POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS were left at home when it came to running the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, the largest of the nine municipalities up for grabs in the December 2 local government election.
The corporation was evenly split between two parties – the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC) – in the 2016 election with each party winning four districts and two aldermen. In spite of the political divide, chairman of the corporation Terry Rondon said a lot has been done.
“My greatest achievement was unifying a divided council. On the first day they walked out on me and came back three weeks later. After that I held that council together with equal share. There were party members who disagreed with that.”
Rondon won the Toco/Fishing Pond seat as a PNM candidate and is expected to retain that community. Outside the walls of the corporation’s office on Ramdass Street, off the Eastern Main Road, Sangre Grande, the burgesses all had the same concerns – representation or what they deemed the lack of.
Sunday Newsday visited parts of the corporation's allotted region and spoke with residents about what they wanted from their councillors and their hopes post December 2. Entering Sangre Grande along the “Sangre Grande stretch” PNM flags waved drivers hello and goodbye. At Guaico, the waving stopped. Freshly plastered sidewalks, a welcomed thing in most areas, is a cause for concern for one vendor.
“All the time the water used to go under the pavement and in the drain but they come and fix the pavement and they ain’t put no openings so all the water staying on the roads when rain fall. People fed up complain because cars does be passing and wetting up people” a man who identified himself as Kenny said.
Further away, another fruit vendor Vedesh Persad praised Rondon for his ability to set aside politics and treat with people as individuals. He added that employment was a major issue for youths in Sangre Grande who have to go out of the area for jobs. The 32-year-old said he recalled leaving his community, which he boasted has “oneness” and taking a job in Couva in his youthful days.
At Pitts Trace, Coal Mine, Gwendolin Thomas asked for proper drainage as the earthen drains are not sufficient and there is a need for better roads. Thomas, fondly called “Ms Sherry”, lamented that the councillor is not getting the job done for those simple issues.
Daniel Roberts, 70, sat at the bus terminal in Sangre Grande reading a newspaper. When approached he said: “Boy, government come government go and up to this day nobody satisfied. The best government was the NAR (National Alliance for Reconstruction).”
Residents of Manzanilla asked that they get better roads while some farmers were grateful that access roads to their farms were paved. David Williams, known as “Monkey”, said the way his area of Cumuto/Tamana was treated makes him not want to go out and vote. He said there seemed to be political victimisation as communities believed to be supportive of the incumbent councillor had paved roads where all others remain unpaved.
“Both parties neglected us. My area will always have issues, we need lights, roads but we have a good water supply.”
Surrounded by five rivers, Sangre Grande flooded in October, last year, as the rivers burst their banks turning the “Big Blood” into a muddy lake. Days after the flooding, residents said it was the worst they had endured in 50 years. Anika Seenarine and Jeeterand Persaud said water levels rose to five feet in their home on Cooperative Street, Sangre Grande. Seenarine said the river behind their house should be diverted as the water is slowly eating away at the land.
Despite the concerns of residents, the councillors said they achieved much with their resources, and shared that at meetings their political affiliations were set aside to meet the needs of the people.
Sunday Newsday sat in for the council's final meeting last Friday. Outgoing UNC councillor for Cumuto/Tamana, Nirmal Singh defended councillors who were accused of not being seen in communities adding that the job was not full time and councillors too had to seek employment and attend to their burgesses after their work. He and Rondon said the council should have been a full time job, a long time ago, and hoped local government reform would address this in terms of proper compensation.
Singh said the power in local government was in the deliverables reminding burgesses that when they have proper drains, and garbage collection and roads fixed, it was their council working for them. Visibility, he added, increase once councillors are full time employees.
In the last three years, Rondon said the council has been able to construct a garage to service their fleet of vehicles, pave access roads to over 100 farmers, provided lighting for recreational grounds, refurbished the Valencia and Grand Riviere recreational grounds, repaired/constructed bridges and box drains and cleared rivers in each of the eight districts.
Rondon, who awarded each council member with a certificate, thanked them for their service and encouraged those who would return to continue the work done. He also sent a message to the members who will join the council that they too must set aside political alignment for the betterment of the region.
He ended his final meeting telling the council: “Whoever wears this chain, use it to help others. If I lose, so be it. Remember when you climb the tree to the highest point don’t eat all the fruit on top, send down some for those at the bottom.”
Sangre Grande Regional Corporation
In the past 2016-2019 term the districts were: Toco/Fishing Pond, Manzanilla, Sangre Grande South, Valencia, Sangre Grande Northwest, Sangre Grande Northeast and Cumuto/Tamana.
The districts were recently revised to Valencia West, Valencia East/Toco, Manzanilla/Fishing Pond, Sangre Grande Northeast, Sangre Grande Northwest, Sangre Grande South, Vega de Oropouche and Cumuto/Tamana.
2017/2018 – $79,352,235; the corporation requested $85,135,200
2018/2019 – $78,449,969; the corporation requested $82,823,113
2017/2018 – $16,616,851; the corporation requested $18,100,000
2018/2019 – $13,343,500; the corporation requested $18,100,000
* According to their website the corporation services as area of 898 square kilometres with 41 communities.