Stallholders at three food markets and centres in Aljunied GRC, including Block 511’s centre in Bedok North Street 3 (above), said they were told to pay for erection of scaffolding to clean high areas. NEA said town councils must bear the costs of cleaning, including the erection of scaffolding. — ST PHOTOS: AZIZ HUSSIN
The Straits Times NEA sends Aljunied town council reminder on cleaning of common areas – 1 Jun 2013
THE National Environment Agency (NEA) has sent a formal notice to Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), reminding it of its legal obligations, after it failed to do a thorough cleaning of a market and food centre in Bedok.
The advisory issued yesterday to the Workers’ Party (WP)-led town council stated that under Section 18 (1) of the Town Councils Act, town councils are responsible for the maintenance and cleanliness of all common property, including markets and hawker centres.
It noted that since the 2003 Sars outbreak, all town councils have been expected to do spring cleaning of Housing Board-owned markets and hawker centres under their charge.
The NEA, which has had a coordinating role in the spring cleaning of these hawker centres since 2004, said town councils must “carry out a thorough cleaning” of all common areas including drains, columns, floors and fans. “The ceilings, beams and exhaust ducts are to be cleaned at least once a year during major spring cleanings,” said the NEA note, released to the media.
The NEA reminded the town council that it must bear costs of the cleaning, including the erection of scaffolding, “without any additional charges” as it collects monthly service and conservancy fees from stallholders.
It added that the town council will be held accountable for any hygiene or public health lapses under the Environment and Public Health Act.
The agency’s reminder yesterday came after stallholders of Block 538, Bedok North Street 3 returned to their stalls after a five-day closure in March to find that ceiling and exhaust ducts had not been cleaned. Ten stallholders there said they each paid $140 to their committee chairman in March for canvas covers for their stalls during the clean-up.
They also said they were told by AHPETC that it was not responsible for the ceiling cleaning.
Stallholders at two other food markets and food centres in Aljunied GRC said they, too, were told by AHPETC that they must pay for the erection of scaffolding in order for AHPETC’s contracted cleaners to clean the high areas. These centres are at Blocks 511 of Bedok North Street 3 and Block 630 of Bedok Reservoir Road.
All three market and food centres are being maintained by FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), the AHPETC’s managing agent.
The row between the stallholders and AHPETC came amid a war of words between the WP and the People’s Action Party (PAP) in Parliament last month over managing agent rates.
In the case of the Block 538 centre, AHPETC admitted it had not cleaned the ceilings and exhaust ducts.
Mr Yeo Soon Fei, its deputy general manager, later wrote to The Straits Times Forum to say that it was told by the NEA in February that the hawker association there would be making the scaffolding arrangements.
But “for reasons unknown”, the structures were not provided for, said Mr Yeo.
The NEA responded, stating that “all town councils have always been responsible for paying contractors to erect scaffolding where required to clean walls”.
The NEA also noted yesterday that the cleaning contractor had provided scaffolding for Block 511 during last year’s spring cleaning exercise, while scissor lifts were used during the spring cleaning of Block 630, Bedok Reservoir Road.
Mr Wan Khow Wai, 62, who runs a cooked food stall at Block 511, said: “All this while, the town council would clean the ceilings and exhaust ducts and we never had to pay extra.”
At another food centre maintained by AHPETC – Block 209, Hougang Street 21 – its committee chairman Lau Meng Chye said that for its cleaning next week, AHPETC told him that stallholders must pay to erect scaffolding as its cleaners will not clean areas above 2.5m. But because it did not issue a letter stating this formally, the 53-year-old has cancelled the scaffolding plans.
The town council did not reply to The Straits Times’ queries last week.
A Straits Times check with 30 stallholders from markets and food centres managed by the other 15 town councils islandwide found all saying that they have never had to pay for the erection of scaffolding so that their town councils’ cleaners can clean the high areas.
Hawker Raymond Tan, 56, a snack seller at 50A Marine Terrace Market for more than 30 years, said: “Cleaning is carried out by the town council on a quarterly basis. Twice a year, the cleaners will clean the ceiling and fans. We’ve never had to pay any fees for such major cleaning.”
(AHPETC ) Food centre cleaning: Town council replies – ST Forum – May 29, 2013
WITH regard to the cleaning exercise at the Block 538 Bedok North market in March, it was the National Environment Agency (NEA), (???) the coordinating agency, that informed us in February that the hawker association would be making the necessary arrangements for the scaffolding to clean the high areas (“Stallholders in row with WP town council”; Sunday).
However, for reasons unknown, (????) the scaffolding was not provided on the day designated for the cleaning, resulting in the town council’s cleaners being unable to carry out the work.
For the cleaning exercise at the Block 511 Bedok North market next month, discussions between our town council and the NEA are in progress to ensure a smooth exercise, including the scaffolding arrangements.
We stress that at no point in time did any of our authorised personnel advise hawkers or anyone that there would be additional charges imposed by the town council on the hawkers for the cleaning. (???)
Yeo Soon Fei
Deputy General Manager
Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council
(The Straits Times) -Stallholders in row with WP town council – 26 May 2013 -By Joyce Lim
Stallholders at two food centres in Bedok are locked in a dispute with their town council over the top-to-bottom cleaning of the centres.
The disagreement is about whether stallholders should have to foot any of the bill for power washing the ceilings and ceiling fixtures, an exercise that is done twice a year and requires them to vacate the premises for five days.
The two food centres are in blocks 511 and 538 of Bedok North Street 3, in the Kaki Bukit ward of Aljunied GRC. They are managed by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) of the Workers’ Party (WP).
Stallholders said they were informed they had to pay for the scaffolding that is erected for the washing, but said they never had to in the past.
A National Environment Agency (NEA) spokesman also told The Sunday Times that “pursuant to section 18(1) of the Town Councils Act, all town councils are responsible for maintaining and cleaning of all common areas, including hawker centres, in Housing Board towns”.
“Consequently AHPETC is supposed to conduct regular spring cleaning including the ceilings, exhaust systems, fans, lights and other fixtures. There should not be any additional charges since the town council collects service and conservancy charges from the hawkers on a monthly basis,” said the spokesman.
Each of the 42 cooked food stalls at Block 511 pays more than $120 for service and conservancy charges per month.
Some hawkers requested a meeting on the issue with town council officials on April 26 at which NEA officers were also present. The meeting ended in stalemate, said the stallholders.
The row comes just as the war of words between WP and the People’s Action Party (PAP) in Parliament two weeks ago over managing agent rates seemed to have calmed last week. But even as netizens continue to discuss the showdown online, the debate could be given fresh fuel with these hawkers’ concerns.
The latest dispute began after a scheduled cleaning of the market and food centre at Block 538. Ten stallholders said they had each paid $140 to their committee chairman in March for canvas covers to drape over their stalls during the clean-up.
But they returned after a five-day closure to find the ceiling and exhaust ducts had not been cleaned. “We were shocked when we returned to find the canvas covering our stalls still so clean, without dust and debris from the ceiling on it,” said Madam Yong Heng Ran, 54, a carrot-cake hawker.
AHPETC acknowledged the ceilings were not washed during the exercise. “For Block 538 market, cleaning was carried out from March 4 to 7, with the individual stallholders doing their individual cleaning on March 8,” said a spokesman.
“As for the cleaning of high areas, we were informed that scaffolding will be provided. However, on the day of cleaning, there was no scaffolding, hence our cleaners could only clean the reachable areas and not the ceiling and exhaust ducts.”
A check with another food centre managed by the same town council, at Block 209, Hougang Street 21, found it is not standard practice for the town council’s cleaners to wash those ceilings as well. But there will be a cleaning next month at the request of the hawkers there and each will have to pay $100 for canvas and scaffolding to facilitate the cleaning.
But the Bedok stallholders said scaffolding was always erected by the cleaning contractor, not the hawkers, in previous years.
“We were only told to cover our stalls with canvas and that the market would be closed for five days,” said Miss Tan Siok Tiang, 48, who runs a clothes alteration stall at the market.
“I was told the actual cleaning took only one day. I think it’s a joke played on us and we have to suffer loss of income for four extra days.”
Further queries to the town council from The Sunday Times about why there was no scaffolding went unanswered as did an e-mail to WP chairman Sylvia Lim.
But with the cleaning for Block 511 scheduled for June 24 to 28, hawkers there said they have been told by AHPETC they would have to pay extra for the contracted cleaners to clean the ceilings and exhaust ducts.
A stallholder representative, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chan, said: “We were told by the town council that its contracted cleaners do not cover areas that are more than 2.5m from the ground, so they will not clean the ceilings and exhaust ducts.”
The 55-year old drink stall owner, who was at the April 26 meeting, finds the extra charge “unreasonable” as he never had to pay it before. “We feel it is for the new town council to negotiate with the cleaners to include the cleaning of high areas.”
Mr Chan said the hawkers’ concerns had been raised with their MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, at Meet-the-People Sessions earlier this month.
NEA told The Sunday Times that it has formally reminded AHPETC of its statutory duties.
image from : Fabrications About The PAP