This morning at the Belize city hall work started as usual, but by ten minutes to 9:00, their light had been cut!
It is the curse of the "malpago" and while it happens at residential properties everyday - for it to happen at an institutional property is just plain embarrassing!
We found out what's behind it today:
Jules Vasquez Reporting:
The multiple light meters at city hall had red tags on them at 9:30 this
morning - meaning BEL had cut out the light at the city's seat of power - how
The same had been done at the commercial center, but when we got there at
9:45, a technician was busy restoring power on the vast grid of meters.
The red tabs of disconnection strewn on the ground like a record of a dark day at
And shortly after - he was back at city hall doing the same thing - letting there
be light - power had only gone for an hour or so, but, cutting the light at city hall?
That's really rough.
Councilor with responsibility for public relations Dion Leslie says it's regrettable,
but it's not his council's fault:
Dion Leslie, City Councilor responsible for PR
"It's been in talking between the City Council and BEL for the past couple months where there is an outstanding balance of between thirty to thirty-five thousand dollars, I believe. But the bills date back to 2003; at the moment we don't have those bills on hand at City Council. So we asked BEL to please give a run-down of all the bills and meters. So that was given to the City Council; Monday evening it was emailed to the City Administrator. She then handed it down to the Finance Department for them to do their due-dilligence, and go through and match the bills with our records, which we had to go and dig back, because it's 8 years of records that we had to go through. We had to match those bills with the corresponding one from BEL to make sure that meter numbers are correct, that the totals are correct. So we have to do our due-dilligence, and apparently BEL only gave the Council 1 day to do all this work. It was a print-out of 29 pages and so they came in this morning and cut us out."
"Did you all have to pay a reconnection fee?"
"I don't know, Jules. Honestly I don't know; I'd hope not because it is a misunderstanding on BEL's part. You can't expect to go over 29 pages of bills in one day. That's ridiculous to ask for."
"Perhaps negotiations were on-going or the thing had been pending for years, and they felt that they had exhausted all their efforts to have you all pay, and they had to pull the plug in order to make City Hall "get the sense".
"I don't think so at all because for the meare fact that they emailed us Monday evening, shows that we were still in the process of negotiating and cross-checking everything, so I don't think it was done with any malice on the part of BEL."
"I find it hard to believe that this wouldn't go up to some manager's desk and they said well, "You can't do that; that's City Hall"
"Well my understanding when spoke to the City Administrator is she tried, after numerous attempts, to get in touch with Upper Management of BEL and she wasn't able."
We asked Leslie for copies of the bills but those were not forthcoming.
BEL had no comment today and would only say that it's best we speak to City Council about their account.