The Ambergris Caye
Chamber of Commerce provided the following information from the minutes
of their last meeting. Invited guests were Belize Rural South Area
Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., Ambergris Caye Traffic Control
Committee Chairman (ACTCC) Milo Paz Jr., South End Neighborhood Watch
Lala, North End Neighborhood Watch
Secretary Ali Campbell, Citizens Safety Committee Director Corey
McDermott and San Pedro Police Inspector Aaron Guzman.
Guest speaker Milo
Paz Jr., as ACCTC Chairman, provided the following traffic information
for those gathered. The Traffic Committee is a seven-member board, which
includes two members of the San Pedro Town Council and two advisors from
Central Government. They are responsible for the number and size of
vehicles allowed on the island, for recommendations on
traffic signs, parking and enforcement. The Committee is empowered by law
at the Central Government level. The Minister of Transport has the
authority to implement traffic solutions for San Pedro, but will only do
so with public support.
Mr. Paz stated that the Committee has
received many suggestions to improve the traffic situation, but there is
no comprehensive plan in place. There are rules, laws and legislations,
but to a great extent these are ignored or circumvented. For example, it
is illegal to sell a vehicle inclusive of permit, but frequently cart
rental companies and taxi owners are able to accomplish it.
The ACCTC Chairman explained that it is easy to
circumvent the rules because of the different entities responsible for
the permitting and licensing of vehicles, and for the enforcing of the
rules. He stressed the importance of the Committee's need for
independence from the San Pedro Town Council and Transport Department in
order to be effective. Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. stressed
the importance of working together on these traffic issues to ensure a
solution that was beneficial to all.
According to Mr. Paz, in order to achieve
this, the Committee needs a central office and staff to be able to
exercise some control over the power it has already been granted. He
added that, unfortunately, the only revenue available to the Committee is
from parking and traffic tickets, neither of which generates much
revenue. Monies collected from vehicle permits are part of the Town
Council revenues and used primarily for annual road maintenance expenses.
He lamented that the Town Council had denied the Committee's request for
an annual budget of $21,000.
The ACTCC Chairman then discussed several solutions to
major traffic issues with input from various attendees. These solutions
Alleviate Congestion on Barrier Reef
Drive - Use the Old Football Field for downtown parking,
especially business owners and employees. If kept open during business
hours with a security guard, the cost would be $1 per day or $100 per
year, with revenues offsetting the cost of signs and security. In
conjunction with a new parking facility, front street traffic could be
redirected to funnel vehicles down Black Coral Street to the parking
facility, thereby limiting traffic on the remainder of Barrier Reef
Drive. Enforcement of a one-hour parking time limit on Barrier Reef Drive
would generate revenue for the Committee. It was also suggested that the
signs notifying street closure on weekend evenings be reworded to advise
closure to "vehicular" traffic.
Traffic Enforcement - Police have the
authority to issue tickets for traffic violations, including speeding
(using radar guns as evidence). There is a need for increased
communication between police, transport and traffic personnel regarding
vehicles legally allowed on the island. Inspector Guzman will gladly
enforce traffic laws and vehicle policy if those laws and policies are
clearly stated. It was also stated that enforcement has bi-partisan
support. Mr. Paz noted that in order to provide this information, the
Committee needs staff to assemble the data and to keep it current.
Appeals to Higher Authority - Ministers,
town councilors and others in positions of authority should NOT be
allowed to overturn the decisions of the Traffic Committee concerning the
importation of vehicles onto Ambergris Caye. This includes any
concessions made by Central Government to large business investors who
want one or more vehicles to support their investment. The Minister of
Transport has agreed to this principle. All San Pedro residents and
groups who support this position will be asked to endorse this position
in a letter, which will be drafted by the groups attending this
Number of Vehicles Allowed - Mr. Paz
suggested that a mandatory re-registration of all vehicles on the island,
at no charge, would provide the Committee with a definitive number of
each class of vehicle currently on the island. This is the first step in
controlling the number of vehicles on the island. However, this requires
office space and staff to implement.
Parking - There are laws in place, but
not currently enforced, that require any new construction, business or
residential, to provide adequate parking. Communication and coordination
between the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee and the Traffic Committee
needs to improve.
Applications and Permits - The Traffic
Committee should implement an application fee for all vehicle permits.
This fee is non-refundable and does not guarantee approval. Taxi permits
should be evaluated on a semi-annual basis and should include a physical
safety inspection and a written report from the police department citing
any traffic violations, citations or incidents.
In light of these suggestions and the need for office
space and staff to implement these much-needed controls, Wil Lala, Bob
Campbell and Corey McDermott each volunteered $1,600 to compensate a
Traffic Committee staff member for a six-month period. This should allow
time for revenue-generating measures or changes to be implemented.
The Chamber and other committees/associations
represented at this meeting will draft letters to Central Government
voicing outrage at their policy of granting vehicular permits and pier
concessions without the approval of local government and other
(Editors note: The Traffic Committee,
along with several other committees, reports to, are appointed and given
powers by Central Government. It would seem that Central Government
should be responsible for the operating budget of these committees. The
taxpayers of this island have no input as to how these committees
function. The private sector should not have to pay additional money to
operate Central Government committees. The enormous amount of taxes the
businesses on the island pay to Central Government should be enough to
finance these committees. Central Government has been, and is, in charge
of these committees - why are they not included in the budget? Where are
our tax dollars going?