|The new chairman of the San Pedro ACTCC is Mr. Harry Longsworth.
From what started as a small village with no trucks or cars, San Pedro Town is now facing a huge issue when it relates to traffic. Traffic congestion has certainly left its mark on the charm of our community. Controlling it is definitely a very big task and this responsibility is one that the Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Traffic Control Committee (ACTCC) plans on tackling head on. Newly elected Harry Longsworth has been living in San Pedro Town for the past 13 years and understands very well the struggles within the traffic department.
ACTCC is the body responsible for controlling the traffic within the community. However, a very big aspect of the committee is deciding whether an applicant is granted or denied the permission to bring a vehicle to the island. In the past, “talk” of past chairmen getting “money under the table,” for approval on permits has tainted ACTCC. Longsworth, stated, “Yes, there were certain things that would happen within ACTCC from time to time. One of those includes paying an undisclosed amount for the approval of a vehicle. That is not the way that we are operating anymore. If you meet the criteria to have a golf cart, scooter, truck or whatever on the island, then why do you need to pay other than the application fee.” Transparency is something that Longsworth is looking for and because of this all vehicle applications that were submitted and/or approved after December 4th, 2007 have to be re-submitted. “I want to make something very clear, this is not being done out of malice but it is being done to ensure that all applications were processed properly. When re-submitting your forms, the application fee will not be charged. Receipts at the Traffic Office are accurate and we know which individuals paid their application fees.”
As far as placing a traffic moratorium on the island, Longsworth stated that he does not foresee that happening in the future. Instead he plans on finding alternative ways of controlling the incoming traffic influx. One of the areas that he plans on addressing is the amount of taxi cabs. In the past, the various taxi associations have voiced their concern on the amount of cabs on the small stretch of land that constitutes San Pedro Town. To address this concern, Longsworth plans to no longer entertain taxi applications unless the individual requesting the approval will be the person that drives and works said vehicle. “What would happen was that taxi applications were approved and the individual would then rent out the vehicle. If this is your profession, if this is your means of livelihood then by all means, we will consider your form,” he explained.
Reviewing approval or application permits are one of the many responsibilities now incurred by Longsworth and his committee. In order to become more effective, Longsworth envisions some changes. One of them includes the transfer of ACTCC from the Government of Belize’s jurisdiction and laying them squarely on the shoulders of the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC). Area Representative for Belize Rural South Manuel Heredia Jr., has confirmed that Cabinet has approved the motion and it is now on its way to receiving its first reading at the House of Representatives. Within the next three months, all monies garnered by ACTCC will stay in San Pedro Town under the control of SPTC.
Other changes will also include proper signage, “Traffic signs need to be put into place for the benefit of locals and tourists. The main roads need to be properly marked as one-way streets and round-a-bouts need proper signs too,” he explained. Also, in order to curtail the amount of traffic offenses, Longsworth plans on hiring more traffic wardens. At the moment, San Pedro has two wardens and the committee strongly believes that to be effective more wardens need to be hired. These wardens enforce the traffic laws in place. “These laws have been established. Anyone with a driver’s license should know these laws. We want to re-establish to the general public on the island that there are traffic laws that need to be abided to, even if what you are driving is a golf cart.”
Driver’s licenses are another issue that Longsworth plans on tackling, and he stated that discretion is being left to the traffic wardens. “What we have encountered is that there are underage drivers, who when pulled over at a traffic check point are in possession of a license. So, our traffic wardens have instructions that, under their discretion, they may ask any driver for another form of identification. This will help them verify that indeed the birth date on the card is factual.”
Longsworth plans on working hand in hand with the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, the San Pedro Business Association and anyone interested in assisting. He ended by commenting that “This is a new venture. The past ACTCC has made mistakes but we are not here to judge them but to move forward. ACTCC has problems that need to be addressed now. That is what we are working on and we re-iterate that all forms of abuse will be frowned upon.”