Merriman Mall relocation plan turning into nightmare

City Council Round Up With Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
January 15, 2001

The dream of Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams to relocate the former pavement and street vendors from Regent Street to a new site on the Merriman Mall is turning out to be a nightmare.

More than a month after the relocation plan was approved by a majority of councillors from the three political parties represented on the city council, the area from Cummings Street to Light Street remains vacant. The vendors are holding firm to their original position, not to take City Hall's offer. The relocation plan calls for the illumination of the area, with opening hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., adequate security and the provision of skips, water and other facilities to ensure that the site is environmentally friendly at all times.

So far there has been no takers and although the council has said that it would consider applications from other persons who desire occupying the vacant spaces which have already been marked out, there has been no movement in this regard. When the council met for the first time in the year 2001, on January 8th, not a word was said about this issue. In fact that statutory meeting was one of the shortest ever convened around the horseshoe table. The question could now be asked, "Is this a dead issue?" Last week I had a conversation with two female pavement vendors who wanted to hear my views on their row with City Hall. As we exchanged ideas and I listened to their suggestions for a solution, the utilisation of the Bourda cemetery on Regent Street was raised in the discussion outside the Bourda post office.

Let me share some of the views expressed by these two vendors. The lead spokesperson who said she had been selling on the pavements since she was retrenched in 1985 assured me that the displaced Regent Street sellers are ready and willing to play an active part in any plan to make that cemetery available for vending. "We are prepared" they said "to do self help and work in conjunction with the authority to make this site a suitable place for us to sell our goods." The lead spokesperson said she had started out as a trader before occupying space on the Regent Street pavement. Since the council's clampdown, she added, "I have not been able to do much business."

The Bourda Market During my exchanges with these two small "entrepreneurs", the former public servant, who once worked at the Ministry of Home Affairs, made out a case for the re-zoning of the Bourda market.

She argued that the present layout at the facility gives an advantage to those persons who own stalls on the periphery of the market, noting that the attitude of shoppers has changed, with people showing a preference to make their purchases on the fringes, rather than venturing into the centre where some businesses are located.

"This is the reason why vending on the streets and pavements have become so popular and in some cases rewarding." She added.

Her suggestion calls for a rearranging of all the stalls in Bourda market, so as to make shopping more customer-friendly, "why not have the stall in rows with adequate space for people to walk and make their purchases," she asked? Over to you Deputy Mayor, who is also chairman of the Markets Committee.

Rocky on a roll People's Progressive Party/Civic Councillor Rocky Mann has taken some of his colleagues to task for not turning up at statutory meetings on a regular basis. At the last meeting of the council with Mayor Hamilton Green presiding, councillor Mann lashed out at those councillors who are frequently absent and as a result not able to make a contribution to debates on important and topical matters of interest to citizens. "Concillor Mann, you have made a valid point, some councillors seem to be only interested in negative things," said the 'Chief Citizen'. The Mayor then called on the Town Clerk to raise the matter with the three leaders of the political parties that are represented on the council. One PPP/Civic councillor has been absent for several months, while some are always in a hurry to leave before the agenda is completed. There are others who attend regularly, but only to warm their seats.

A favourable response The leaders of all three political parties represented on the council have expressed their willingness to look at a plan to develop the Stabroek Market area and relocate street vendors.

A company known as Umana Enterprise is behind the project. It is hoped to involve both local and international financiers with the aim of transforming that part of the down town area into a modern shopping facility. At last week's statutory meeting with two of the directors of the company present, Mayor Green said the council is prepared to look at the modalities of the project.

PNC councillor Oscar Clarke said his party supports the idea in principle emphasising the need for "movement forward". Councillor Fitz Agard of the PPP/Civic told the meeting that his party supports the pursuit of the project.

Better supervision needed City Engineer Cephas James must endure that better arrangements are put in place to monitor those employees within his department who are engaged in weeding the parapets and cleaning the trenches and alleyways in the city. It is not good enough for these workers who begin their daily routine shortly before 11.30 in the morning going off for a lunch break, returning around 1 o'clock and taking off again before 3 o'clock in the afternoon to claim at the end of the week or fortnight a full day's pay.

In addition, those in the weeding gang find time within these short periods to relax, smoke and chat among themselves. Are these workers supervised and if so why is the grass and other stuff not removed immediately.

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