Close to 100 residents gathered around the construction site of the town clock, today October 31, 2011, to peacefully protest the decision of the San Pedro Town Council to erect a donated clock tower in the middle of Barrier Reef Drive (Front Street) in front of Central Park.
The protestors circled around the construction site with placards asking the Town Council to stop the construction. Their main message is that they do not oppose the erection of the town clock, but that the location is completely wrong and not in the best interest of our town where esthetics and traffic safety is concerned.
During her guest appearance on this morning’s Good Morning San Pedro Talk Show on Reef Radio, Mayor Elsa Paz seemed to be indifferent about the concerns of the island residents, targeting expats, non-registered voters and US national.
“I will not listen to just a small group of people who do not represent the entire population of San Pedro,” commented Mayor Paz to Eiden Salazar during the morning show. “I want to see more than 1,500 people at the protest for me to consider changing my decision.”
She seemed very adamant about her decision of placing the clock in the middle of the street and it seems that it will take a lot for her to change her mind. However even tourists are posting their feelings on the internet which is bad publicity for our entire Island. Will the mayor care to listen to this testimony that follows?
“I have been a LOYAL tourist to the island for over 7 years, twice a year! I have sent friends, acquaintances and strangers we have bet diving elsewhere to this island paradise, because it WAS so quaint, magical and the people are amazing! The original owner or Ramon’s, was an island original that wanted to share the magic of the island with others, to show there was still an untouched piece of paradise within our minds and reach......palm trees, white sand beaches, amazing small local family owned businesses, restaurants with nothing but three walls, made of palm trees, and sand floors, and food to die for!” commented a frequent visitor upon reading the story. “There was VERY LITTLE signage other than homemade signs, and the odd professional painted one, no gaudy stuff.....just a little island that seemed as if time had forgotten. What they still write about in books, that all of us dream of finding and spending time on! A mini replica of CANCUN! Agghhh...just what we were all trying to get away from...... sorry to say I will not be sending any more people the way of the island....I will keep my pictures and memories well guarded in my heart, my computer and my brain......and when I want to go to the paradise of my dreams, where so many of my friends live, and meet every Oct and Feb...I will now have to close my eyes and remember how things USED TO BE.” (end of Quote)
Although Mayor Paz says that all the utility companies have no objections to the construction of the town clock 21-foot structure and that it was only Belize Water Services Operations Manager, Dave Pascacio who had indicated concern over future work at the site, Mr. Pascacio did comment to the media that the company had rejected the Town Council’s idea from the very start.
“I objected on two grounds,” stated Mr. Pascacio “The construction could pose a threat to our infrastructure so that’s during the construction phase, because they would have to expose our pipes. We have two pipes there both sewer and water main. If we had a break there, we would NOT have enough access to maintain our pipe. If there is a break because of the nature of the soil in San Pedro, by the time we get there is already a big hole and that would jeopardize the integrity of the structure so it was both to look out on their behalf and our behalf."
At the moment, Mayor Paz, the Town Council and Ramon’s Village (who are sponsoring the town clock) are feeling the heat from the public outcry.
Below is a letter directed to Mr. Mukul C. Kanabar, Chairman of the San Pedro Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association:
Mr. Mukul C. Kanabar
BTIA - San Pedro Chapter
I appreciate your concerns, but I had no idea that doing something nice for San Pedro, Ramon's employees, the local merchants and our thousands of visitors to San Pedro each year would cause such turmoil.
When we first proposed a community information device for Central Park, I thought it was a good idea and so did everyone we asked; however, the mayor and her council thought our design was a bit simple and, therefore, commissioned a local designer to create a concept that would be both pleasing to the viewer and architecturally conducive to the beauty of San Pedro Town.
Our original proposal was for a simple two-sided sign that would be placed in Central Park in place of the thatched palapa previously used by Captain Morgan's to market their property. However, after repeated discussions with Mayor Paz, it was decided that the best place for this landmark tower would be in the center of Barrier Reef Drive. The mayor indicated to us that this clock tower would be the perfect solution for slowing down motorists who continually break the law by exceeding the speed limit. Mayor Paz also thought it may deter big trucks from using Barrier Reef Drive excessively.
A full size model of the base for the clock tower was temporarily laid in place several months ago and vehicles of all sorts were driven around it. The results were found that it posed no problem at all for sensibly driven vehicular traffic.
We agreed to install the clock/tower where it was thought to best benefit the village, even though cost overruns to us would be $20-25,000 BZ higher than if we had located it in the park just off Barrier Reef Drive.
Once the final design and location were approved by the mayor and council, it was decided that the tower needed four clock faces and only two electronic promotional devices. There will be two fixed, non-animated panels on opposite sides of the clock tower which will read "Welcome to San Pedro."
You wrote in your letter to the town council that you had heard this clock tower would be a billboard for Ramon's. On the contrary, it is a tasteful and expensive work of art costing us $150,000 BZ. The emphasis of the electronic portion of the clock tower will be to provide the current temperature and public service announcements, special events and festivals that take place in San Pedro. This will not be a device that is for rent. We agree that everything on it should be tasteful and beneficial to the citizenry and visitors who come to enjoy San Pedro and Ambergris Caye.
If there is anything I can do to help clarify any misunderstanding about our contribution to the island, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].
P.S . In reference to this being a billboard for Ramon's, the only permanent mention of Ramon's Village on the clock tower is on a brass plaque affixed to the base of the clock tower. The letters reading "Ramon's Village" are a whopping two inches tall.
Hello Mr. Headrick,
Thank you for your reasonable and respectful reply. I shared your letter with our members, after it was read during Mayor Paz's appearance on the morning show today.
I am replying to you on behalf of the San Pedro BTIA Board.
Given your undoubted concern for the community and that you are now aware that many individuals and businesses here have valid questions, concerns, and objections to the project as it is planned now, will you join us in requesting that Mayor Paz stop construction on the project so that a public consultation can be held?
Your letter provides new insight and information about the project, which we greatly appreciate. Unfortunately, some of the details you provided about the tower are in direct conflict with what the Mayor has stated. Specifically, you state that the device will not be for rent. The Mayor has told both newspapers that Ramon's Village will advertise on the tower and that other advertising will be permitted with fees payable direct to Ramon's Village.
Also, the Mayor told Ambergris Today on Friday that your donation was conditional upon the tower being installed in the middle of the street. Then, on the radio show this morning, the Mayor stated that the location of the clock was, in fact, her idea. In your letter, you wrote "it was decided that the best place for the...tower would be in the center of Barrier Reef Drive."
As you can see, there are some inconsistencies, which is why we respectfully repeat our request that construction on the tower be stopped, so that the Mayor and Town Council can solicit input and feedback from the community. We hope you will support us in this request.
Mukul C. Kanabar
Chairman, San Pedro BTIA
San Pedro Sun
San Pedro Town Council