Belize City undertakers may very well be forced to financial straits due to the Belize City Council (CITCO)’s decision to monopolize certain funeral services.
CITCO’s Sanitation Manager, Percival Murillo, in a letter dated December 17th, informed undertakers that “effective January 1st, 2013” the Council’s Cemetery Workers will take over services such as the re-opening of graves at both Lord Ridge and Eternal Gardens cemeteries; the construction of tombstones, tomb tablets, statues, vaults, mausoleums, columbarium niches; and the preparation of common and enclosed graves.
David Coye, of Coye Funeral Home, said the new policy to have CITCO’s Cemetery Department monopolize those services has hit undertakers hard.
Where in the past he employed as many as 15 workers, he is now down to a skeleton crew of six.
Coye described the new measure as unfair because the City Council charges him an annual trade license fee, as well as property tax. Now it is seeking to remove the means for him to earn the income to pay those taxes.
Coye said he does not mind competition, because competition inevitably benefits the consumer who would get a better service at better prices. But for the City Council to deny all undertakers the right to compete—and to deny Belizeans the right to choose what funeral service provider they want—is unfair!
The Reporter has tried several times to contact Murillo or City Mayor Darrell Bradley, but was informed that both men are at meeting meetings and could not be disturbed.
However, The Reporter was able to contact City Administrator Candice Burke, who explained that the council made the decision for quality control purposes.
Burke said that the council had to constantly repair collapsed tombs that were built by the undertakers, and this new take-over measure is to ensure that the job is done right from the start.
The letter from Murillo goes on to say that the Council will be providing the service to build such structures at a cost of $1,000.