Town Clock Continues to Raise Controversy

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Pursuant to the story that we ran in the October 27th issue of The San Pedro Sun, in reference to the construction of a 22+ foot-high town clock, The San Pedro Sun organized a peaceful demonstration. The demonstration was aimed at stating the message that “We” along with many others, were against the location of the town clock tower as well as the electronic billboard that would be placed on it and that a public consultation prior to the installation should have been held.

On Monday morning, October 31st, Mayor Elsa Paz appeared on The Reef Radio’s “Good Morning San Pedro” in an attempt to defend her project. On the show she all but called everyone objecting to her town clock, “uneducated” and demanded that unless 1,500 registered voters objected to her project, she would not listen. She further insinuated that many residents, because they are not Belizean Citizens, did not count. At noon on the same day the demonstration occurred as planned. About 150 residents of the island gathered at the location where the clock is being constructed. Along with several police officers, Channel 5, Love FM and the Ambergris Today covering the protest, the demonstration commenced.

It was a very peaceful demonstration and at 12:45pm, organizer Tamara Sniffin called the demonstration to an end with a very passionate speech as to the reasons against the clock, being at the location as well as the electronic billboard. Sniffin stated, “Someone asked me why I cared about where the clock was being placed, it is not like it was going in my living room. Well my response is, YES it IS going in my living room, and into the living room of every person on the island. This town center is OUR “living room” and we deserve the right to say if we want it there or not.”

Following the demonstration, The San Pedro Sun received correspondence between the San Pedro branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and Mr. Richard Headrick, owner of Ramon’s Village.

Interestingly, in a letter addressed to the BTIA on October 30th, Mr. Headrick deferred responsibility of the location of the clock. In an interview for our story, Mayor Paz explicitly stated that the positioning of the clock on the front street was a condition placed by Ramon’s Village, who is donating the clock tower. However in his response to the BTIA, Mr. Headrick stated, “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”.

Further to crediting Ramon’s for the location to the clock, a statement which Mr. Headrick denied in his letter, the Mayor also stated that the electronic billboard would be used for advertising at a cost to individuals wishing to do so. To this, Mr. Headrick, stated in his letter, “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”.

With these two points cleared by the donor, Mr. Headrick, it leaves one to wonder, why is it that the Mayor informed three media houses that Ramon’s was responsible for this entire project – and basically washed her hands of it, stating “It was a condition for the donation”? While many petitions have been signed against the continuation of construction work on the Town Clock, Ex-Patriots and Commonwealth Citizens living in the country for years – have now started to Register to Vote – as according to one, “If this is what it takes to make our words heard, then that is what we will do. Register to Vote”. The San Pedro Business Association has also submitted a letter to the Mayor requesting a public consultation before continuing the project and dozens of local businesses are writing her was well. As of press time, construction on the clock continues.

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