Mayor Francis Takes on the Critics.
MAYOR of Castries, Peterson Francis, has responded to comments made via social media and elsewhere that despite making huge sums of money from managing the three-day Assou Square event, the Castries Constituency Council (CCC) did little to make the event a pleasant experience.
Francis dismissed the comments – especially those featured on Facebook – that suggested that the CCC made in excess of $70,000 in fees for rental of tents and tray space at the event which ran from Sunday through Tuesday at Derek Walcott Square.
“For the tents, we only collected $31,500. For the trays, we collected $10,313. For others, we collected $5,608. This means we collected $47,421. However, the total cost to CCC for hosting the New Year Fair – excluding the costs CDF would bear in relation to providing entertainment – was $160,737.59,” Francis explained.
Francis said the total cost of the event this year is estimated at over $200,000 when the entertainment aspect underwritten by the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) would have been included. However, he said, organizers are already mulling ways to reduce expenses associated with hosting the event in the future.
“For the CCC, Assou Square is not a profit-making venture,” Francis said on Thursday. “It is a tradition that we’re trying to keep alive. So the skeptics who believe that everything being done now in Saint Lucia is political must start to grow up. Elections will be held in the next five years whether you like Peterson Francis or not.”
Sporadic showers put a damper on the event on all three days, leading to some vendors especially in Derek Walcott Square calling for a refund to lost business as a result of the soggy environment there. Others said not much was done to create the traditional experience that drew large crowds.
One vendor who requested anonymity told The VOICE that she was unable to make ends meet during the event because her tent was set up in Derek Walcott Square. She said the Council could have made special arrangements to provide wooden pallets for patrons to walk on. Organizers also came under fire from one local promoter who lamented that neither a chair nor bottled water was provided backstage for her artistes who performed at the event.
However, Francis said the CCC was forced to work within its means to ensure that vendors got the chance to earn some revenue and patrons enjoy the annual New Year’s holiday experience. Despite the criticisms, he said the event was successful in many ways.
“We’d like to thank the patrons, the police, fire service, Cultural Development Foundation (CDF), our city police and staff for making (Assou Square) a great event,” Francis said. “Overall, this year’s event was basically incident-free except for the final days when some people unrelated to the event had their own fracas…But I think we have seen a vast improvement this year as far as that is concerned.”
When asked whether the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground promenade would serve as a better alternative to Derek Walcott Square in the future, Francis said vendors would complain about paying extra transportation costs and therefore seek reduced rates for rentals of tents and tray space. Managing an event on a larger scale, he said, would mean that organizers would incur additional costs.
CCC’s Operations Manager, Michael Hinds, said the CCC had 80 available tents for rental at a cost of $725 for the three-day event. However, he said $150 of that amount was a refundable fee that vendors received should they return the tents undamaged.