By Marion V. Ali
The Managing Director of Belize Maintenance Limited, BML, Lawrence Ellis, has accused Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley of investing in projects that the City Council has no mandate or obligation to spend on.
Ellis, whose company is owed at least seven weeks payment from the city for garbage collection services, criticized the mayor after a court hearing that both sides have been embattled in intermittently for arrears to his company.
It also followed consistent comments that Mayor Bradley has made that his Council will not renew the existing contracts with BML on grounds that they are too over-bearing. “This is something that we could never get under control because of how the regime of sanitation is structured. It is 45 percent or 45 cents out of every dollar…the reality is that the city pays too much money for the collection of garbage and we cannot control that situation.”
Ellis told The Reporter that the Mayor’s comments were misleading when he said that if he doesn’t renew the contract the Council would save that money. He says that the money still has to be spent because the city still has to be cleaned, even if he requires residents to clean in front of their property. He added that the reason the Council gave out the contract in the first place was because it could not do the job, especially in the slow season when the Council is cash-strapped.
The company, however, he said, still does the job in those months and wait for payment for up to 18 weeks. The arrangement, according to Ellis, is that by the end of March, the Council pays his company the arrears. But he says that he is still waiting for payment in April.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bradley, who says he is hoping to bring the payments to within four weeks, admits that the Council has fallen short of its word in the slow season. He says that the contract allows for the Council to owe four weeks without breaching the agreement. But Ellis feels that the Mayor is considering giving another company the contract when it expires. “”This thing about not renewing is total nonsense…you mark my words, somebody else is going to get this contract.” On the issue of whether the Council will be able to save money, Ellis said “the only way that the city will be able to do it is if they do not provide the service that we are providing. If they provide the service that they contract us to provide they cannot do it.”
What Ellis says has made the situation worse is that it has compounded the challenge is to get an audience with the mayor. He said that since August of 2013 there have been 10 appointments that have gone unanswered, even though it was Mayor Bradley who set the times and dates for those meetings. He says that the contracts were in place before the mayor got elected and the Council is obliged to honour them.
Ellis believes that if the Council had prioritized the sanitation contracts over infrastructure, the situation would not be so serious today. He dared to add that the Council is investing in projects that the Central Government should be doing. “There’s nowhere in the Council’s bylaws you can find that the Council is responsible for capital projects. That’s not the responsibility of the Belize City Council. That’s the responsibility of the Central Government…the city is responsible for maintenance.”
The Belize Maintenance Ltd., BML, enjoys a contract of $78,000 per week for three different jobs. The company employs more than 175 workers who clean and groom the city’s streets and pay keener attention to the hotspots.
It includes one for $28,000 per week and one for $42,000 that it negotiated over when it bought out Sanitation Enterprises Ltd., SEL, in 2008.
Then Ellis got a separate contract to clean up the hotspots for an additional $5,000 per week. That was eventually re-directed to Belize Waste Control.
The contract was re-issued to BML for a revised amount for $8,000 per week, an amount that Lawrence says is just breaking even.