Officers of the City Constabulary swooped down on itinerant vendors plying their trade along the Regent Street pavement early yesterday morning, in a bid to rid the M&CC reserves of the unlawful practice.
The constables did not spare legitimate businesses, some of whom displayed their goods on the pavement just outside their premises.
The constables confiscated the goods, loaded it into the back of a Canter truck and transported them to City Hall. Owners were then required to pay a fine before the return of their property.
Some vendors are fuming because they say that City Hall is conducting the raid in an impartial way. They said that while constables enforce the law against some businesses, others are being ignored. “Is who gat money gon spend,” an irate vendor fumed.
The raid came one day after City Hall presented a $2B budget and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams announced that City Hall would aggressively pursue revenue collection.a Most of the affected vendors said that the move came as a surprise since they were paying a weekly fee for their activities.
They said that members of the City Constabulary collected weekly sums of between two and three thousand dollars from each vendor. The venders said that they are fully aware that the constables are looking after their own interests and the money paid to them will not go into City Hall’s coffers.
Notwithstanding this, some vendors have cited the move as dishonest.
They said that they do not have a problem paying the fees but they are desirous of some sort of protection. The vendors said that they feel betrayed because some of the very officers that were involved in yesterday’s raid had collected various sums from them one day earlier.
CJ Variety Store, an established entity on Regent Street, also felt the brunt of the M&CC action.
There were eight bicycles, locked together with a chain, on display on the pavement in front of the store. When the constables visited the business place, the owners were elsewhere conducting business. An employee related to this newspaper that the constables hoisted the bicycles onto a Canter truck even as he (the employee) attempted to unlock the chains to make the task easier. Officials at City Hall demanded a fine of $5000 for the return of the bicycles.
One of the owners lamented that business is not very bright and proprietors are employing different tactics to attract customers. City Hall’s actions have only worsened the situation, they lamented.
Public Relations Officer of the M&CC, Royston King, said that while he commiserates with the vendors and affected store owners, City Hall is simply adhering to the Municipal and District Councils Act Ch 28:01, which directs the clearing of all encumbrances from its pavements and other thoroughfares.
He reminded the vendors of the arrangement with the M&CC during the festive season last year where City Hall had permitted them to ply their trade in certain sections with the understanding that they would have removed themselves and all encumbrances pertaining to their business from the pavement at the end of the season.
King said that the current exercise is really about enforcing that agreement and fulfilling the requirement of the appropriate City bylaws.
King said that the venders had received ample notice of the exercise and he could not understand why they were now accusing City Hall of being unreasonable.
King said that the operation started with the constables warning vendors to comply with the regulations. He said that the vendors have been very cooperative and had given the undertaking to remove from the pavements.
King also said that he is unaware of the claim that vendors were paying constables large sums to continue selling.
He urged affected vendors to lodge a complaint at his department. King promised that appropriate actions would be taken against defaulting constables.
The Public Relations Officer pointed out that vending activities are compromising the drainage system.
He said that some vendors are not adhering to their civil responsibility and are disposing of their solid waste in an unsanitary way.
He said that the garbage clog up the drains and creates blockages that compromises the drainage system.
“In spite of our pleadings, vendors are leaving lots of garbage on the pavements without any consideration for the huge sums Council has to expend to clean up,” King said. He further said that the M&CC have been lenient and considerate to the plight of vendors.
“We are not under statutory obligation to provide facilities to accommodate these businesses but we have taken a stance to do so despite such activities falling outside of our mandate,” he continued.
King said that discussions have begun pertaining to the restructuring of the Bourda Market.
He said that there have been suggestions to add a few more stories to the existing structure. “This is a part of our wider plan but at the moment we are stymied by inadequate cash,” King said.
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