Mayor: Don't Blame Me, Check With IDB
Tonight, Belize City's floodwaters have rolled away but they're likely
to rise right back up when rainfall once again fills Belize City's
clogged up drains.
That's the major complaint we heard from the public when we hit the
water-soaked streets yesterday.
So, this afternoon Cherisse Halsall headed to City Hall to get some
answers from the Mayor. He says the problem should have already been
solved but admits that halfway through the IDB project that was meant
to fix chronic drainage problems on Orange, King, and Dean streets, his
council was told that funds had run out.
Mayor Bernard Wagner - Mayor, Belize City
"The impact of climate change and the fact that we are a low-lying
coastal city poses a threat for us. The flooding that continuously
occurs in the inner city, we have addressed that to some point with the
CVRP, the climate vulnerability reduction program. That was a program
under the Ministry of Finance Ministry of Works. But that program there
worked, to some extent on the Orange Street area. I'm a bit
disappointed given the fact that the project, which is an IDB-funded
project, did not materialize to the King Street and the Dean Street
alleyways that were a part of the program, along with the bridge in the
Belama phase four areas. Those parts of that project never came to
fruition. And so it leaves a lot of questions as to what happened then.
And you could see I have the M.O.U. right here and I'll share it with
you, on how that project has alleviated the flooding on Orange Street
with the sluice gates and the pumping station in Yarbrough, which is
not fully functional yet. But once that pumping station is functional,
we expect that the flooding in Orange Street and along that corridor
continues to go down. It would have been great if it would have reached
King Street than the street area and certainly, we look forward to,
some sort of getting back to where that project was initiated."
"COVID, it's just like the garbage problem. You say COVID came. It's a
huge problem. And we all understand that. But as a mayor of the city,
you have to move around. What are your plans to try and navigate the
situation despite the financial constraints?"
Mayor Bernard Wagner
"It's a financial problem. As you indicated, you need finance for
everything, and once you are, you are not collecting your due share of
taxes. Then you do not have the ability to carry out your mandate. And
we are owed over a third over $31 million, with principal and interest
going by 21 million in principal. And we are sensitive that residents
are facing their own issues. But the people who are here, they want you
to navigate that and we are continuously evolving to navigate that."
And when pressed for a solution the mayor told us that the last thing
he and his council want is to start auctioning people's properties, but
he admits that with $31 million in fees and taxes owed, and the city's
services suffering because of it, it may come to that.