MONTEGO BAY, St James — Unable to collect millions of dollars in billboard fees, the St James Municipal Corporation has taken the drastic step of covering at least two prominently placed signs in Fairview, Montego Bay.
Instead of the hard-to-miss digital ads strategically positioned near the stoplight, passersby now see tarps bearing the local authority’s logo.
Deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon was unable to provide the exact amount of overdue fees but told the Jamaica Observer that it was “a tidy sum”.
“It usually reaches in the millions if it is outstanding and if it is covered — usually beyond a million dollars if it is covered,” he explained.
“If it is covered it is significant, because we don’t usually just go around and cover the signs for small amounts,” Vernon added.
It is a step the municipal corporation has taken in the past, he said, but it is just one of the ways in which the local authority attempts to collect payments that are overdue.
Billboard fees fall under the places of amusement advertising regulations, which allow private entities to display signs across the country while paying a fee to their local municipal corporation. Fees are based on ad size.
In Vernon’s opinion the fees are reasonable, and he implored the municipal corporation’s clients to keep up with payments. Uncollected funds, the deputy mayor stressed, leave a dent in the corporation’s coffers.
“It will reduce the revenue that we are supposed to collect as we would have given up one of our spots for that particular business exercise,” he pointed out.
He also noted the cost incurred in trying to collect overdue fees.
“It costs us to mobilise people, to monitor the signs, to serve notices, to cover them — it costs us to do that. It costs time, and time is money,” said Vernon.
He is urging clients who are in arrears to pay up as soon as possible.
“Come in and pay. Just like any other operator — small or large — we expect persons to practise good corporate management and [have a] good corporate relationship with the local authorities,” the deputy mayor appealed.
“Our doors are always open, and they can come and always have a conversation where we can work out the possibilities of some kind of arrangement,” he added.