The number of people who loudly profess their issues with the town council every day clearly did not take advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard at the town meeting last Wednesday evening. Little more than 10 residents turned out to hear Mayor Alberto Nuñez give his report on San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) accomplishments over the past year. Attending from local government and public service were: Deputy Mayoress Mel Spain, Councilors Baldemar Graniel, Domingo Perez and Omar Arceo, and Inspector Linden Flowers and Sergeant Frank Augustine of the San Pedro Police Department.
The Mayor and several town councilors were on hand to discuss concerns of the town's people. "Committed to the concept of accountability and transparency" the Mayor began with the following financial news: Our budgeted revenue for April 1, 2002 to March 21, 2003 is $1,817,576.00, an increase of $177,992.00 or 10.85% over last year's budget of $1,639,584.00. Our cash balance on April 1, 2002 was $190,678.65 while outstanding bills totaled $9,836.10. These figures demonstrate that the San Pedro Town Council is well within the restrictions of its financial capabilities. Our checking account balances at the Belize Bank Limited, Scotia Bank and Atlantic Bank were a cumulative $181,808.83. Our Escrow account presently has a balance of $7,122.47 while we maintain a balance of $1,747.53 at the Government Treasury. We continue to meet our obligations with Caribbean Coves Limited of $15,000.00 per year for 500 acres of land and we will have completed payments to Mr. Homero Escalante for land purchased by year's end. All this is only possible through those citizens that have been instrumental in paying their dues to the town and I take this opportunity to commend them for doing so since it is local taxpayers' money that is the driving force behind this town.
We have recently been audited by the Auditor General for fiscal years 1997/1998 to 2000/2001 with satisfactory results as reported by this government entity.
Activities for the year were listed as: A) 1,000 feet of seawall with landscaping to follow, lagoon-side, at a cost of $445,206.25; B) completion of 800 feet of cobblestone on Coconut Drive with speed bumps at a cost of $318,642.89; C) acquisition of new equipment, namely a 2001 Isuzu, a Massey Ferguson tractor, and a roller for road repair and maintenance, at a cost of $111,000.00; D) installation of 30 culverts to control flooding; E) creation of additional streets and a variety of island road work; F) upgrade and beautification of the cemetery; G) improvement and maintenance of several parks; H) preventative soil erosion project at SP High School; I) beautification and restoration of trees with assistance from the Government of Belize (GOB) and the Inter-American Development Bank at a cost of $650,000.00; J) three traffic wardens and K) renovation of the municipal pier at a cost of $100,000.00.
Additional plans were reported as being the "exploratory studies for a bridge over the Boca del Rio to connect north and south San Pedro", which will "commence only after consultation with all stakeholders involved." Also listed were plans for a new pier/marina on the southwest end of the island for the relocation of barges. The report stated that SPTC is still seeking funding for the continuation of the cobblestone street project to include Pescador Drive and Barrier Reef Drive, as well as the ongoing seawall project at the lagoon side. It was mentioned that despite the fact that the island only receives 3.8% of its financing from the GOB (a decrease from the previous 4.2%) the island continues to grow. The report ended by thanking all those who have assisted SPTC in the last year before opening the meeting to comments and questions.
Many issues were raised during this time by the few attending. One concerned resident raised the issue of the increased fire threat of having a gas and butane business in the center of town. Another resident questioned the weight capacity of the proposed bridge. They were informed it would be high enough to allow emergency vehicles to pass. The question was raised whether the bridge would lead to increased crime in the north. Inspector Flowers answered that if the attitudes of people don't change, there will always be crime. The low number of policemen assigned to the island was questioned, especially in light of the fact this is the biggest tourist destination. Another inquired how this island was supposed to control crime when in fact San Pedro has the same amount of policemen as Caye Caulker. The Inspector stated that recommendations were made by his department to increase the amount of manpower and the population increase based on the recent census will back up their figures. Other issues and suggestions focused on street names, littering, dredging and the need for proper development consultation and planning for our town so that future town councils do not make the same mistakes as those of the past. The Mayor and his councilors promised to take all these suggestions and concerns into consideration when planning for the town.