That is the balance left by the UDP in the country’s biggest village’s bank account, Chairman Bennett confirmed.
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 7, 2019– Village Council elections ended with both the governing United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition, People’s United Party claiming victory, even though at one point the UDP had acknowledged that the PUP was ahead in the tally. Be that as it may, all the village councils have been sworn in and should be carrying out their functions.
In Ladyville, the largest village in the country, the village council was sworn in last Thursday, August 1, in a ceremony attended by the Leader of the Opposition and the PUP Belize Rural Central standard bearer, Dolores Balderamos Garcia. Noticeably absent from the swearing-in ceremony was the Belize Rural Central area representative, Hon. Beverly Castillo. The PUP captured the position of chairman and won two council seats, while the UDP won four seats on the council. The UDP previously held a full slate.
Today we spotted the Ladyville chairman, Bernardo Bennett, in our neighborhood attending a funeral at St. Martin De Pores church and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
We asked Chairman Bennett to break down the configuration of his village council, in terms of positions. He told us that Martin H. Jimenez (UDP) is the vice-chairman; Ashley Thompson (PUP) is secretary; Audrey Moss (UDP) is treasurer; and members of the council are Kenisha T. Gooding, Taysha Choc, and Ayla Franklin.
Chairman Bennett told us about what transpired at the handing over ceremony.
“Well, the Rural Development Officer, Mr. Germin Avila, was present and I signed two papers. One paper had some inventory items, such as a drivable lawn mower, some tables, couple wheelbarrows, and some keys for the community center and the basketball court. I signed a document that has the Belize Bank number and the cash on hand for the Ladyville Village Council, which was $560. This was surprising to me,” Chairman Bennett revealed.
We asked the chairman to explain how the cash-strapped Ladyville Village Council would go about raising money.
“Usually fundraising is done in the month of September, but another source for revenue for the council is the liquor licensing fee. Those are the main sources of revenue,” Chairman Bennett explained.
Bennett said that since his last tenure as vice chairman of the village council, in 2001, the system has changed quite a bit. “The Rural Development Officer said you have to submit a monthly report which is due on the 14th of each month,” he said. “Based on that report, the Rural Development Officer will release funds to your bank account.”
He said that it was his estimation that the Ladyville Village Council collects around $30,000 per annum from liquor licensing.
Bennett said that the village council’s first order of business is the weekly cleaning of the village, and that that job requires quite a bit of funding. He said that under the previous government, the PUP, there was a team of about 15 men who used to clean the drains, the street sides, the football field, and the cemetery.
He told us the Rural Development Officer told him that there might be some funds left over from the liquor licensing fees, and that they would have to see how quickly they could access those.
“Come next year we will have full access to the liquor licensing fees, so we will have to prepare a budget,” Bennett said.
He told us what his priorities for the village were:
“Right now, my priority is to put in place some polices and structures that I see are missing from the way things are done, for example, like the charging of the proper fees for the use of the community center, the basketball court. Right now I am thinking about a small burial fee, and to try to put a caretaker at the cemetery. I will also need to put together a budget for the cleaning of the village,” Chairman Bennett said.
While the work must go on, Bennett recognizes that he is without the support of the area representative, Hon. Beverly Castillo, whom, he said, he has not heard from since his election: “Not even a congratulatory phone call or some message or gesture to suggest that they can work together for the good of the community of Ladyville,” he said.