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City gets a boost after talks with Premier

The Government has granted the City of Hamilton power to levy wharfage fees for 2011.

Mayor Charles Gosling added that more changes to the Municipalities Act could happen in the future.

Earlier this year the corporation protested against changes to the Municipalities Act, which they claimed were tantamount to “financial strangulation”.

Yesterday at the City of Hamilton's public meeting Mr Gosling said he met with Premier Paula Cox soon after she took office last month.

“The meeting went well,” he said. “We will be able to continue our wharfage fees in 2011.

“I think that shows this is a completely new administration and we can work together.

“Here we are December 1 with a new administration and we have had discussions with the Minster of Finance [Ms Cox] and [Derrick Burgess], the Minister in charge of the municipalities.

“We have a commitment on wharfage and it is a new regime and they have shown they will work with us and that is a positive change.”

Premier Cox confirmed the city would receive the wharfage in 2011 but said no further decision had been made.

She said: “During discussions conducted with the City of Hamilton there has been no firm commitment in relation to wharfage. Meetings centered around protocols for rules of engagement that enable a positive discussion on matters going forward.

“In the interim they were to advise on their budget and deliverables and they have committed to do so.

“They were advised of the probability of a grant in a desire to stabilise the situation in short term.”

Last year, wharfage fees generated about $7.5 million in revenue for City Hall roughly 35 percent of its budget.

In July this year MPs voted to update the 1923 Municipalities Act.

As a result, the City of Hamilton and the Corporation of St. George were required to pay land tax, abolish the property vote, allow all Hamilton or St. George's residents to vote in local elections, and wipe out the municipal register.

The amendments also removed the right of business owners to vote in city elections unless they also live in the city.

One of the biggest issues was the wharfage tax. The City of Hamilton argued that they should be able to keep collecting fees because:

lthey own the Hamilton docks;

lthey built the Hamilton docks;

lthey are compelled by the Marine Board Act to manage and run the docks, which costs $1.7 million annually.

Prior to the July debate in the House of Assembly, which amended the legislation, they warned that they would have to drastically cut their budget if they could not levy this fee.

But former Premier Ewart Brown said that Hamilton's docks are a lifeline for the country and should be controlled by central Government.

Yesterday, after the meeting, Mr Gosling said: “I would prefer not to elaborate on my meeting with either the Minister Responsible for Municipalities or the Finance Minister besides saying that in both meetings we engaged in a good positive discussion and it would appear at this time that we are all looking for meaningful reform within the Municipalities which not only includes changes to the act but changes in how the two tiers of government interact and where we can collaborate on issues that impact the city and its surrounds.”

Ms Cox added: “The Government confirms that issues will be properly addressed and reforms will continue but in a realistic and reasonable manner.”

Photo by Mark Tatem Financial boost: Premier Paula Cox has agreed to allow the City of Hamilton to levy wharfage at the city's docks for 2011.

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Published December 02, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 3:40 am)

City gets a boost after talks with Premier

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