Minister of Local Government & Community Development the Honourable Noel Arscott, attended a special sitting of the St Thomas Parish Council yesterday Thursday, February 7, 2013 where he engaged in discussions with councillors, administrative heads and agency representatives on issues affecting the parish. He also toured several facilities including the site of the former Offices of the Council which was gutted by fire in 2004.
Minister Arscott sought to address a number of the issues which arose. He spoke explicitly to the matter of parochial road repairs stating that he would be meeting with the Minister of Transport, Works and Housing to develop a strategy to address rehabilitation of the numerous parochial roads that are currently in a state of disrepair. He also addressed the issue of the construction of an administrative building for the council revealing that he has written to the Commissioner of Lands regarding acquisition of premises to the back of the transport centre. He said he was hopeful that this aspect of the process will be settled quickly so that construction plans can be put in place in short order.
While he sought to answer other questions relating to fire fighting, street lighting and water shortage, the Minister was keen to point out that the Council needed to improve its revenue intake in order to be in a better position to serve the people of St Thomas. He suggested that one way in which this could be done is for Council to implement measures aimed at encouraging persons to pay their property taxes as St Thomas has $97M property tax arrears for the current financial year.
“I’m sure you could do a lot with that?” he said turning to chairman of the St Thomas Parish Council, Mayor Marsha Francis.
Continuing on the matter of revenues, the Minister echoed the sentiments expressed earlier by Mayor Francis that citizens should formulate ideas, develop project plans and seek funding to spur development in the parish.
The Local Government Minister further indicated that the manner in which the Council conducts its affairs could also contribute to enhancing the efficiency of the organization. He stated that the roles and functions of both the political and administrative arms of council should be clearly understood and that parish matters should be discussed in an open and respectful manner thereby improving Council’s image and relevance to its constituents. “This will further the mandate of this government with regards to accountability and transparency” he added.
Minister Arscott was on his second Council visit since the start of the year. He was in Portland two weeks ago and will be in St Catherine to meet with St. Catherine Parish Council and Portmore Municipal Council on Wednesday February 27, 2013.