Yesterday the Maya Beach Bistro so kindly hosted the Placencia BTIA General Meeting, the first quarterly meeting of 2023. It was very well attended and super looong as far as these meetings typically run, but it was really good and informative and if you missed it… no worries! You know I took notes and here I’ll share the abridged version of what went down.
Special Guest- Police Commissioner Chester Williams
The country’s Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, and an entourage of other notable names (which I didn’t catch) in Law Enforcement attended the meeting and spoke about policing on the Peninsula. The main take away from Com. Williams’ speech was that policing provides general security overall but that it’s every citizen and businesses responsibility to look after their own personal security. He spoke about an initiative that San Pedro may be trying to implement where the town council will require businesses to have security/ surveillance systems in place in order to obtain their trade licenses and that the goal would be an integrative camera network that the police would have access to. Williams mentioned the BTB gives the police $25,000 quarterly and that he was planning to use some of that towards the surveillance network; he half promised Placencia some cameras down the line (which we all jumped on and applauded for) but I’m not going to hold my breath. There was talk of this integrated camera thing on the peninsula a couple years back just before Williams was promoted. Meh, we’ll see.
He reported on the success of the recent division of territories and the addition of the Seine Bight substation (29 officers strong!) in alleviating strain on patrols. We’ve been promised that one of the 7 new vehicles being obtained nationally will definitely come to Placencia and there is a plan to increase our Tourism Officers to 12 (I believe the current number is 8). The substation in Seine Bight is currently under construction next to the Multipurpose Building but it’s super tiny and we were updated that the contractor can amend the original design to accommodate a 2 story building so they’ll go forward with that.
BWSL Representatives- Update for Peninsula Water System Upgrade
Mr. Brown and Sanjay did most of the talking in this absurdly long portion of the meeting. I thought they did a phenomenal job laying out the issues, openly admitting to the shortcomings, outlining the steps they’re taking to right the ship, and explaining the scope of the upgrade that is under way. But goooosh, people just couldn’t stop themselves from lowkey berating BWS and to me, the Q&A was mostly a round robin of beating a dead horse. Insufficient water service is not a new problem in Placencia. It also isn’t a problem unique to us. This is a developing country issue and one that San Pedro and Caye Caulker have struggled with long before us and continue battling today. BWS was aware of the historic shortfall, was aware of the trend in development, planned this upgrade about five years ago, secured the project’s funds, and would have proceeded with this in 2020 if we hadn’t shut down the country for dang near 2 years. Now they’re forging ahead with everything but the issue has been compounded by the ever-increasing demand for water here on the peninsula and world-wide inflation nearly doubling the original budget. They’re doing everything they possibly can (working almost around the clock and at a tremendous loss) to band-aid the current situation while continuing their upgrades to alleviate the issue for the future. Here’s what they’re doing:
- they’re supplementing the current supply of water that comes to Placencia via a six inch line from Mango Creek with 2 huge tanker trucks of water brought in from Dangriga
- 42 thousand gallons of addition water are being trucked in currently (the demand is closer to 50 thousand so it still isn’t quite enough) and a third truck should start running next week
- they’re working on accessing a well in Riversdale for filling the trucks to cut down on drive time from Dangriga but there was some drama about the well’s owner or a middle man making outrageous demands of them, wanting to charge extortion prices per gallon, but negotiations continue and apparently if an amenable solution isn’t reached, then BWS can enact the water industry act and strongarm their way to the well. I think….That’s what it sounded like. The GOB by law “owns” the rights to all water in the country- rivers, lakes, rain, aquafers. So I think they can throw their weight around and make this private well owner relent.
- the upgrades will cost $34 million dollars and the project should be completed in 12 months
- a new 10 inch line from Mango Creek to Seine Bight will be run and a 500,000 gallon tank will be built there
- eventually a 10 inch transmission line from Riversdale will be added but that’s not part of this current upgrade project
- there was technical talk about pressure and psi’s, and I think the message was: even when all is said and done next year and a sufficient amount of water reaches customers on the peninsula, the pressure will be better but still not enough to reach a 3rd story. It all depends on your location along the line I suppose, but this whole big project won’t necessarily eliminate the need for auxiliary tanks and pumps at your homes and businesses
- they aren’t adding new connections to the water system at the moment so if you’re currently in construction you might be SOL for awhile and then there might be a backlog of new customers waiting on their connections after the high season
Toledo’s Chocolate Festival
Dennis Garbutt from the Toledo BTIA chapter came to talk about their Chocolate Festival on May 19th and 20th. The event is a combined initiative between the BTIA and the Cacao Growers Association. Friday night Copal Tree Lodge will host the Chocolate Gala 7-11pm tickets $60bz pp. (they might get Gil Harry Band for the Gala’s entertainment) On Saturday they’ll split the festivities between Santa Cruz Village and Punta Gorda Town. From the morning until 4pm you are invited to join Santa Cruz villagers, a living Maya community, in a day of Cacao and Culture. Placencia Tour Operators are encouraged to sell the Cacao and Culture experiences as trips from Placencia and visitors can partake in cooking demonstrations, waterfall, and archeological tours. The day will culminate in a Deer Dance Ceremony at 4pm.
From 4-9pm Punta Gorda will hold a Celebrating Chocolate Street Fair. We should watch the Toledo Chapters Facebook page for updates and ticketing.
Destination Report by Placencia BTIA Chairperson Elysia Dial
Our chapter has 61 current new or renewed members which is strong but we could do better! Ellie encourages not only hotels and tour operators on the peninsula to join but also supermarkets, construction companies, restaurants, and everyone that serves the tourism industry directly or indirectly. We’re all connected and we all have to work together towards a cohesive and prosperous future.
Events: We’ve made a post-pandemic recovery of all our annual events now. Mistletoe Ball was a huge success with over 500 attendees. Sidewalk Art Festival also a huge triumph with 77 vendors participating. The next major event is Lobsterfest in July and BTIA asks the community for their continued support and sponsorship of these wonderful events because they couldn’t happen without the buy-in from all the donors. The events give our destination notoriety, put heads in beds, bring direct and indirect commerce to the peninsula, and they’re just plain fun so keep supporting! We appreciate it!
The Tourism Information Center is up and running Mon-Friday 9-5 at the new location on the main road near the point. They’re getting loads of foot traffic and new hires, Kitana Torres and Teresa Godfrey, are busy busy chatting with visitors, promoting the destination and assisting Natasha with the production of The Breeze among other things. Work on placencia.com continues and webpages for members will be offered soon. A tour guide training course is being planned, so let the office know if you’d like to attend and pursue obtaining your license.
Ellie shared the good news of the recent change to an archaic liquor license law: the GOB has done away with the old ban on alcohol sales on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Bars, shops, and restaurants can now be open AND sell booze on these days. Praise the lord and let the good times roll.
Sargassum is back and it’s back big time. The task force is being mobilized again and Village Council is asking both the BTB as well as private donors to support the sargassum clean-up efforts by providing funds, tools, or man power. It costs approximately $800-1000bz per day to run the task force so it is an expense that Village Council can not afford on its own to fund or continue. Stop in to the VC office to donate in-person or message regarding bank deposit.