Increased stall rentals and talk of an injunction

Stabroek News
March 21, 2000

Vendors and hucksters in the Bourda Market and Green are poised to take the city council to court over increases in stall rents.

The stallholders and hucksters are contending that the increases are too steep and are being introduced contrary to a promise last year that the council would tackle repairs to the Bourda and Stabroek Markets before asking vendors and hucksters to pay more.

Last week the clerk of markets and members of the staff distributed notices to people doing business in the two markets and the Green informing them of the increases.

One vendor told me, when I visited the Bourda Market last Saturday how surprised he was when he went to the clerk's office to pay his monthly rent, to be handed "a piece of paper" informing him that his rent had been increased by 150 per cent and that the stall numbers had been changed. There was no explanation forthcoming from the constables manning the office.

Market rents are usually paid by the 15th of the current month; anyone paying after this date has to pay a levy. Rents for March are still to be collected.

Total revenue from the council's markets department, taking in the five municipal markets, Merriman's Mall, car park fees and street vending for last year, amounted to $83,197,076.

The council hopes to collect more than $36M from the proposed increases in rents across the board with the exclusion of people selling on the Merriman's Mall. Hucksters who sell from a small tray adjacent to some of the stalls in the markets and on the Green who paid $200 per day will now have to find an extra $200 every day in addition to $100 if they continue to do business after four o'clock.

As I was speaking to one of the vendors in the Bourda market, who complained about the leaking roof, the worsening toilet facilities, the garbage pile-up, the lack of property security, pandemonium broke out in another section when sparks began to fly from the old wiring above.

The stallholders and hucksters have already approached a well known lawyer in the city and there is talk about an injunction being filed against the city council restraining it from implementing the new increases.

Those bringing the court action are saying that they do not object to paying an increase in rents, but it must be reasonable and they are worried over the high-handed way in which the Clerk of Markets has dealt with the issue.

A disgraceful sight While focusing on improving the revenue from the markets department, it seems as though the council has lost sight or does not care, about what is taking place around the two main markets in the city - Stabroek and Bourda.

At the corner of Bourda and Robb Streets on the northern side a little market has sprung up on its own. Several persons now occupy the ground floor of a structure which has been under construction for more than one year now. These people live and do business in surroundings which defy description. The drains are always clogged up, garbage is strewn all over the place, and the stench sometimes becomes unbearable.

Do these people who occupy this unfinished building pay rent to the clerk of markets? Who are the owners of this building? Is rent being collected from the occupants? And why does the city council refuse to take action against some of these property owners - most of them absentee landlords - who begin construction, but find it difficult to complete the job? There are several such structures in Georgetown.

The Bourda-Robb Street mini-market needs the immediate attention of the Medical Officer of Health department, the City Engineer's department and the Constabulary. On the whole this particular junction around the Bourda Market needs not only the attention of the city council but also the traffic police.

I'm sure that a former city councillor, who was once chairman of the council's finance committee, businessman Mr Euclid Gomes would be willing to provide all the information on this disgraceful sight.

The President and the council The Office of the President has acknowledged the receipt of a letter sent by Mayor Hamilton Green seeking a meeting to discuss the municipality finances.

The 'chief citizen' also sent letters to the leaders of the three opposition political parties in the National Assembly soliciting their support in persuading the government to meet with representatives of the council.

In the letter to the opposition political party leaders, Mayor Green noted that "the council's draft estimate of revenue and expenditure shows substantial deficit which should not be met by increases in rates, already a burden on citizens, and for which there was a promise not to increase before year 2001..."

The council wants the government to hand over some of the money collected from the environmental tax in 1999 and the Lotto, among others such as licence fees. With the 2000 budget presentation for Friday in the National Assembly, the 'chief citizen' and his delegation will have to be very persuasive in their presentation to President Bharrat Jagdeo when and if a meeting takes place before Friday.