By Bejay Browne
PEYIA and Tala are wrangling over the payment of bills to Paphos sewerage board amounting to thousands of euros for feasibility studies.
According to Paphos sewerage board (SAPA) board member and Paphos councillor Andreas Chrysanthou, the bills relate to feasibility studies carried out for both areas ahead of their proposed inclusion in the Paphos sewerage scheme.
Earlier this year, the interior ministry turned down requests by both villages to exit the scandal-hit SAPA project. However, they were granted a five-year tax freeze and those who have already paid their bills were told they would be refunded.
This decision was recently overturned due to a number of legalities, but refunds will now be granted once the outstanding study fees are forthcoming, said Chrysanthou.
“We aren’t blackmailing people, as some are suggesting. SAPA has spent the money on studies and these costs need to be recovered. As soon as that happens, we will be able to return the money to the people who have paid.”
But Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc said that residents are concerned that the sewerage board keeps moving the goal posts and that an air of mistrust still prevails.
She noted that SAPA has now sent a bill to the mayor of Peyia for €129,000. He has written to the auditor general, asking him to analyse it and see if it is justified. According to Leblanc, Peyia has already paid €45,000 for a study which was carried out in 2009.
“This move by SAPA is not illogical, but people want their money back if there’s not going to be a system for five years. This is mismanagement of public finds as it would mean that Peyia has paid over €175,000 for studies which are out of date, useless, and nothing has moved ahead.”
The councillor noted that the studies were also undertaken by a company which SAPA no longer works with and which occurred at the height of the corruption scandal.
“Who knows what was really going on? People are finding it hard to trust SAPA, even now,” she said.
Chrysanthou explained that neither community has been removed from the project, only postponing tax collection for five years, so this doesn’t mean that they are relieved from this tax.
Chrysanthou said that the mukhtar of Tala recently attended a board meeting and discussed the village paying their outstanding bill in two payments.
“She said she would discuss it with the other local councillors and we are waiting for the outcome.”
Tala councillor Cathy Delaney said the community council is unhappy about the demand which reneges on an initial agreement made by the previous mukhtar.
“Tala has a bill for around €40,000. Initially it was agreed by the previous mukhtar that we would pay 20 per cent and the government would pay 80 per cent. This was around four years ago.
“We are a village and not a municipality and are now being told that we have to pay the full amount and try to get it back from the tax payers ourselves. This is like blackmail.”
The villager councillor said that Tala has proposed a waste management solution to the water board and minister of the interior, which is cost effective and won’t cause disruption to roads or residences.
She added that a study which was undertaken and paid for a while ago by Tala suggested that main line sewerage isn’t feasible for the village.
“The terrain in Tala is hilly with a number of ravines and also often experiences power outages. Can you imagine the flooding if pumps stopped working and the possibility of sewage backing up, particularly at holiday properties?” she said.
“We are saying, if you receive a SAPA bill, ignore it, unless you’re selling your property.”