Major renovations in Belize City

vlcsnap-2013-02-21-19h11m26s174BTL Park to be renovated. It has been talked about for years but the opening stages of a four-month renovation of BTL Park on Newtown Barracks formally commenced today. Mayor Darrell Bradley described what the project is about, how much it will cost and who will fund it.

Mayor Darrell Bradley:
We are doing a reclamation project for the park, and essentially what that will entail is the adding of 30% park area. That’s supposed to take two months  We doing the project in phases. When they finish the reclamation vlcsnap-2013-02-21-19h10m18s75work, they’re going to be doing a sea wall along with that. Then we will completely upgrade the park, new park benches, sidewalks, [and] kiosks.   It’s going to be a total renovation of the park.
This funding is a combination of the internal funds of the City Council.  We’ve gotten commitments from BTL, and we’ve also gotten commitments from other persons tentatively.  For example: We’re in duologue with CARILED, and because there is an economic component of this project in terms of adding employment opportunities with the kiosks, so that we’re encouraging more vendors to be out here, they have indicated an interest. do we’re seeking those funding sources as well.  

Bradley responds to the question of whether environmental protocols are being followed.

Mayor Darrell Bradley:
vlcsnap-2013-02-21-18h51m50s234This has been a project actually that has been talked about for some time now, a period in excess of two years.  What we did when we took office, we looked at certain areas of activity, that would really give the city a major boost, and this BTL Parl was something that we identified as being of major significance. A lot of the groundwork had already been put in place, in terms of obtaining the designs, obtaining the necessary approvals from the Department of the Environment.  What we’ve done is, we’ve broken the project down in phases to ensure that we can fund each of the different phases of the works.  And each of the phases will require their individual licenses and permits, and we’re ensuring that all those licenses are obtained. The land reclamation, all of those things have been signed off from the Department of the Environment already.

And finally, Bradley says City residents should not start dreaming of going to the beach in the area just yet.

Mayor Darrell Bradley:
We are doing the reclamation, and the reclamation will go 50 feet into the water.  The water quality out there is a little bit better, and if we are doing vlcsnap-2013-02-21-19h12m38s153this pier,  which is an additional 150 feet, that would be 200 feet [where] the water quality is much improved. So that would allow for interactions with the water.  The design for the complete park has not been finalized, because the entire project is to take four months, and we are still toying with the different things that we want to accomplish out here.  One of the things that we are concerned about is to ensure if we are branding this area the BTL beach, that we look at all the safety considerations, and that is of paramount importance to us. Before we go and we say that this is a BTL Beach project,  we want to ensure that the environmental clearance, and they have certified that the water quality is optimum to promote that kind of activity out here.

The park is formally managed by the City Council in conjunction with Belize Telemedia Limited.

Belize City Mayor, Darell Bradley, gave the Media an update on street works in the Old Capital. While at a city Park which is currently being renovated, reporters asked Mayor Bradley about the ongoing street works and garbage collection fees. He spoke firstly about the street upgrades.

We are at a situation.  The current tally is that we’ve concreted 50 streets so far, and by our one year anniversary which is in one month, we want to be at 60 streets.  We have works going on tin the Lake Independence area.  We are on Jasmine Street, Oleander Street, Tribuce Street, Flamboyant Street.  Works will start on Monday on Lawrence Avenue.  We’re also in the Belama area, and in the Coney Drive area. We’re doing works on Scallop Street and Spain Street. Presently we’re working on about 10 streets, and as soon as these round of streets complete, then we will move on to another 10 streets.  So we’re working in coordination with BWS. We working in coordination with our contractors, and with our technical persons, to ensure that we are able to reach the target of a hundred streets by December of this year.

The idea of a garbage collection fee for Belize City has raised concerns among some City residents. Today Mayor Bradley said that the Council still intends to introduce the ten-dollar a month fee as soon as possible.

Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
The issue with the Residential Garbage Fee is something we’re continuing to work on.  This is something that has been in the news.  We’ve made it public.  We’re talking about it.  We’ve taoked about it at several public consultations, public meetings that the City Council has.  Whenever you are talking about a new tax, it’s something by necessity which has to be dealt with very carefully, because you want to ensure there is “buy-in” from the residents. What we’re doing right now is that we’re seeing if we can meet our full repayment commitments without it.  Our projections show that we need this, and we need this to go in place very shortly.  It’s not like we are rushing to put in place a tax to say that we want to collect additional fees from residents.  We’re trying to see if we can manouver in such a way that we can meet our commitments with the street works without it.

The Mayor also made assurances that the Council is not financially strapped.

Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
The financial position of the Council has improved. We’ve put in place measures. Foe example: the issue with the Driver’s License.  We’ve put in place a series of mechanisms to increase out collections, and we have noticed that those things are performing.  So we’re collecting on a lot of arrears of Property Taxes, of Trade Licenses. We’re being more efficient when we’re dealing with people at the Market. We want to ensure that those things, we exhaust those remedies, before we go to the public and say that “Well, we need to collect more taxes from you.”

Speaking of fees, the Belize City Council claims that it will soon make fully Public its tax rolls. Mayor Bradley explains.

Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
I suspect that we’ll be able to do that by the end of next week. That had already been finalized.  We did minor adjustments. One of the delays occurred because a lot of people wrote us and they were requesting revisions and different things like that.  We had to write some of them back. Certain aspects we dealt with.  We had to look at the concerns raised by the Chamber Of Commerce. We had to look at the concerns of other relevant stakeholders. All of that added to a very short delay in us making this pubic. We made it public last year.  We will make it public this year, and every single year, whenever there are any updates, we will make those things public.

Northern Highway in City limits to be concreted? The City Council has generally been ambitious in this term of office and as it enters its second year Mayor Darrell Bradley outlined some new projects they are looking at.
Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
What  we mean to do in the second year is to identify projects which will see the transformation of Belize City. We’re in negotiations right now with several persons who are doing designs for concreting of the Northern Highway from the Flag Monument to the Haulover Bridge, and that will be a major, major improvement. That’s going to be an 18 month project at a cost of approximately 10 million dollars.  It’s going to create significant investment in the City, significant jobs, and we see that as being a massive project that we to get off the ground within the next two months. We also looking at projects along the Coney Drive area, to line Coney Drive properly, to put in place a roundabout at the intersection of Coney Drive and the Princess Margaret Drive.  We want to put in proper sidewalks, trees, and different things like that.
Bradley also spoke about lighting of the overpass in Belize City. Pedestrians walking the Belcan Roundabout area have been diverted to the overpass crossing the Northern Highway. and Bradley says they have plans to light up the overpass for better sight.

Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
We have persons right now who are sourcing the costings for the lighting of that area, and the projections are that we’re going to put six lights up there, three on each side.  It’s a concern that persons have raised with us, that people from the University of Belize, they walk on the streets at night, and they’ve been complying in terms of using the overpass, but it needs to be well lit.  We’re working on it and I expect that within two weeks that area should be lit.

City Engineer not affiliated to professional body? There are reports that City Engineer Kamilah Cardona who have been working on some of the councils project has not signed up with the Association of Professional Engineers of Belize, which is the governing body for Belize’s engineers. Mayor Bradley was questioned about this and he says that they are looking into the matter but assured that it’s no reflection on her work for City Hall.

Belize City Mayor DARRELL BRADLEY:
Well, we have gotten a letter from the President of the Association of Professional Engineers, indicating to us that she’d not.  That was the first indication that I got from that.  That’s something that we are looking into, to ensure that we are complying in all respects, in terms of our professional personel.  it’s something that has not been resolved yet, and we expect that it will be resolved in the very near future. The credentialing of professionals is something which is only a procedural requirement. So if it is that you need to apply to a certain body, that doesn’t take away that you have been educated as an Engineer, and you’ve been operating as an Engineer for the last five years.

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