City Engineer’s dept demolishes shipping company’s fence
Ignores Mayor’s calls to stop
By Oscar P. Clarke
January 23, 2003
The City Engineer’s Department demolished a fence enclosing the Demerara Shipping Company Ltd’s (DSCL) Water and Schumaker Streets property on Tuesday ignoring pleas by Mayor Hamilton Green on behalf of the company.
And at a press conference yesterday City Engineer Cephas James defended the actions of his officers and made it clear that any structure on the council’s reserve deemed to be in contravention of the city by-laws would be demolished.
The personnel, armed with heavy-duty equipment removed the remainder of the company’s fence which they had previously begun dismantling on December 17. Efforts on the part of Mayor Green, when contacted by company officials, were ignored by personnel on the ground. One officer was reported to have said that he was acting under instructions from the city engineer’s department.
The team, Stabroek News understands, comprising approximately 20-persons with the aid of a front end loader, a truck, welding equipment, a pick up van and 4 to 5 armed city constables arrived at the premises and undertook the demolition.
The group arrived at the premises at around 9:30 am on Tuesday and immediately began removing steel components and other concrete structures holding the fence up.
Contacted later, Mayor Green expressed disappointment at the approach of the personnel from the city engineer’s department even after the matter had engaged councillors at their last meeting.
He expressed surprise that the department had taken that recourse even after the company sought to engage it and especially after they had supplied all relevant documentation since June 2002.
But at yesterday’s briefing, Assistant City Engineer, Lloyd Alleyne, told reporters that it was only the administrative head of a department or the municipality’s Chief Executive Officer, Town Clerk, Beulah Williams who could halt any operation in progress.
According to Alleyne, Mayor Green’s ordering of personnel from the engineer’s department to stop work is in contravention of the Municipal and District Councils Act which governs the functioning of the municipality.
Alleyne said that everyone who makes an application for building works needs to satisfy certain requirements. Thereafter a process needs to be followed prior to approval.
James said that the department first received correspondence from DSCL on June 27, 2002 signalling its intention to proceed with development of the site.
According to James it is the belief of persons that once a letter is written to the engineer’s department that this constitutes an official application.
However, this he said is not the case. Instead several requirements including proof of ownership, checks for possible outstanding rates and taxes and processing and instruction fees needed to be met prior to the evaluation of an application.
James said DSCL was informed of the deficiencies in its application and only completely satisfied all outstanding requirements on September 9, 2002.
However, as its application was being considered, DSCL proceeded with construction without approval leading to the matter being drawn to the council’s attention.
Notice was then served on the applicant on November 27 to cease work on the fence until the matter had been properly determined.
Its failure to comply, James contended, led to the city engineer’s department proceeding to demolish part of the structure on December 17. The demolition was halted following Green’s intervention
DSCL’s Administrative and Operations Manager, Khelawan acknowledged that no written permission had been given for the building of the fence.
But he said, since being advised to stop work, DSCL had made numerous attempts to have the issue ventilated with the engineer’s department but to no avail.
He further acknowledged receipt of the council’s letter of November 27, 2002, to which DSCL’s Building Supervisor, Marlon Blake responded on December 10.
In that correspondence to James, Blake, apart from offering apologies for having started work without written permission from his department, assured him that it was not done out of disrespect.
In the letter Blake also alluded to a site visit by building inspector Marvin Lovell on September 10, 2002, while informing the city engineer that DSCL would follow its directive to cease all works.
He further offered to make himself available to the engineer’s department if further information was needed.
The council, however, on December 17, 2002 proceeded to begin dismantling the fence.
According to the engineer’s department officials, DSCL was then given time to remove the offending structure from the city reserve as directed in the November 27 letter.
Khelawan, while challenging the contention that the fence was on the council reserve, said that since DSCL had proceeded to such an advanced stage it wrote the council requesting dialogue to clear up the matter.
According to Khelawan, at no time was it the company’s intention to prohibit ingress and egress to the council reserve since a gate attached to the fence was at all times open.
He alluded to the free access that boat builders had to the site and others to undertake fishing and other related interests.
However, officers of the engineer’s department were yesterday adamant that the fence as constructed was infringing on the council’s reserves and had to be dismantled.
Continued failure to carry out this task, led to the department’s action on Tuesday where apart from dismantling the fence, council took away materials used to construct it.
According to Alleyne “the applicant although written to to cease all works they continued to occupy the council’s reserve continuing to enclose a portion of the council’s reserves which is the continuation of Schumaker Street and also erecting a fence in excess of the required height.
“The mayor at that point intervened and I explained to him irrespective of how long an applicant had made an application they are required to wait for necessary permission and also we could not have allowed anyone to enclose a portion of the council’s reserve,” Alleyne said.
Alleyne alluded to the erection of several structures in contravention of the city by-laws where attempts to correct it lead to interference.
He said that it is very frustrating to try do work professionally since at every step persons are critical of their actions. He was, however, adamant that irrespective of the person or their status the department has a duty to perform.
They accused DSCL’s building superintendent Blake of bypassing administrative officers of the council including the Town Clerk who is rightfully the head and approaching the mayor.
This, was denied by Khelawan, who said it was he who went to visit the mayor after the first demolition since he was unable to make contact with the city engineer after repeated telephone calls.
Further, DSCL had on December 27 written to the city engineer’s department seeking its guidance and assistance in bringing closure to the issue.
This according to Khelawan was done in response to the earlier actions by the council’s employees on December 17 which saw sections of the structure being demolished.
The engineer’s department according to Khelawan at no time acknowledged receipt or responded to this correspondence nor to numerous calls to the city engineer’s department seeking a meeting.
Subsequent meetings with Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams at the beginning of the year led to a renewed hope of their reaching a satisfactory conclusion with respect to the issue.
This was, however, not to be and the demolition team turned up and began tearing down the structure Khelawan said.
Subsequent to this exercise, at 1:45 pm a clerk from the M&CC turned up at the DSCL premises and delivered a letter dated January 17, 2003 and addressed to DSCL’s building superintendent refusing the company permission to enclose part of Schumaker Street.