Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2020. 2:08 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City, says the Belize City Council is “cautiously optimistic” about a return of its various revenue streams in the medium and long term.
He also commended the Council’s staff for staying the course with him during the current crisis.
Wagner said, “Last week was our first full week that we came back. We see minor little trickling coming in, little more improvement than where we were before. We remain cautiously optimistic. We know that all businesses are still suffering, people are not back on the job, even the government is feeling the pinch as we speak and so we don’t see any significant turnaround in the short term, but in the medium term and long term we really want to see that improve.”
On sanitation, which employs as many as 200 of the Council’s 260 employees, the Mayor said they hold a special place in his heart and that of the community: “…they haven’t missed a beat, throughout this entire ordeal and this COVID-19 pandemic that has reared its ugly head on us, those people have been on the front line and they have been working.”
The Mayor promised to look into a report that picking up of garbage on Southside has been switched to Wednesdays from Tuesdays, but otherwise commended Belize Waste Control for its handling and the Council’s own sweep-up teams. He also spoke of distributing specially made overalls for the staff with the Council’s logo.
But, the city has been unable to make full payment to its sanitation contractor recently. The mayor said they fell behind from before COVID-19 reared its head: “We fell back prior to Covid, we continue to ensure that that is a priority payment for us. We are still not where we want to be in terms catching up back with the provider, but we believe that given our approach that they have that little understanding where we are too as well.”
The Mayor reminded that City Hall considers Belize Waste Control a business partner and not an enemy.
Meanwhile, when can most of the workers get back on the job? They have had their salaries cut and in the case of the Mayor and Councilors, removed entirely.
Mayor Wagner expressed hope that as soon as the coming pay day – next Friday, May 15 – workers can be paid in full depending on what comes into the Council’s coffers.
Said Wagner: “We want to be very cautious in our approach and we want to do it in a phased approach, so we still following the health guidelines, we still putting in place the necessary procedures. If you notice when you came in you will see the different decals on the floor. We want to put in place shield between different work stations as well. We had a death right here in this City Hall, one of our employees passed away and so we take this matter very seriously. We don’t play with safety for our staff. We want to ensure that whenever we bring back our staff they are in a safe environment.”
One of the key contributors will be the Traffic Department which is now open, though according to Councilor Allan Pollard, the Council is ‘hands-off’ with offenders: “…you are not seeing much ticketing at this time because we understand that people are out, they are getting their groceries, some people are essential workers and the primary fact is that people really noh have it right now. I mean if yo give a ticket right now, chances are they can’t pay. So our job right now in terms of enforcement for traffic is just simply monitoring, making sure that we don’t have that reckless approach to driving right now.”
Services are available for license renewal, vehicle registration and other connected issues with the approval of the Attorney General. Pollard observed that the previous system of online service proved tough for customers to follow, so there was a clamor for the reopening of the office to which the Government agreed.
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