|The deplorable conditions of San Pedro's streets have proven nearly impassable during heavy downpours. Several areas around town experience a similar problem during the torrential rains.|
|A well-attended business meeting sought to find solutions to the road conditions.|
|Business owners sign a letter (petition) requesting the GOB's assistance in fixing San Pedro's streets. |
"No more potholes,” that was the general consensus that business owners voiced at a town meeting held on Monday, December 18th, 2006. Held at the San Pedro Lions Den, the meeting was very well attended with representation by many local businesses who all had one motive in mind, “how do we fix the roads?”
After writing a very passionate letter, Andre Perez was contacted by Elito Arceo. The duo along with other key business representatives met on Saturday, December 16th, 2006 and decided that together, as the business community, a change could be made.
“This is not about politics, this is about getting our roads fixed before our main industry – tourism starts to go down,” commented Perez to the crowd. After heavy downfalls of rain, the streets are a true maze. Finding exactly where to turn and which side to take becomes important or one might find themselves knee deep in water or to have their golf cart’s engine get wet and stuck smack dab in the middle of the water-filled pot hole. “Enough is enough,” commented Peter Lawrence of Pedro’s Pizza.
Arceo read a letter addressed to Prime Minister Honorable Said Musa which stated: […] The tax dollars of the businesses, working people and tourists of Ambergris Caye have long been a Government of Belize consistent income source. […] We know that you are very well aware of the deplorable conditions of the streets and roads in San Pedro Town. Through this medium we would like to inform you that the business community of Ambergris Caye has reached a unilateral consensus: San Pedro Ambergris Caye can no longer sail forward in the sea of progress unless drastic measures are taken to pave the streets and urgently. The business community of Ambergris Caye hereby urgently seeks the government’s assistance in addressing this grave matter no later than January 15th, 2007. […] we [business community] are prepared to work hand in hand with central and local government in order to jump start the process that will lead to the paving of all our major roadways no later than February 1st, 2007. The letter ended by stating that if prompt address is not given to this matter that the adverse effects will begin to manifest themselves, if not already through the gradual decrease in revenue. An upgraded road will benefit all residents, tourists and businesses to encourage further expansion, therefore increasing economic activity for the town.
The floor was open for questions. Santiago Acosta, gift shop entrepreneur asked whether the San Pedro Town Council had any plans for the roads that the public had not heard about. To this Deputy Mayor Justiniano “Nano” Guerrero presented estimates and plans of a road restoration project carried out by Joe Encalada of the Ministry of Works (see sidebar on Page 3).
To this Peter Lawrence commented, “I am fed up with surveys and studies … it is time for action. If Placencia can get $6.25US million to restore the Placencia Road why can’t we get help too?”
Other comments echoed were: Karen Canul, Ambergris Divers, “I suggest that we not work on Barrier Reef Drive […] let us concentrate on the road ahead of the Island Supermarket. […] As a business we get taxed by a percentage, why can’t we get money from the government as a percentage rather than a mere number?”
“We can’t handle a patch work – we need new roads,” Kevin Gonzalez, Travel and Tour Limited.
Javier Williams, Victoria House commented on behalf of the Belize Tourism Board that they are looking into the matter and taking it seriously.
At the end of the meeting, those in accordance signed the abovementioned letter, which was sent to Honorable Musa, as well as to Deputy Prime Minister John Briceño, Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith, Minister of Works Mike Espat, Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., and Mayor of San Pedro Town Elsa Paz on December 19th, 2006.
How does BTB plan on helping?
The street/road issues have been a cry of concern for most of the business owners and residents for a while now, but with the lack of financial resources from the government, the restoration projects for better streets had been halted and only temporary solutions were made.
Minister of Tourism Godfrey Smith paid a visit to San Pedro on December 10th, 2006, at the time the roads were at their worst. Immediately he knew that this issue had to be addressed and had to be addressed fast. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Anthony Mahler, Director of Public Development for the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) commented, “This is a tourism emergency, it is an economic emergency. I know that Minister Smith has pledged his complete and total support to this matter. And here at BTB we all agree that this matter needs to be addressed promptly.”
According to Mahler, engineers have visited San Pedro in two occasions to assess the situation. Estimates and drafts should be ready prior to January. Plans will include, paving (not with tar, since environmental issues are considered), from Island Supermarket to past Victoria House. Barrier Reef Drive will also be addressed and plans for this according to Mahler will be to close off the street to vehicular traffic except for certain hours when businesses will be able to receive deliveries on their supplies. The street will then be lifted and refilled with sand, and with less traffic “easier to maintain.”
“We have heard of the Mayor’s plan and assessment, we are still going to go through with ours and hopefully she, along with her councilors will be able to work with us to find the best plan, one which will do the job but also be less costly,” Mahler commented. He ended by stating, “Addressing the street is urgent, and the Minister sees it as that. He is committed to making this happen.”
San Pedro Town Council Future Plans:
The San Pedro Road Restoration Project estimates and plans are available for viewing and commenting at the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) office during normal working hours.
This preliminary design report was done so as to investigate the existing road conditions, pavement structure, alignment, drainage characteristics and social/pedestrian amenities. Accordingly, the main streets proposed for upgrade are Coconut Drive – Blake Street – Sea Grape Street to the paved standard of a primary road.
The streets proposed for upgrade cover a total distance of approximately 3.220 kilometers or 2.0 miles. The restoration project will demand only the highest in quality material for building. Materials such as; sub grade (structural fill), Sub-base, base course (crushed granular material), surface dressing chips, bitumen, concrete aggregates (course and fine), high density polyethylene, pipe culverts, ordinary and sulphate resisting Portland cements, and road traffic signs and furniture (line markings, pedestrian crossings, speed reduction ramps, etc).
The cost to carry out such immense project is broken down into several categories, reaching a whopping total of over three million dollars to complete. Cost for studies and surveys was ($152,100), Earth works which include site clearance, under cutting, and borrowing to fill is ($92,725), drainage ($1,625,760), Conventional pavement (option 1 costs 1,604,864.50), or Bituminous pavement premix (option 2 costs $1,324,139.50), road furniture ($65,590), day works which include labor and work materials ($41,749). For the project to be completed a sum of $3,582,788.50 for the conventional method or $3,302,063.50 for the pre-mix method, will be needed.
These figures and more of the projects data is available to the public at the SPTC.