The controversial container fee will remain at a charge of $5,000 per container traversing the streets of Georgetown, according to Mayor and City Council (M&CC) Town Clerk, Royston King on Friday.
King told media operatives that the agreement was arrived at following a meeting between City Hall, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Ministry of Business on Wednesday last.
The M&CC went into the meeting with the PSC and Ministry hoping for the fees to be increased from $5,000 per container to $8,000 per 20ft container and $10,000 per 40ft container.
“The charge on containers is giving shippers an opportunity to contribute to what we do in the city (maintain roads),” King said.
On July 19, 2016, the Mayor and City Council had blocked several streets in Georgetown and its environs, demanding that a $25,000 fee be paid for each container to traverse the city streets.
At that time, the management staff of John Fernandes Terminal told INews that they were approached by Deputy Town Clerk, Sherry Jerrick on behalf of the M&CC and were informed that all laden container trucks must pay a fee of $25,000 to traverse the city streets or be blocked at the wharves.
M&CC officials were also present outside the Muneshwer’s Wharf and they proceeded to prevent container trucks from entering or leaving the location unless the $25,000 fee was paid.
While there, Deputy Town Clerk Jerrick told the media that the City Council was merely invoking Numbers 273 and 274 of its by-laws with respect to the use of its roads by vehicles of a “certain weight”.
However, the Council was forced to abandon the demand after Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) moved to the High Court challenging the M&CC’s decision to impose the new fee.
The SAG in its court documents filed, emphasised that the Municipal and Municipal District Councils Act, Ch 28:01 and by-laws does not provide for the imposition of such a tax.
According to the Notice of Motion, the SAG through Attorneys Sase Gunraj and Christopher Ram, sought to have an Order or Rule Nisi of Certiorari directed to King, Town Clerk of the City of Georgetown, quashing the decision made on July 19, 2016 to block and/or impede access of vehicles transporting shipping containers on streets within the City of Georgetown unless a fee of $25,000 per container is paid.
This application was made on the grounds that the decision is contrary to and in violation of Municipal and Municipal District Councils Act, Ch 28:01 and by-laws made there under, is biased, without jurisdiction, made in bad faith, is unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, mala fide, malicious, vindictive, unlawful, ultra vires, null, void and of no legal effect.
The PSC, at that time had said that it was increasingly concerned at the approach of the M&CC to make such decisions to raise revenue, as it negatively impacts the business community and the citizens of Georgetown especially since there was no public consultation and due process within the law.
The PSC went on to say too that it is cognisant of the city requiring sufficient revenue to be run efficiently; however, the Council should take an inclusive approach by engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process, which will serve the interest of all parties.
As such, in August of 2016, the fees were slashed from $25,000 to $5,000. (Ramona Luthi)