The Town Clock Controversy: BTIA corresponds with SPTC & Ramon’s

Monday, October 31st, 2011

There was a lot of outcry over the decision to place a town clock in the middle of a main street in downtown San Pedro. While many people don’t mind having a town clock, issues that arose from our story printed on October 27, 2011 included the location – which to many seemed as obstructive. Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), San Pedro, a group of individuals who are stakeholders in the tourism industry wrote a letter to the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) respectfully requesting that the construction stop so the public opinion could be heard.

Below is the correspondence between the BTIA to the SPTC, and a response from the donor, Mr. Richard Headrick of Ramon’s Village Resort.

From BTIA to SPTC

October 29, 2011

Dear Town Council,

The Board of the San Pedro BTIA is unanimously opposed to the Clock Tower and Ramon’s Billboard currently under construction on Barrier Reef Drive.

We respectfully request that you stop work on the project immediately, so that you can take time to listen to the overwhelming opposition to this project amongst businesses and individuals in San Pedro. Had you consulted with the public beforehand, we are confident that you would not have continued with the project as planned.

While the reasons are many and varied, the outcry against the Clock Tower and Ramon’s Billboard is understandable and undeniable.

We look forward to a favorable reply.

Respectfully yours,

Mukul C. Kanabar
Chairman, San Pedro BTIA

cc
Ramon’s Village, The San Pedro Sun, Ambergris Today, San Pedro BTIA Membership

Response from Richard Headrick

October 30, 2011
Mr. Mukul C. Kanabar
BTIA – San Pedro Chapter
Ambergris Caye
Belize

Dear Mukul:

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]

Sincerely,
Richard Headrick

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.

Below is an excerpt from BTIA upon receiving Mr. Headrick’s response:

Hello San Pedro BTIA Members and Friends,

This is an update on the Clock Tower.

On Friday, I shared with you a letter from the SP-BTIA Board to the Town Council, respectfully requesting that the Mayor stop work on the clock project in order to hold a public consultation. A copy of that letter was also sent to Ramon’s Village.

Mr. Richard Hedrick from Ramon’s Village Resort kindly took the time to reply to our letter. His letter was read on the morning show today. I have attached it here for your review.

Our members have cited many reasons for opposing the clock tower as it is currently planned. The three most often cited reasons are:

1) The location in the middle of Barrier Reef Drive
2) The advertising/promotional component of the tower
3) The lack of advanced notice or public consultation on the matter.

In his letter, Mr. Hedrick explains that the “…emphasis of the electronic portion of the clock tower will be to provide 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.” (Emphasis added).

However, both The San Pedro Sun and the Ambergris Today spoke to the Mayor and reported the exact opposite. In particular:

Ambergris Today: “*The billboard display will be available for advertisements for town activities such as Costa Maya Festival Activities, September Celebration Schedule, etc. free of cost. If any other business would like to advertise on the billboard there will be advertising fees which would be paid to Ramon’s Village and not the Town Council.” (Emphasis Added)

San Pedro Sun: “The clock structure will house a permanent screen measuring 4’ x 6’ x 2”, which will continuously be running advertisement of town events and of course, Ramon’s Village. According to the Mayor, other advertisers will be welcomed to use the screen to advertise at a cost.” (Emphasis Added)

We will submit a request to the Mayor to clarify this important issue, since her words and those of Mr. Hedrick are in direct conflict. In addition, we will reiterate our earlier request that construction on the project stop until our concerns and those of many others in the community are heard…

The San Pedro Sun organized a peaceful protest against the location, rallying supporters to voice their opinions. At noon on Monday, October 31, 2011, protesters marched at the construction zone, spoke to various media houses and let their voices be heard. We will be following up on the Town Clock issue, as it is one that affects everyone on the island. Not everyone is against having the town clock, but the location and lack of consultation with the public certainly is an issue. Hopefully Mayor Paz will stop to listen to the suggestions and alternatives from citizens who have the best interest of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye at heart.

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