Eccles/Ramsburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council Residents give interim committee passing grade By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
December 13, 2003

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(This is the seventh in a series on local government)

The overall performance of the Eccles/Ramsburg Interim Management Committee (IMC) has been rated "satisfactory but with room for much improvement".

That was the opinion of one resident, Ayube Khan of Nandy Park, reflective of many living there.

(The Eccles/Ramsburg IMC in 2000 replaced the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) which was elected to office in 1994 based on recommendations from an inquiry conducted into the affairs of the NDC).

Room for improvement is evident in the many streets that are either full of pot holes and in dire need of maintenance and repairs; drains that need cleaning; parapets that need weeding and cleaning of litter. But in the end it comes down to one word, "capital" as Khan succinctly said.

However councillors and the officers of the neighbourhood which covers a large number of villages on the East Bank of Demerara are appreciated as garbage is picked up on time and some of the old problems of flooding and drainage are not as bad as five years ago.
The parapets being cleaned by the office of the Eccles/Ramsburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council.

When told that each NDC in the country, regardless of geographical size and population, gets a $3M annual subvention Khan felt that it was unfair. He feels that the subvention given to the NDCs should depend on their size and population.

Republic Park
One resident speaking on condition of anonymity said Republic Park, one of the more affluent residential areas in the neighbourhood, "still has a measure of quality but the standard is certainly dropping".

Republic Park was handed over to the administration of the Eccles/Ramsburg neighbourhood some years ago. Fifteen to twenty years ago the area was well kept with some of the most beautiful buildings and well-manicured lawns. The streets were well laid out and the parapets and drains clean. Now the roads have deteriorated badly and the drains are only really clean in parts in front of property owners. Most of the parapets (these are under the jurisdiction of the IMC) are maintained by residents but those areas not cleaned still affect drainage in the area.

However, on one recent visit, Stabroek News saw workers, either employed directly or contracted by the IMC, cleaning the parapets and fetching away the debris in a tractor/trailer.

Within Eccles there is a new middle-income housing scheme with an array of beautiful buildings. But the streets are still to be built before the scheme is handed over to the administration of the neighbourhood. Will the new housing scheme suffer the same fate as Republic Park?

Where Republic Park ends and Continental Park begins, the area is overrun by undergrowth. One resident complained that it was usual to see snakes and it has now become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. "At nights, we cannot stand in the yard."

Residents also noted that a few years ago it was unheard of for cattle to be reared there. Now there is a herd that grazes in the area damaging the parapets and drains. No one was said to be doing anything about it.

The IMC Chairman, Ashoke Kumar has admitted that the problem of cattle rearing is becoming serious and that no one is seeking to fill the vacancies for stray catchers. In addition, the neighbourhood was without a pound.

Overseer, Floyd France told Stabroek News that a lot of prominent property owners in Republic Park, Peter's Hall, Providence and Eccles had not been paying up their rates and taxes and without revenue the council could not execute its duties.

Meanwhile, residents commended the IMC for its regular work in removing domestic garbage though littering was identified as a sore problem. Republic Park is relatively free of litter.

Eccles Housing Scheme
Residents in the new middle-income housing scheme in Eccles told Stabroek News that they were willing to pay their rates and taxes to the administration and live up to their responsibilities but they need to know what service it provides. They now have an arrangement with a private collector for a weekly pick up who they pay. Residents there also clean the drains and parapets in front of their houses.

Residents in the new Eccles Housing Scheme said they need to know more about the councillors and would welcome a meeting.

This area like the Eccles Industrial Estate is still under the control of the government and has not been handed over to the neighbourhood.

Councillors and the residents
In a sample of residents at Peter's Hall, Eccles, Nandy Park, Providence and Republic Park, all but one said they did not know the chairman or the councillors. The one who knows the chairman, a former Neighbourhood Democratic Councillor and Regional Councillor, Laurice Bailey of Peter's Hall, said that she knew the chairman because he was a former councillor on the NDC on which she also served.

Bailey feels that the overseer should not be limited to going to and from his office but that he should visit communities within the NDC to find out what is needed or whether people are satisfied with the work of the council. She recalled a previous overseer by the name of Mr Brown jumping on his bicycle and going out to visit the communities. The overseer's job is not solely "an office job". He has to report to the council, to take guidance from the council, and to execute the council's policies, she insisted.

France admitted that his work is not only an office job and most times he could not be found in the office because he was in the field. Stabroek News made several calls to France before making contact with him. The newspaper was told on two occasions that he was in the field and one occasion was told that he was in the field with the IMC chairman.

Asked whether his office was short of staff, he said not at present.

On the issue of residents not knowing their councillors, France said he would not blame the residents since the current IMC councillors were not elected but selected.

Khan felt that even though there may not be community centres in the neighbourhood there are enough public schools where the IMC could host public meetings.

Even though he does not know who the members of the IMC were, Khan said "in all fairness to them" there is evidence that they have been "showing work" with the limited resources they have at their disposal. He noted that within the neighbourhood there are a number of corporate citizens who could make valuable contributions including the Guyoil Bulk Station, Toolsie Persaud Limited, Sterling Products, Texaco, Esso and Macorp among others.

A number of residents stressed the need for the IMC to focus on maintenance of roads and drains. Two roads built by the Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) Regional Democratic Council in Peters Hall "now have some terrible potholes". One resident complained that every year the neighbourhood is given a $3M

subvention and "I'm not seeing where it is going. If the drains are not properly kept the roads will be damaged."

Bailey of Peter's Hall suggested that preparation be made for the rainy season and though the council had been cleaning the drains twice a year that was not sufficient.

In terms of capital works she suggested the IMC or the NDC could buy sand, stone bitumen and tar as a temporary measure instead of waiting for the roads "to break up completely, when it will be a costly exercise to repair."

She noted that the IMC was doing some work in Peter's Hall on the roads.

A resident of Bagotstown is concerned that Norton Street, a concrete road built by self-help "now needs to be done over".

He said it was time that the IMC called a meeting of the people. "People's views are important," he said adding that the IMC needed a work programme that included what the people required.

Apart from the roads in Republic Park and Bagotstown, he invited Stabroek News to Greenfield Park and New Providence where he noted that the roads were deteriorating rapidly.