How are the streets coming along? I heard that Mr. Medina would no longer keep working on them because he has money owed to him?
- submitted via Email
A: In order to understand the “money” situation, we have to first understand the way the agreements were made.
The streets have been a terrible problem in San Pedro Town and although officials have lobbied to get the work done, it is still an unsettled matter. In The San Pedro Sun Vol. 17, No. 5 issue, after motions made by the San Pedro Business Association, a meeting was held at the San Pedro Lions Den to address the concern. Local government stated then, that the Barrier Reef Drive Rehabilitation Project was set to commence at a price tag of BZ$1.7 million. Drafts had been made to include the Southern Road which would cost $3.5 million extra to complete. BZ$3.5 million was what the San Pedro Town Council could not come up with and as such, Government decided to give the town a loan 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 [would] come in the form of a free interest loan [from the GOB] 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 San Pedro Sun reported]
Vol. 17, No. 7 brought good news to the residents of the island. Valentine’s Day of 2007 will be remembered as the day Prime Minister of Belize Said Musa said that they would grant the $3.8 million, not $3.5 (as previously reported) needed for the project, not as a loan to the San Pedro Town Council but as a gift.
So, both projects commenced. A monthly payment plan was entered with a local contractor, Medina’s Construction. As residents may be aware of, the Barrier Reef project commenced before the Southern Road. Therefore, the first payment of $119,000 (the monthly agreement for Barrier Reef Drive) was disbursed to Medina’s on April of 2007.
The Memorandum of Understanding, signed between SPTC, GOB and Medina’s stated that SPTC and GOB would come to an arrangement as to how the government’s share would be paid to Medina. Before the end of the fiscal year, GOB paid $.8 million to SPTC ($800,000) in March 2007. It was agreed between Town Administrator Patty Verde and then Financial Secretary Carla Barnett that the $3 mil balance would be paid in 8 monthly installments of $375,000 each, to be released the last Friday of each month or April 27th, May 25th, June 29th, July 27th, August 31st, September 28th, October 26th and the last installment on November 30th.
Although there are two projects, the San Pedro Town Council has only ONE contract with Medina’s which includes both Barrier Reef Drive and the Southern Road. Every month, SPTC, not GOB (although they are paying for the South Road), has to pay Medina $338,000. To pay for the Barrier Reef project, SPTC, it has been reported, has been selling government land on Northern Ambergris Caye and has been receiving donations and financial assistance from GOB. All these monies go into one SPTC account.
The months of June and July, SPTC did not receive the agreed upon monies from GOB. After lobbying with officials, a site visit of the road project was arranged through the Ministry of Works. After the visit and a report was drafted, SPTC got $750,000 to keep the work going. August passed as did September and SPTC has yet to receive the money agreed upon again. According to Miss Verde, GOB has stated that another site visit has to be organized. However, an evaluation also needs to be carried out to make sure that the works are proceeding in the manner that they should. “No where in the MOU did it state that in order for us to get the money, a visit had to be arranged. We are not opposed to having Ministry of Works come and inspect the job done but they are a busy and understaffed department,” commented Verde.
With the October deadline for payment coming in on Friday, GOB will be behind three months or $1,125,000. “We have been paying Medina through the land sale for both projects but we are now behind,” explained Verde.
Calls placed to both Ministry of Works Chief Executive Officer Dr. Michael Tewes and Betty Ann Jones who is handling the SPTC account for the Ministry of Finance were not returned, as of press time.
Speaking with Medina he commented that the project will continue and has continued even though he has not received payment but if payment is not received soon enough, the project will need to be halted.
As was reported monies acquired through the sale of government land on Northern Ambergris Caye and through donations, however SPTC also uses monies paid for Property Taxes in this venture. Property, liquor and trade licenses all remain on the island for the use of its proper management. Honorable Manuel Heredia explained at last week’s San Pedro Business Association that close to 60% of property taxes remain unpaid. The general public is asked to pay these monies owed as soon as possible. As the ads say, “Remember your tax dollar builds a better San Pedro.”