are telling me is not news. What you are telling me is not something that happened only this year, but I know as Mayor we have many different commitments that we have undertaken and we will make good on all those commitments."

"The reality is though that we can't make blood out of stone. We can't do any much more than what we are doing. We understand their position, it is not a position that we would want to be in. But the reality is that we are approaching the ending of the year and that's our heavy season and we intend to settle them first and foremost when we get our resources."

"I have a business myself, I am mindful of people who owe me and the impact that that causes me when they don't pay, so nothing that they say is unreasonable or unfair or something that I haven't thought about."

And as we've told in the past few months, Belize Waste Control initiated contempt proceedings against Mayor Bradley for a 2.3 million arbitration award that has been outstanding for over a decade. In the end, the attorney for both sides decided that the matter should be settled out of court, instead of trying to press Bradley to pay up or face going to jail. In light of the current impasse between the council and BWC, Bradley told us that this outstanding quarrel between them is soon to be resolved because City Hall will pay the debt off once and for all. Here's how he explained it:

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"I heard that they've said on the media that they have a worse relationship with this City Council. I could take that as a comment, but the reality is that they have a judgment with the City Council that no Mayor has paid off in 10 years. We are in a year and a half, we have a $620,000 payment that due to them on December 20th - I have to find that money. We are going to pay off that entire judgment when former mayors have simply just ignored it and left it so that it can go. The significant of that judgment is the interest. Previously, that was irresponsible in not dealing with that situation to allow that because of course if they had service that debt, we would have had more money so that we could settle them."

"We are working with them in relation with dealing with this arrears situation. I have made commitments to them. I fully intend to undertake and to carry through those commitments and we have done that in the past and there is no indication that we won't do that again going forward from January. As we get our inflows, one of the first people we pay is them."


BWC: We Canít Continue To Work For Free

So, what does the Management of the Belize Waste Control have to say about City Hall's inability to pay them the money that they earned? Well, that's what we went to find out from the Owner of the company. This afternoon, we spoke to Anthony Griffith, and he told us that Mayor Darrell Bradley has made MANY empty promises that he hasn't kept, and he expects them to continue to work with getting paid. Here's how Griffith explained it:

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"You tell me after 15 weeks going back from August to December; you can't do anything but a couple payments? You have no intention of doing it. You don't care. Listen, the Mayor have made promises to us over and over again, hasn't kept one. This arrears was back from last year. He was to do a payment plan in January 2013 to catch up from 2012, but he never did. It just keeps getting worse and worse until it reaches this point."

"He came here (he didn't talk to me, he talk to my daughter) I think sometime in February - he came here and he was supposed to give a payment plan I think it was a Thursday evening or Friday and 2 payments. The 2 payments came through and also he promised that the Monday he would have 3 more payments for us. We are still waiting for the payment plan; we are still waiting for the payment up to today. Back in January he was supposed to give us a payment plan for going back to 2012 arrears, but he never did. It's not normal business that he's talking that the City Council always owing us. This became a problem when they took over City Council, Zenaida and him. Never had I had this problem for many years with PUP. We got paid on time. We have it with them now, they start this phrase "high season and low season." I've never heard that before."

Daniel Ortiz
"You have to pay your workers; you have to pay your creditors."

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"I have to pay salaries, taxes and social security on money that I haven't received which is ridiculous, but I still have to pay it. I have to pay maintenance, all these things add up and it's been going on for months, not for weeks."

Daniel Ortiz
"What happens when, let's say for example, you tell your workers 'guys, I can't pay you.'"

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"I can't do that. I've never done that. I've got to find the money to pay them. I got to find the money to do the job for then city that they are supposed to pay me to do."

"How would you like, you know, working for somebody and you come for your pay and nobody doesn't want to see you, like the are running away from you - like you have a contagious disease, they run away from you. They would never picked up the phone and say Mr. Griffith or Belize Waste Control I can't pay this week, I'll pay next week or whatever - never. We can't make any plans, give me a payment plan. He has never done that."

"I don't give a damn what he said, he's not telling the truth."

Daniel Ortiz
"What is the current status sir? How do you guys weather this situation where he is saying that he will catch up on whatever he owes?"

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"We have heard that before okay. It's not the first time, it never materialized."

And the topic of that 2.3 million dollar arbitration award also came up in our conversation with Griffith. He says that his company has written off a million dollars on the debt, to show good faith, so they are only going to be paid 1.3 million dollars. That's a lot of money to make peace with City Hall, and he says that they have shown him nothing but contempt when he tries to collect what is owed to him on the current 776 thousand dollars that he is owed, and which keeps climbing:

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"That is true, but he didn't give you the rest of it; the judgment was for 2.2 million dollars. We write off 1 million dollars to him and he has to pay the rest. He didn't tell you that and the court ordered him to do it. We could have been a real hard case and insist on our money. But we decide to make peace we deduct 1 million from the bill. He didn't tell you that."

Daniel Ortiz
"One million is a lot sir. How did you...."

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"But we did it for peace to try work along with him. We did it."

Daniel Ortiz
"You believe that you guys are being given shake for that?"

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"Hell no, we are not given a fair shake; when you are going to work us like this and don't pay us. We keep the city damn clean."

According to Griffith, they will continue to do their job and try to keep the city clean with their dialed back operation. He says that he has an obligation to City residents, and will try to do his duty until his company can no longer operate. Bradley has told us that his council will catch up with the payments after the tax revenues come in. We'll keep following the story.

Channel 7


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