COVID-19 punches hole in HMC coffers


COVID-19 punches hole in HMC coffers

Observer West writer

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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LUCEA, Hanover — Faced with a multimillion-dollar financial deficit due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hanover Municipal Corporation (HMC) has embarked on a massive revenue collection drive.

The initiative, which has taken on a multi-pronged approach, is aimed at boosting the corporation's coffer that has suffered a huge dent from anaemic earnings from various fees and licences, coupled with the corporation's response to COVID-19, which has killed millions across the world.

To date, Hanover remains the only parish on the island without a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

Chairman of the corporation, Sheridan Samuels, argued that COVID-19 has placed tremendous pressure on the entity's budget.

“Our overhead expenses are overwhelmed right now…. so, presently what we are doing right now is to try, and see how best we can get some money into our coffers,” said Samuels, who is also mayor of Lucea.

According to him, expenses incurred by the corporation as a result of measures implemented in the wake of COVID-19, include the purchasing of materials for the sanitising of the infirmary, markets and the town centre, as well as the installation of washstands.

He added that the corporation has also had to employ additional personnel to ensure that protocols such as hand sanitising and the wearing of masks are observed under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

These new hires include security guards who are positioned at the infirmary and markets.

Additionally, the corporation had to fork out huge sums to hire vehicles to transport staff within the curfew hours.

And arguing that the corporation is open for business, Samuels said the entity is urging advertisement companies with billboards erected across Hanover to clear their arrears.

He noted that a number of companies who are engaged in billboard advertising owe the corporation millions of dollars, some preceding the current People's National Party (PNP)- lead administration which took office in 2016.

“The fact of the matter is that a lot of monies are outstanding by these major companies that are advertising for other companies. What they do, they have collected these monies from a company, put up billboards in and around the parish, and are not paying over to us,” Samuels explained.

Late last year, the corporation had started a drive to remove billboards that are in breach. However, the pandemic had brought the corporation's drive to a snail's pace.

But Samuels told the Jamaica Observer West last week that “we are on the verge of moving these billboards again. So, we are asking these companies — they know who we are talking about, because we started discussions with them—to come in and pay up their arrears, or they are going to be embarrassed, because we're going to remove these signs.”

Meanwhile, Samuels is also urging business operators in Hanover who are earning over $500,000 per year to renew their trade licence.

“There is going to be a level of enforcement coming down on them,” he warned. “We have to ensure that they are compliant. So, we are asking them to come in,” Samuels stressed.

Property owners are also being asked to pay their property taxes, while buildings being constructed without approval and unlicensed bar operators are also on corporation's the radar.

“In addition, all vendors and barbers who are not registered are being asked to regularise because there is also a drive to remove vendors from the roadside, some of whom have failed to observe hand sanitisation and the wearing of masks guidelines,” Samuels warned.

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