PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – The mayor of Paynesville, Pam Belcher-Taylor, has embarked on a 90-day exercise to clear the area around ELWA Junction amid complaints of increasing criminal activities and traffic congestion.
Around 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, officers of Paynesville City Police began enforcing a mandate to remove petty traders, commercial vehicles, and tricycles and motorcycles parking around ELWA junction.
Mayor Belcher-Taylor told journalists on Friday that the move is in response to complaints from the public of increasing criminal activities and traffic congestion that endanger the safety of pedestrians.
She said after taking office earlier this year, she has held a series of dialogues with the leadership of the different groups operating commercial activities, including community leaders and Montserrado’s sixth district representative, Samuel Enders, to find a solution to the situation. She said the engagements, however, did not yield any fruit as the junction remains congested.
According to the mayor, the ongoing exercise, which began at the entrance of the city from Congo Town, is in line with the city’s ordinance.
“After much consultations with my staff, reading the ordinances for Paynesville, I felt that it was time to go ahead and start this exercise,” she said.
The mayor disclosed that to sustain the exercise, she intends to run her office from the ELWA Junction for a period of 90-days before moving to the vicinity of the Liberia Broadcasting System to continue the exercise there.
“I’m here to serve the people of Paynesville, so, anywhere I sit, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to sit behind a desk for [an] air conditioner to blow me,” she said. “If I want change, I myself have to be a part of that change.”
Around the LBS Community, the mayor disclosed that the school administrators of Isaac A. David have consistently complained that students were finding it difficult to grasp lessons because of the loud music being played by business individuals. She said the administrators also complained of individuals hanging their merchandise on the fence of the school.
Earlier this week, street sellers at the ELWA Junction were seen protesting the city’s action, holding placards and chanting slogans that suggested that the mayor’s action does not reflect the goal of the Pro-Poor Agenda, the development agenda of the government.
“Why so soon? We have to survive,” the protesters chanted.
One of them, Bendu Harris, told The Bush Chicken in an interview that the mayor’s action could put them out of business, which is their only means of survival.
“We voted for this government to be in our interest, but they are making us to feel bad too soon,” Harris said.
The mayor, who was appointed by the president, is, however, not deterred. She said the ongoing process would continue to other places in the city, including GSA Road Junction and the commercial district of Redlight, that is so congested and full of garbage.
“Sometimes, you just have to pay deaf ears if you want change,” she said in response. “Change comes with pains; change comes with [a] price; change comes with so many factors. So, I am persistent. They will not sell on the sides of the streets.”
She encouraged the sellers to move into the market hall next to the Total gas station. She said parking lots for commercial vehicles, motorcycles, and tricycles have also been identified down toward the SKD Sports Complex. Though she was not specific, she said there would be fines for individuals who violate the ordinances.
She praised the tricycle union for being so far the most cooperative group since the operation to decongest ELWA Junction began.
The president of the Paynesville Tricycle Union, Sedt Dumon, said he welcomes the exercise, but said the city should enforce the mandate for everyone, including drivers of commercial vehicles.
Dumon advised tricycle drivers to cooperate with the city and be patient, given that most of the tricycles are not owned by the drivers, as they are yet to complete their payments.
“We are not here for hostility. We are not here for confusion,” he said. “We are here for business.”
He also disclosed that the city has also set a fine of US$100 for any tricycle driver caught parking or riding in restricted areas.
A group of commercial drivers, motorcycle and tricycle drivers earlier expressed dissatisfaction over their relocation, noting that passengers are refusing to board at the new parking lots.
Maxim Flomo, a tricycle driver, told The Bush Chicken in an interview that prior to the relocation of their parking lot, he made L$3,000 (US$20) each day, but he now realizes only half of that amount since the relocation.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah