Mayor Nuñez details plans for street restoration

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 2            January 11, 2001

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In order to bring light to the many questions concerning pertinent issues affecting this community, the San Pedro Sun met with Mayor Alberto Nuñez who was happy to express his views concerning the street situation in San Pedro.

    Mayor Nuñez stated to this newspaper that the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) has not requested funds from the Ministry of Works to improve Coconut Drive because they know from experience that this Ministry does not necessarily take into consideration using a large sum of money to improve a small area such as the one presently affected during the rainy season on Coconut Drive. Placing cobblestone in this area is very costly and instead of using a large sum of money to do this, the Ministry of Works has opted to use money for restoration only. Mayor Nuñez commented that they are waiting to see how the drains installed on various streets of town will work and if they prove successful they will then lobby to get funds to install the same in other portions of San Pedro, including Coconut Drive. However, the San Pedro Town Council is still presenting plans to this Ministry with hopes of being included in the 2001 budget. Mayor Nuñez also commented that the Area Representative is the person putting in requests and has been granted funds for projects that include the rebuilding of Central Park, erecting food vendor stalls and stalls for wood carvers. Because of the recent monies granted for the clean-up campaign in both Caye Caulker and San Pedro, the SPTC chose not to request the help for infrastructure improvements from the Minister of Tourism. Concerned citizens though have taken it upon themselves  to write this Ministry requesting assistance for the SPTC and Area Representative but this has been to no avail.

    The recent restoration of Coconut Drive left many residents wondering why Ministry of Works did not consult with the SPTC or Area Representative as to what was best for the island. The  next question was whether the SPTC, Area Representative or residents of this island had any voice on how the island is developed came up. In response to this question, Mayor Nuñez commented that indeed Ministry of Works was taken around by members of the SPTC to make assessments of the streets for restoration in certain areas. After seeing the streets, the representative of the Ministry of Works working with the SPTC prioritized  which streets needed immediate attention.

    When asked about the $13 million loan agreement signed with the World Bank for drainage and street repairs in all municipalities and why San Pedro was excluded from receiving any funds, Mayor Nuñez had the following to say. Immediately after the hurricane, the SPTC asked Central Government to subsidize them, because they felt it would be difficult to collect any revenues from the people of the island. Central Government took care of all the expenses during the emergency and has subsidized the SPTC for more than two months of work and is still providing funds where cleaning up is concerned.

    Another situation that has caused a lot of controversy is why the residents and businesses of Ambergris Caye have to contribute money from out of their pockets to pay for infrastructure improvements when tax dollars, (which they also have to pay) are used for these improvements in all other parts of the country. Mayor Nuñez responded to this question by saying that there is an explanation with reference to the street situation. He commented that Central Government is helping with the street restoration but what we are asking by placing cobblestone is something different and that is why we have to do our part if this is what we want. He agrees that residents should not have to pay for improvements but they are asking for things that Central Government does not quite see as "necessary". Government will help with certain restoration but anything beyond that it is up to the town.

    Already Coconut Drive has been partially restored and Mayor Nuñez says that a canal (ditch) is being dug that will lead the excess water to an underground pipe which in turn will run the water to an area where it will be filtered to try keep this area passable during the up-coming rainy season. If necessary, a pump will be used to scoop up the excess water. He said that the Town Council's objective is to install drains in this area and if in the future, extra money is received, cobblestones can then be easily installed.

    Mayor Nuñez ended this portion of the interview by saying that his personal hope is to also see all of Pescador Drive paved (cobblestoned) but in order to achieve this objective a long-term loan would be needed from Central Government.
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