For some time now, the residents of the Placencia Peninsula have been haggling with Government over an IDB-funded integrated water and sewer system to be built in the community. Among their many concerns are two supposed “deal breakers” – how to replace the “financial vacuum” that will ensue from losing a profitable and successfully run water board that contributed to the community’s development, and how to avoid costly payments for the service for the community’s residents large and small. This past Saturday PLUS News was invited down south for a first-ever meeting between villagers and representatives of BWS and the Government, who wants to take advantage of the 20 million Belize dollars available in grant and loan funding for the project before they expire within a year’s time. Addressing the issue of future payments, BWS Chairman Alvan Haynes told PLUS News that while it is the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that will make the determination, they should not expect to pay much more than they do now.
Alvan Haynes – BWS Chairman:
The rates can’t be set until the project has progressed to the extent at least that we know the cost, and then at the end before rates are implemented they’ve got to be processed by the PUC. But the guarantee is that the rates would be kept affordable and in line with what’s elsewhere in the country, based on the type of system.
According to Minister responsible for Rural Development, Senator Godwin Hulse, the details of how to replace the lost revenue can be efficiently dealt with without risking the project.
Senator Godwin Hulse – Minister responsible for Rural Development:
Those issues of how funds flow back into the village we have discussed over, and over, and over, and made some suggestions and some provisions of how we can continue to facilitate that, ’cause it’s your money. But that is a separate issue from the fact that you need your sewer system, and you need to get on with this, and I wanted to lay that on the table. Many residents have met me and said, “Minister, please we no want anything pushed down our throats.” I’m here to tell you there’s nothing to be pushed down anybody’s throat. That is why I started out by asking you, “Do you really believe you need a sewer system?” And I heard a fairly good reasonable “Aye.” And that is really where we’re going. The other issues are small issues that can be worked out, and Government is prepared and will work those out.
It is a turn of events that village chairman Charles Leslie Jr., who supports the project, says he is mostly satisfied with.
Charles Leslie Jr – Placencia Village Chairman:
He gave his assurance personally that we will deal with all the issues and concerns that people have. I have great respect for Minister Godwin Hulse and I believe that he has his reputation on the line and I know that he’s a man that values his reputation highly. I know that he will move forward and push forward to make sure that the people of Placencia are secured, and the mechanisms are set into place that will protect the people of Placencia, such as dealing with social, economic, financial vacuum, and also assure the people before this project gets implemented, that they will not see a severe, significant increase in the cost of living by paying for this system.
The project is expected to continue with the formal design of the project. Actual execution will take about three years.