San Pedro Town, a beautiful piece of paradise situated in the Caribbean is blooming with beauty and charm. Nevertheless, the rainy season leaves the streets filled with potholes and mud, while during the dry season the air is thick with dust. However, those issues will be a problem of the past.
On January 29th, 2007, the San Pedro Town Council called an urgent town meeting. The purpose: to discuss the street rehabilitation projects and the details pertaining to their visit with Prime Minister Said Musa and Financial Secretary Carla Barnett, which took place on January 25th, 2007 at the Prime Minister’s office. Although attendance was minimal, the head table had good news for the community; both the Southern Road and Barrier Reef Drive will soon be restored and both will be cobble stoned.
Sitting at the head table were Mayor of San Pedro Town Elsa Paz, Belize Rural South Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., and councilors.
Barrier Reef Drive
“The Barrier Reef Drive Rehabilitation Project is scheduled to commence this weekend, perhaps as soon as Thursday,” commented San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz to a group of concerned citizens. The project, which will carry a $1.7 million price tag, will be carried out by Medina’s Construction Company Limited, the same company that was hired for the Coconut Drive Rehabilitation Project and the building of the San Pedro Bridge.
The Barrier Reef Rehabilitation Project will include cobble stoning of all of Front Street, as well as the side streets that have yet to be cobble stoned. It will include drainage and a pedestrian walk, same as the one found on Pescador Drive. The monies collected from Property, Trade and Liquor taxes will be used to fund this project. “I would like to appeal to the general public, to those who haven’t paid their taxes, to please come forward and do so. San Pedro needs the money and our records show that approximately 65% of the Property Taxes have yet to be paid,” stated Mayor Paz.
However, the money collected from these taxes will not be enough. “We are selling some acres of land that belong to the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) in order to help us fund both these projects,” commented Honorable Heredia, Jr. The properties that Honorable Heredia spoke of are 500 acres of land between Journey’s End Resort and Buena Vista in North Ambergris Caye. However, some of this land was sold in 2005 when the Pescador Drive Project needed extra funding.
Readers may recall that in 2005, SPTC requested assistance from the private sector in order to assist in the funding of a project of this magnitude. The same request is being submitted this time around. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Barrier Reef Rehabilitation Project, may receive further information by contacting the offices of the San Pedro Town Council at number (226) 2198.
A monthly payment schedule has been drafted between SPTC and Medina’s. SPTC has to pay slightly over $118,000 a month in order to cover the costs of the Rehabilitation Project. Honorable Heredia commented that they are still waiting on news from the government on whether one of their requests was approved or not. “If you may recall in 2005 when Pescador Drive was restored, SPTC had to pay sales tax (now GST) on the cobble stones bought. This time we are imploring government to waive that tax,” he stated. In an interview with the Area Representative on Tuesday, The San Pedro Sun discovered that as of press time, no news on whether the tax will be waived or not had been received. “We are hoping to get news from the Financial Secretary by Thursday, we hope,” he commented.
The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) returned from their visit with the Prime Minister with good news. Government will give the money needed for the Southern Road Rehabilitation Project amounting to a total of $3.8 million. This money given comes in the form of a free interest loan with a three year payment plan. Because, the Barrier Reef Rehabilitation Project has been set to commence this week, payment on this government loan will not commence until 2008.
The Southern Road to be cobble stoned will be all the street area from the Bowen and Bowen Distribution Center to the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) plant, across from Fido’s 2. Drainage and a pedestrian lane have all been drafted into the plan as well as strategically placed speed bumps.
“The rehabilitation project will begin in approximately two weeks,” said Mayor Paz. “The reason we chose cobble stone as opposed to asphalt is not only because of its aesthetic quality but also because of the threat asphalt poses on the environment. We simply can not risk threatening the reef with an asphalt road which would drain to the sea.” Drainage will lead to the sea and to the lagoon where the streets are further to the west. Where the drainage pipes are going to be placed is an area in the plans that is still being looked at. “Most of the drainage pipes will be located in public access areas, however there are some places where we will need to ask the permission of the private owners whether the pipes can run through their land,” explained Honorable Heredia.
Readers may recall that in 2005, SPTC requested assistance from the private sector in order to assist in the funding of a project of this magnitude. The same request will be submitted this time around. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Barrier Reef Rehabilitation Project, may receive further information by contacting the offices of the San Pedro Town Council at number (226) 2198.
After the information was released to the public, a question and answer session followed. Some of the concerns by the public included:
(1)At a previous meeting, those in attendance unanimously agreed on increasing the vehicle fees. What a person yearly for having a vehicle on the island would be increased. All agreed that by having the roads fixed less money would need to be paid to get said vehicles repaired. That tax money would then stay on the island to assist in the rehabilitation fund. This idea was taken to government where the response from the Prime Minister was a “It’s not a good idea,” explained Mayor Paz.
(2) Another issue was the amount and types of vehicles that would be used in these roads. “If we have these big trucks and vehicles using the new roads, maintenance on them would be constant. Money would be needed for the constant upkeep,” said a concerned citizen. Mayor Paz said that the SPTC is looking at options at the present moment.
Among the many other concerns were beautifying the roads, where the $3.8 million government loan is coming from, and various ways of acquire funding.