San Pedro Town Council holds public meeting

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 16            April 19, 2001

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Mayor gives financial report to residents of San Pedro

Members of the San Pedro Town Council held their first public meeting for the fiscal year 2001-2002 on April 18th. A fairly large group of businesspeople and concerned citizens gathered at the Town Hall to listen to the financial report given by the Mayor and to make recommendations, suggestions and ask questions concerning the everyday activities of the Council.

    Acting as facilitator for this meeting was Mr. Eiden Salazar Jr. who acknowledged the presence of those who attended the meeting. Attending  the meeting with Mayor Alberto Nuñez and the Town Councilors was Area Representative Patty Arceo.

    Reporting on the budget for April 1st, 2001 to March 31st, 2002, Mayor Nuñez mentioned that the Council's revenue budget is $1,639,584; which was $55,691 more than the last fiscal year. Their cash balance on April 1st, 2001 was $211,050.70 of which $138,000 was from property auctions, while outstanding bills were $641.01. The Council continues to maintain a fixed deposit of $50,000 with the Belize Bank while their checking account balances at Scotia, Belize and Atlantic Banks were a cumulative $145,342.85. They also continue to have $6,722.69 in their emergency account.

    The mayor was happy to report that they have met their commitment of paying Caribbean Coves Ltd. for the 500 acres of land at a rate of $15,000 per year and the one acre from Homero Escalante at the rate of $30,000 per year. At this rate they should complete payment to Mr. Escalante by next year. Mayor Nuñez went on to explain that all this is done primarily with local tax money because the Town Council receives a $69,000 yearly subvention from the Ministry of Finance but this only represents 4.2% of their annual budget.

    Mayor Alberto Nuñez continued by explaining that the Council is aware and anxious to improve the quality of life in San Pedro and that despite Hurricane Keith, they have been able to accomplish the following projects: (a) Installation of twelve culverts and 1,500 feet of drains; (b) Three new streets; (i) Sunset Drive, (ii) Sac Bajo North, and (iii) Sac Bajo South. He added that despite excavation work being conducted by BTL, they have about 80% of all streets in good condition. Major repairs and reconstruction using sand, hardcore and pine ridge gravel were done, in conjunction with the Government of Belize, to many areas and streets of Ambergris Caye. A new street is soon to be constructed behind BEL to help alleviate the traffic congestion in this area. Work on a southern road to Boca Chica is presently underway, as well as a road on the north side of the island approaching Hancock's boundary behind El Pescador. (c) Construction of a seawall on Sunset Drive, (d) Reclamation of land in the San Pedrito Area and installation of street lights in several new areas. (e) The purchase of one acre of land to relocate the Council's workshop/barracks that is now situated south of town.

    Mayor Nuñez commended the record time it took town workers to clean San Pedro Town after the devastation of Hurricane Keith. He also mentioned that the Town Council has collected $40,000 from yearly pier licenses. This money was used to buy a tractor for garbage collection. Property tax bills are now being sent out and he asks all property owners to note that the 4.5% tax levied on property value has been reduced to 2.5%. Presently the Council is finalizing plans to have the public pier renovated at a cost of $100,000 and they are still working on securing funds to continue cobblestone streets from Tropic Air to Ramon's Village. Also underway are plans for financing a new pier to be constructed shortly southwest of town along with the dredging of a canal. This will allow for the reallocation of the barges and alleviate the loading and unloading of materials now done by the beach in the middle and south end of town.

    Mayor Nuñez stated that he and the Councilors are fully aware of the problems of excess motor vehicles, street vendors and littering. Mayor Nuñez explained street vendors will soon be relocated to new stalls being built by the beach. With regards to littering, the Council hopes to issue littering fines with assistance from the Tourism Police and include the San Pedro Justice of the Peace Association in this as well. The Council is presently in the process of recruiting an added traffic warden to assure that drivers abide by the traffic laws. Mayor Nuñez continued that improving garbage collection is one of their major priorities. In the meantime, they will continue to collect garbage fees from all businesses until Central Government implements a national garbage disposal program in which San Pedro will be included.

    The Mayor ended his report to the gathering stating the San Pedro Town Council was elected to serve the public and they were reassuring them of their actions with this report. He then opened the floor to questions, comments or recommendations. Many took the opportunity to voice their opinion. One of the biggest concerns was the lack of health monitoring. It was noted that there seemed to be an ever-increasing amount of street food vendors and the question arose whether they had the proper health certification to be food handlers. Another concern was the unsanitary living conditions in some areas of San Pedro, which were described as "a health hazard waiting to happen." To this, the Mayor answered that although they are well aware of the problem, they lack the manpower to remedy the situation. It was suggested that warning letters be issued to residents and if nothing is done, a fine be levied on those who do nothing to clear their lots of debris. It was suggested the Council monitor carefully the Trade License Tax, as it seems that only a few are being billed when there are many people that are presently operating businesses. It was added this tax could be a good source of income for the Council. Another suggestion was that the money from the previous 1% hotel tax increase be lobbied to stay in San Pedro. This person continued that the tax was initially issued to train tourism police and San Pedro could use this revenue to conduct tourism police training and pay for their food and lodging. They explained that since this tax was implemented, only one tourism police officer has been stationed in San Pedro-the biggest tourism destination in the country. Other concerns were the increasing traffic situation, the loss of coconut trees, dredging and the increase in vehicle fees.

    The meeting ended with the Mayor, Councilors and Area Representative assuring the public they would look into all areas concerned.
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