Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
THE WESTMORELAND Parish Council has launched a major crackdown on property tax dodgers in an effort to rake in several million dollars owed by property owners in the parish.
Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore, while not giving a figure as to how much was outstanding, told The Gleaner on Tuesday that people have deliberately avoided paying their taxes, but the council will not sit idly by and allow this to continue.
"We are going out to them today (Tuesday) and collect what we can. If they fail to comply when we visit, then they have to make arrangements to have the sums owed paid. Failure to pay will result in us taking them to court to collect the sums owed."
Moore said it was not confined to residential, but also commercial interests.
Checks made by The Gleaner during the course of the day revealed that the effort was bearing fruit.
"We concentrated our efforts along the Norman Manley Boulevard, which is dominated by hoteliers. It has been going good so far, as we were able to collect from some, while we left reminders for some of them."
Moore said, however, that the managers and owners and, in some cases, both, were not available when his team arrived and instructions were left to have them make contact with the tax office to make arrangements for payments.
He said the parish council team would be out again next week in another area of the parish to keep up its onslaught on tax dodgers.
Meanwhile, Moore said the parish council is working along with the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) to formalise the tenure of squatters occupying lands at Barracks Road in the parish.
"The parish council is awaiting word from the Housing Agency of Jamaica for a meeting to discuss plans to begin the process of surveying the land and have it subdivided for the purpose of granting titles at the appropriate time."
He indicated that some residents had already paid some money to the Ministry of Housing for the land, which he said would have to be transferred to the HAJ, which will be dealing with the settlement issues.
Moore also said the parish council would be dealing with the tenure regularisation of squatter settlements in Bethel Town and Seaton Crescent, following the formalisation of tenure at Barracks Road.