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Arima mayor eyes green market space
Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian has a green vision for the borough of Arima. In fact, is she has her way, one day it will become the capital of the east.
“Arima is the home of the First People and we want something to reflect the indigenous spirit,” the former teacher told the Sunday Guardian.
One of the projects on the journey to this status is a new market. Morris-Julian said it will be a multi-million dollar facility at least four storeys with an open-air multi-purpose hall incorporating solar energy. But while she deems it urgent, she is unable to say how soon construction will begin because the Arima Borough Corporation has to wait for Government funding.
“That’s the problem, because at the Local Government level we don’t have the money and have to wait on Cabinet approval,” Morris-Julian said.
Morris-Julian said Arima MP Anthony Garcia and D’Abadie/O’Meara MP Ancil Antoine have been effortlessly lobbying Cabinet to get the funding approved under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
The issue of a new market was thrown into the limelight again last week following a protest by vendors. One of the issues raised during their protest was a mandate from the corporation that vendors who had outstanding dues had to settle them before being allowed back into the market after a sanitization exercise.
Asked if the vendors had complied, the mayor approximately 60 per cent of them did.
“I am very proud of the way the vendors met their responsibilities. They may not have paid all outstanding monies but we have seen them trying and we appreciate that and are more than willing to work with them,” she said.
Confident the new market would be a great improvement for the vendors, Morris-Julian declared: “We want it to be unique.”
She noted that the borough needs other important facilities, including a proper library, but also has in her vision an arts centre, indoor sporting complex, museum and a new community centre.
Noting she was happy the new hospital was nearing completion, she insisted, “We sincerely believe a new market will reflect our standing in the national community.”
To press home her point about the market, Morris-Julian said a homeless man died there two weeks ago after suffering a heart attack. However, she said the EHS was unable to get to him after finding blocked walkways and narrow passages between the stalls, which hindered them from reaching the victim.
Morris-Julian said she still had sleepless nights over this as she believed they could have saved the man’s life had the market been more spacious.
“We have to do better. It still haunts me that the space was inadequate and we have failed in our duty over the years, as the facility is not welcoming to the disabled either.”
She admitted that the borough was equally to blame for the condition the facility had been allowed to fall into.
“There has been a lot of mismanagement regarding the Arima Market over decades.”
Asked if this mismanagement included the corporation’s failure to collect outstanding dues from 2015 to present, Morris-Julian said: “I am not aware if the vendors have a legitimate claim to point fingers at the corporation for not enforcing the payment of dues. I know that when tenants do not pay their rent on time and in full to landlords, they can be evicted.”
She added, “Arima is a very small place where everyone knows everyone, they become comfortable and through marriage and familial ties, everything has become so intertwined and it has become difficult for some people to enforce the rules.”
She agreed the size of the stalls was one of the major issues being challenged by the vendors, but said her hands were tied as the corporation’s bye-laws dictate that stalls be no larger than three feet by five feet.
“I know that is small for $2.50 per day, I understand that, but until better can be done persons have to comply,” she said.
There is also a waiting list of over 200 people seeking to secure spots to sell in the market, Morris-Julian estimated.
“If vendors comply, we can fit in at least another 60 persons as there are some vendors occupying more stalls than they are paying for, so if they give up some of the spots somebody else can get an opportunity to vend.”
Confronting the naysayers, Morris-Julian said, “Some people think I have bitten off more than I can chew because what I am doing has not been attempted for a while, but in order for Arima to thrive we need to have some kind of order.”
Asked if she was fearful for her safety as she continueddown this path, Morris-Julian said, “I am not afraid. I am a child of Arima and I have tremendous support from the residents of Arima.
“I have a no-nonsense approach but I am quite flexible and willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us, but I will not be taken advantage of.”
With one year and four months left to go as the mayor, she said, “We have grand plans but due to a lack of funds, plus the realisation that change is not always welcomed, I am trying to make it easier for whoever comes after me as I deal with some of the chaos.”
Urging the vendors to stop being misled by assurances they could rent market spots for 75 cents per day, Morris-Julian said the by-laws clearly gave the price range as from $1 up to a maximum of $4.
“Right now, it is $2.50 and we are not going to reach $4. I have no intention of increasing the rates under my tenure because I know times are hard and we definitely would not do that to the vendors, but 75 cents per day is an insult.”
Meanwhile, Arima Market Vendors Association president Ernest Lewis says although vendors were allowed back into the market yesterday, there continue to be a number of violations taking place with regard to health and safety.
While complying with the instructions not to exceed the three by five stall placement, he said many vendors experienced some degree of displacement and others were left with no space to sell as the stalls “are simply too small.”
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