Wednesday, July 24, 2024

San Mateo residents presented with plans to improve their community

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A presentation to discuss an improvement project for the subdivision of San Mateo provided residents with a first look at the different plans to uplift the infrastructure and services in the community. Some of these plans presented by the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) include paving the main streets, a drainage system, garbage management, better access to utilities, creation of public areas, and even the possible building of a second bridge connecting San Mateo with downtown San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
The meeting, held at the entrance of San Mateo, was on Thursday, January 18th. Mayor Gualberto’ Wally’ Nuñez announced that the first thing happening is the paving of their main streets as early as February. “Most of the residential areas are getting an uplift, with concrete streets, but San Mateo is very special. We plan for another bridge by an easement near Clumsy Bar, south of the community, that will be mainly for pedestrians,” Nuñez said. He said such a crossing would ease the congestion at the Boca del Rio bridge, and some people could commute into town from this alternative route. The Mayor explained that this is the SPTC’s initiative, which has garnered the support of the central government and international organizations willing to finance such an important project. “Part of this project that we have already started includes the main streets in San Mateo, and we now partner with these groups who want to help even more,” he explained. Mayor Nuñez said that a set of studies has been taking place in San Mateo by local and foreign experts in urbanization development.
As the presentation continued, the Mayor called on resident and scientist Valentine Rosado to explain the details of this project. Rosado mentioned that, as per the studies, there are over 2,000 residents in San Mateo. He said that this number fluctuates as seasonal residents live in these subdivisions. Rosado spoke about the challenges in this area of the island. Some of these include areas prone to flooding due to underlying regions affected by rain and high tides—the issue of garbage management, and the need to improve the street networks. Rosado pointed out that there are no known public spaces in San Mateo, and there is also the issue of the clearance of vegetation, particularly mangroves.
He explained that the studies in San Mateo included a digital elevation model that looked at the land topographies and identified low-lying areas and elevations. These results will help plan a better drainage system for this subdivision. Rosado added that soil samples have been studied to meet international standards for road infrastructure. According to him, work on the street networks, not just the paving, and starting to work on a state-of-the-art drainage system is expected to begin later this year. “We are going to see some of these investments in San Mateo before the end of this year,” said Rosado.
Priorities for San Mateo discussed with residents
According to community members, they identified the proper collection of garbage, access to drinking water, and wastewater treatment. Rosado said another project in tandem with this one is installing a wastewater system in northern Ambergris Caye. The plan includes the connection of San Mateo to that wastewater treatment plant when completed.
Another imperative is more access to electricity and better lighting. The residents also shared that economic opportunities and security are other important topics to consider. According to Rosado, these are pointers that will be part of the transformation project in San Mateo to make this subdivision more prosperous and safer. A few residents did not see the second proposed bridge as imperative, while others welcomed the idea. Those supporting the second bridge idea like it because it will make it easier to access services in the downtown area in less time, and in cases of evacuation due to natural disasters, the residents of these areas will not have to depend on just one exit.
The meeting was deemed very useful, and residents had the opportunity to see the details of the improvement plans. While the funding for the upcoming phases of the project is secured, the first part of the improvement plan will start with the road/street rehabilitation. The second part of the project will include the drainage and the utilities infrastructure. The project’s second phase will also see new streets opening and protecting as much vegetation as possible. Rosado noted that these upgrades planned for San Mateo will be climate-resilient infrastructure and will be a lot more beneficial for the subdivision’s development. The plan also aims to make this urbanization plan in San Mateo a model example in San Pedro, Belize, and the region. The project will also benefit the community from a social economic standpoint.
Area Representative Honourable Andre Perez commended the organizers of the presentation and those San Mateo residents who attended the important gathering. He said that this plan is realistic and will start in February. He said more services will be available as San Mateo grows and stated that the subdivision is in a better position now than some years ago. Perez said more needs to be done, and his office, along with the SPTC, will continue working together for the betterment of not just this community but the other subdivisions in San Pedro.

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