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Belize City Council tries to address huge manhole problem

GeneralBelize City Council tries to address huge manhole problem

The new Council is struggling to cover hundreds of manholes around the city

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Feb. 26, 2019– After being in control of management of the city for three terms (9 years) the United Democratic Party (UDP) city council under the leadership of Mayor Darrell Bradley fell short of  completely covering all of the city’s manholes, even after it had negotiated and obtained a three-year loan for $300,000 to carry out the task.

So, the problem was inherited by the incoming People’s United Party (PUP) city council of Mayor Bernard Wagner, which found itself exposed to potential legal claims as a consequence of open manholes that resulted in personal injuries to a few city residents.

In a telephone interview today, Mayor Wagner told us that when he assumed office, the contractor who was supposed to cover the manholes went to see him and explained that the work was not completed because of difficulties with the previous city council.

Mayor Wagner said that the contractor gave the City Council about 200 manhole covers, and since then, the council has covered over 200 manholes around the city.

“But it’s very time-consuming because we have to go street by street,” Mayor Wagner said.

He explained that when a street is completed, the council remits payment to the new contractor.

Asked if the council had to hire a new contractor for its manhole project, Mayor Wagner said it’s not a new contractor per se, as the work is paid for on a piece-by-piece basis.

“After he completes one street, our engineer goes out and inspects it, and then the council pays him for the work,” the Mayor added.

The manholes around the city are made of both cement and metal, but Mayor Wagner explained that they are now using a stronger mix than what was used before.

“Some of the challenges that we are facing is that many of the manholes are breaking up because drivers are breaking the law by driving their vehicles on them. Those manhole covers are not constructed to take the weight of vehicles,” Mayor Wagner pointed out. The manholes are nearly always on the sidewalks, where vehicles should not be driven.

Mayor Wagner also explained that the process of covering the manholes is a tedious process because they do not have a standardized size, and in many cases, some of the manholes don’t have the lips which make it possible for them to be removed easily, when the drains need to be cleaned.

“Manholes with different sizes are ridiculous,” Mayor Wagner said.

On April 11, 2016, Mayor Darrell Bradley’s City Council negotiated a loan for $300,000 and awarded a contract to BSSB to construct manhole covers and to clean drains. The 3-year-loan carried an interest rate of 6 percent and required monthly payments of $9,126.58. The City Council used two registered properties to secure the loan — parcels #985 and 986, located in the Lake Independence area in the Registration Section of Block 45.

Mayor Wagner revealed that the loan is currently up to date, and since assuming office, the council has reduced the loan from a balance of $149,739 to $53,325.25 as of end of January 2019.

Also, since assuming office, the council has found that there are 1,101 manholes that have no covers that they are currently working on.

The manhole covers are important because if they remain uncovered, they expose the council to litigation, Mayor Wagner said.

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