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By Chamanlall Naipaul

The Georgetown City Council has embarked on plans in preparation for World Cup Cricket 2007, as well as an infrastructure programme during this year to refurbish roads, drains and to beautify the capital and improve its aesthetics.

Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Robert Williams outlined the programme yesterday at a press conference, disclosing that it would be executed in two phases.

The first phase will be funded to the tune of $400M under the US$25M Urban Development Programme loan agreement between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Government of Guyana.

Projects under phase two will be funded through a $200M grant from the government, and will entail the improvement of roads, drainage, installing street lights, building of recreational facilities and beautifying several areas of the city, Williams said.

Under phase one, some $115M will be spent in South Ruimveldt and adjoining areas to refurbish roads and drainage systems, while the sums of $90M, $80M and $60M will be spent to execute similar works in West and North Ruimveldt and Festival City; South Ruimveldt and Guyhoc Park; Albouystown and La Penitence; Tucville and Charlestown and Roxanne Burnham Gardens, among other areas.

Consultants are in the process of preparing bills of quantities and specifications for the projects and tender procedures will be in accordance with IDB requirements, Williams added.

With respect to phase two, Williams disclosed that $150M has been earmarked for the upgrading of streets and improving drainage in several areas in the southern part of the city, while $50M will be spent on beautification of several areas.

As part of the plan to ease traffic congestion, a main artery will be built to connect Middle Road to the East La Penitence Police Outpost, Williams revealed, while a steel bridge will be installed across the canal to link Guyhoc Park and Festival City.

Another major thrust under phase two will be the removing of concrete bridges constructed by citizens, particularly along Middle Road, which are impeding drainage, Williams said, adding that the City Council anticipates some level of confrontation, but will “stand its ground”, as it cannot allow persons to continue blocking the drainage system.

However, he said the City Council will give ample notice to those persons who are guilty of this practice and interact with them to convince them of the flooding and ensuing health hazards such practice creates.

“We will ask them to cooperate or face strong action,” Williams emphasised.

In addition, two Bobcats will be acquired at a cost of $15M to keep parapets in good shape.

He noted too that under President Bharrat Jagdeo’s initiative to have unemployed persons work three days per week for a salary of $25,000 to clean drains and parapets all year round, several communities in Georgetown are already benefiting from this.

As regards beautification, the Deputy Mayor outlined several measures including the fencing of the Le Repentir Cemetery and the construction of walkways to avoid pedestrians from using the carriageway in the area, the building of an arch at Agricola across the four-lane highway with appropriate words of welcome, the installation of 100 street lamps at strategic points and the replanting of 1,000 trees, which has already begun.

As regards the trees, Williams expressed disappointment that of the 40 trees already planted, 28 have either been stolen or destroyed. “I am disgusted, frustrated and angry,” he declared.

As such, he is appealing to citizens to help the City Council to secure the trees when they are planted by calling its hotline if they see persons removing or destroying them.

He informed the media also that City Hall will be refurbished at cost of $6M from City Council’s funds, and a package for tourists is being prepared for them to view the city from the towers at City Hall and Stabroek Market.

Damaged bridge rails and bridges will be repaired as well, he added.

Touching on revenue collection by the Council, he revealed that many persons are not paying their rates and taxes while others are underpaying, even though there has been no increase since 1998.

He bemoaned the fact that many are paying residential taxes on their properties even though they are being used for business and commercial activities.

This, he emphasised is putting a severe financial strain on the Council, in the light of the increased costs of building materials, limiting its capacity to execute work that is needed to improve conditions in the capital.

As for preparations for World Cup Cricket 2007, Williams reported that 67 hotels are currently gearing for expansion and renovation, while some new ones are going up, and the City Council has established a special desk to expedite approval and processing of building plans.

Special attention is being paid to entertainment centres and restaurants to ensure that they adhere to requisite sanitary and other standards, Williams said, emphasising that personnel employed at restaurants must have the required health certificates.

A team of Councillors and officers are currently paying visits to different parts of the city to identify those areas where streets lights are needed and where existing lights have to be repaired or replaced.

At the same time, a survey is being done to identify those premises that are engulfed by bushes and are in an unkempt condition. Measures will be implemented to have this remedied, Williams said.

Historic buildings are also being inspected to determine those that are not in a presentable condition and the relevant agencies will be contacted to have them spruced up.