17th August 2012, St. John’s Antigua- One of the directors managing the Jolly Harbour residential community has denied reports that Caribbean Developments Antigua Ltd (CDAL) has disconnected sewage services to properties whose owners have failed to pay for community services.
Gaye Hechme, of CDAL, told OBSERVER Media the company sent out notices to a handful of the 800 homeowners who have not been paying for security, maintenance of their properties and surroundings, among other community services.
Hechme said, contrary to another media entity’s reports, “No one’s sewage has been disconnected. Notice was sent out that it would be done but all we want them to do is pay. When they don’t, we CDAL, have to subsidise the shortfall.”
She posited, ”If we don’t pay our utilities to APUA what happens, don’t we get disconnected?”
Meantime, several property owners in Jolly Harbour confirmed Hechme’s comment that disconnections were not carried out.
At the same time, they describe the situation as “complicated” with many saying the community’s managers have also been contributing to the existing problems.
One resident explained, “This problem is being pushed by several individuals who have grudges with the management and they refuse to pay. But, they are refusing to pay because none of us have seen any audits detailing how our community service fees are allocated by the management.”
In an email to OBSERVER Media, another resident stated, “These (problems) have mostly arisen either through straitened economic circumstances, or through retention in long running disputes concerning CDAL’s long-term failure to publish accounts to justify community charge, as required in the purchase contracts of many homeowners.”
A third property owner explained he has been withholding part of the payment and that’s because management has allegedly failed to justify increased prices.
“CDAL raised the price by $39 in 2007 and some people have refused to pay the difference. So it is not that they haven’t paid at all, it is just that they are not paying that extra $39 and I am one of those against that increase because is has to be justified first,” he said.
On the other hand, a fourth community member said, regardless of management’s alleged failure to conduct an audit, it gives no right to any homeowner to withhold payment for services that are still being provided.
Eli Fuller, who also has property in Jolly Harbour, said to his knowledge most of the homeowners have been compliant. He said those who are not ought to pay up, but the managers of the community must also show accountability.
Fuller went on to deny suggestions that disconnection of sewage would lead to health problems.
“Health and environmental problems could only occur if people knowingly use their toilet and bathroom facilities after disconnection. That would be deliberate and wrong,” he said.
Also addressing the issue was former president of the Jolly Harbour Homeowners group, Brian D’Ornellas, who said, “It is difficult and complicated. The relationship between CDAL and the homeowners has deteriorated and has become a big problem. The reason it has prevailed is because the homeowners group does not communicate with the managers.”
He said he hoped the situation would be resolved sooner rather than later.
CDAL declined to respond to homeowners’ concerns over price increases and failure to publish accounts.