Fashion
Sign-up for Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / george / local news / business

In Dire Need
By Jennifer Mathews; Photographs by Benjamin Roberts

Aeromedical Services Now Offered to Bay Islands
Ronald Shortis has flown more than 600 combat missions in his 50+ years in aviation experience, allowing him to make some tricky landings and fly through harsh Caribbean storm systems.

The helicopter is a Sikorsky S62A helicopter. It is a civilian helicopter, never used in the US Coast Guard, who has 99 of this model up the US coast. This model was the main US rescue helicopter servicing the US coastline for 20 years. Other than in times of war (except for the Bel Huey) this helicopter still today holds the record of saving more lives than any other helicopter in the world. The craft is actually a boat and can land on water. "This is an ambulance, full stop, not a chopper," said Ronald Shortis, president of Aeromedical Services, S.A. Inside, there is enough room for three stretchers. For the main one, there is space for a medic at the head of the patient, and a flight nurse at the foot. The craft is equipped with emergency services, such as oxygen. All staff is on a communication system so they can communicate with the pilot.

Initially, Ronald Shortis and the helicopter came to Honduras from Australia when it was leased to a Honduran company for tourism purposes. When the 12 month lease expired, the craft was supposed to go back to Australia. Shortis saw a need in the Bay Islands for an aeromedical service and convinced the Australian owners to keep the craft in Honduras to perform aeromedic duties. It took six months to go through the paperwork to comply with all regulations for the DCGA. To date, this is the only fully dedicated ambulance helicopter in Honduras. The service received final licenses in April of 2010.

Shortis decided to base Aeromedical Services in Roatan for three reasons: Jet fuel is available there; It is a central location for which to serve the Bay Islands; And it has the largest concentrated population.

According to Honduran law, the company is not a charter service. The Honduran government did not give a permit to charge for services. This means Shortis can not charge for services and is not allowed to accept any monies from insurance companies. "This is not a business," said Shortis. "If it were, it would never get off the ground. It is a self-supported public utility. As such, it has been set up so that we never have to ask the government for assistance. But we have to be self-supported enough to where we can reach as many people as possible."

Aeromedical Services is dependent completely on funding from fees charged to members. It is a private operation that is a benefit for club members who pay a monthly subscription. Fees are: $30/month for a single person, $40/month to cover a family and their dependents, and $400 for the year if paid up front. What constitutes a family? A dependent is defined according to the definition of a "dependent" in the member´s home country, whether Honduran or foreign. There is no limit to the number of dependents. Corporate plans are available and several resorts, banks and businesses in the islands have signed up for their employees. There are also plans for households, which would include the property watchman, as well as special concessions for vacation homes as long as the property is occupied less than 60% of the year. Short term coverage is available for visiting family members to cover the time they are in the Bay Islands. Shortis has defined special plans for local communities according to need and income. "This is not an elitist service," he said.

According to Shortis, one member is a gentleman who has two families. Both his spouse and the mother of his other children are all dependent on his income. "We are not like an insurance company. We do not discriminate, nor do we get involved in people´s personal lives," said Shortis. "An insurance company is set up to make money for shareholders. We´re set up to take care of needs for members in medical crisis. We don´t look at it as how not to give you coverage. You're a member of a club." Shortis considers club members as the leaseholders for the helicopter, collectively leasing it from the Australian owners, Sun City Helicopters based in Geraldton, Western Australia, who specialize in leasing vehicles for search and rescue and medical reasons.

With a passion for helping people, Shortis does a significant amount of fundraising for emergencies that may arise in the local population. For this, he relies heavily on Rotary. A Rotarian for seven years, Shortis adheres to the basic principles of Rotary and the devotion to "learning to work together for the good of all."

The helicopter is owned by Sun City Helicopters, not Aeromedical Services, leased by the members of Aeromedical Services. Just the engine alone costs $¼ million. Every 1000 hours costs $165,000 to overhaul, which translates to $165 per hour to fly. A similar amount of money is required for the airframe. Insurance costs $1500/week. Aeromoedical operations by their very nature frequently occur in very adverse weather conditions. The craft is extremely expensive to insure, given that the insurers, Lloyds of London, classify mainland Honduras as a "warzone."

What members receive is a ride to La Ceiba or San Pedro Sula, any time, night or day, as well as ambulance service if needed. The medivac service takes patients to public and private hospitals, depending on the preference of the patient. Private hospitals currently served are Vicente D'Antoni in La Ceiba, and Cemesa Hospital in San Pedro Sula. Depending on the severity of the situation, the crew will make necessary decisions as to which hospital to visit. Oftentimes, it has been necessary to stop first in L Ceiba to stabilize the patient in critical condition before flying the extra time to San Pedro Sula.

When they land at the La Ceiba airport, then the service pays for the ambulance from the airport. This eliminates the need for people to have to worry about carrying or getting cash for anything.

Aeromedical Services, S.A. touches down on the main dock at the Utila Lodge. The dock is currently being reinforced to support the helicopter in order to offer service to central Utila.

To fly at night, it is at least more than $1000 the cost. Shortis has to pay air traffic controller overtime, airport and security charges, and runway lights at the departing RTB airport at night. Shortis has clearance to take off from Roatan´s airport at night, but not to land. Therefore, he is not able to return and has to pay for hotel rooms for all paramedics and staff on board. If he must return for other patients, such as if a group tragedy occurs, then he has to ask for a special dispensation to return.

Shortis must maintain strict policies when it comes to making the decision to fly. Because it is so expensive to fly, he must make difficult decisions to protect the members and their investment.

Once he embarked on a search and rescue mission at sea, only to find that the man was hiding with his girlfriend. Another search and rescue mission found the culprit in jail in Belize, rather than lost at sea.

Since receiving licensing in April, the busiest time the service has seen is 16 flights in 21 days. All flights were for patients in critical condition. Fortunately this is not the norm, and the average is about three critical flights per week with current membership.

If any foreigner dies in Honduras, Honduran law requires that an autopsy must be carried out in La Ceiba or San Pedro Sula. Aeromedical Services recognizes that taking care of the deceased is an important part of assisting the family in their grief. Membership privileges include this important function and have carried a number of deceased.

The Way This Works
A doctor has to give a recommendation that the patient needs to be medivac´d to the mainland. Shortis will only fly if it is a serious injury or medical condition. "We´re not going to fly anyone over for a broken finger," he said. If a patient requires oxygen, he will fly. If the patient is confused, the patient may have blood on the brain. If no doctor is readily available, Shortis can use the satellite phone to get approval from a doctor, even one abroad if the patient has a family doctor outside the country.

In La Ceiba, they can land straight at the airport or land in a field beside the Vincent D'Antoni hospital within 27 minutes. To get to San Pedro Sula takes one hour and six minutes and they are required to land at the international airport. Their preference is to take patients to La Ceiba for initial assessment and aid. They will remain in La Ceiba until the hospital tells them whether or not the patient requires further transfer to San Pedro Sula.

If they have to spend the night, they will bring the patient back if the patient is ok. "This is not a dump and go," said Shortis. "It´s a club that looks after its members and their well being."

"I think it´s important for people to know a few things: I´m here; I´m through all the paperwork hassles of getting set up; I´m here to stay; and people will have difficulty accessing our services if they are not members," said Shortis.

There are apparently enough people on the Bay Islands who feel that the service is worth the membership fees. In just three weeks, Shortis has exceeded the membership goals he expected would take 3-4 months to achieve.

Eventually, Shortis would like to purchase a jet so that he has the option of taking Bay Islands residents to the United States for medical treatment if needed. It takes three hours to travel from Roatan to Miami. For this, he´ll need a hanger and a jet, and while he originally thought this might take three years to achieve, membership is growing so fast, it might be much sooner before it becomes a reality.

The Staff
On February 6, Ronald Allen Shortis had completed 50 years in aviation in Australia. He gave war service and has flown more than 600 combat missions. Some of the missions involved in fighting against children soldiers. "This was a horror, a total horror, an aberration, and unbelievably wrong," he said. Consequently, feels very strong in his desire to help children, to save children. Since the service started, he has been able to a number of children´s lives. "This is the greatest reward of all. To see a child you know would have died go back to school." Shortis recognizes that he can not provide this service on his own indefinitely and must look to the future. He is looking for support staff. Two pilots will be trialing with him, beginning in July. "Hopefully both will prove satisfactory and able to provide long term future for this service." Though he is supposed to be retired, his passion for the medical field, which he was never able to pursue as a younger lad, and his passion for flying are the foundation for what has become Aeromedical Services.

Cyndie Peterkin, head flight nurse, is originally from Peru, and is fluent in Spanish and English, Spanish being her original language. She worked for 27 years in the emergency room, trauma level 1 in the North Broward Hospital District.

Originally from Barbados, Joe Peterkin, paramedic and flight coordinator, worked as a paramedic, trauma helicopter crew chief and firefighter in Broward County, Florida. He currently also trains firefighters in Roatan.

Cyndie and Joe retired to Roatan from the states six years ago. They originally came on a cruise ship and fell in love with the island. They have been married 34 years. They were enjoying a drink at Infinity Bay 3 years after their move to Roatan. When the owner introduced them to Ron, they knew immediately it was a good fit. Cyndie, whose father was a rescue helicopter polit in the Peruvian Air Force, feels like this is an opportunity for a new lease on life. "It´s in my blood," she said. "We´re here to stay; and we have to give back to the community." Cyndie and Joe have an extensive collection of emergency trauma gear in their house alone. "Without them this service never would have happened," said Shortis.

Patty Grier, EMT, DMT, is from Chicago, but has lived on Roatan for 22 years. She came as a diver and worked at CoCo View Resort. Now she owns the Dockside Dive Center there, which does retail, repair, instruction, and rental. The last three years, she worked as a full time volunteer with the fire department. She is a specialist in diving related emergencies, which is a valuable addition to patient treatment in the Bay Islands.

As this is a non-profit business, everyone works on a volunteer basis, including Shortis, himself. "My main goal is taking care of people. It´s not about the money," said Shortis. "I´m paid in the fact that I can still fly," said Shortis. "I go nuts if I don´t fly."

On July 10, there is a new paramedic coming from the states as a one month volunteer. Since the crew works under such intense circumstances, all new staff must be able to fit in. "We´re in such close workings that any square peg doesn´t work," said Shortis. "A helicopter crew is a very close knit group of people. There is a very special bond between each other. We're like family."

Integrating Bay Islands Communities
Shortis is working on the best way to serve the communities. For example, in some of the more isolated Utila cays, it may be better to bring the doctor to the cays, rather than fly the patient out.

The Bay Islands Voice accompanied the medivac helicopter to Pigeon Cay on June 1, where it is 21 miles to the mainland and the rough seas can be brutal. On the cay, medical services are scarce. A dentist visits the island once a month and a nurse practitioner, infrequently. According to Henry Karpinski, owner of the Harbour House, seven to ten of the residents rely on fishing and diving, and the rest are shop keepers. The island has had electricity for 6.5 years and receives running water once a week, sometimes twice. On this Cay there are an estimated 300 to 500 people.

Approximately 20 people attended the meeting. Discussions included specific concerns of the local families. "The community needs to get together to govern themselves for this service," said Shortis. He suggested the community designate an emergency coordinator on the island and for nearby Cay communities. The optimal spot on the Cay to land is on the property of Bess Diamond, which is essentially a vacant lot next to her house. "I wanted to meet the pilot before giving permission to make this the Cay´s landing pad. I thought it might be a small plane," she laughed. "I think this is a very important service and would be very happy to have the land be used to help the people of the island." The lot was full of trash such as plastic bags, which is extremely dangerous for landing and taking off conditions. Diamond said she had intentions of cleaning the mess and putting in gravel or sand to facilitate the landing pad.

The crew then landed at Coril Beach in the center of Utila Island. This particular part of the island is typically only accessible by boat as the access road is usually rough. Residents travel by hefty four wheelers. Most residents are equipped with basic emergency kits for animal attacks such as snake and spider bites, and but no equipment for serious injuries. Though an independent and self-sufficient community, residents here were particularly concerned with quick access to emergency hospital locations, because of the treacherous and long journey it takes to get to the nearest doctor on the island, if that person is available. According to resident Andi Sims, Utila Realty, "People who live on the South Shore pretty much like to be here and don't like to leave. If we call for emergency service, there's a good reason."

The team then headed to the main airport in Utila. Immediately, the police arrived on the scene with warnings of severe action if they land as an unidentified aircraft, particularly at night. The crew met with several members of the Utila Town community to introduce the service. Kurt Halverson, retired chiropractor, orthopedist, physician, and acupuncturist, and who currently works with Utila Land Company, has been on Utila for 15 years. "I've seen a lot of injuries through the years in this community. This is a very valuable and necessary service," he said after examining the helicopter and meeting the crew.

A perfect central landing location, Shortis is working with owner Kisty Engel to fortify, certify and register the helipad dock at Utila Lodge in Utila Town.

On June 2, the crew met with Alberto Busmail N., manager of medical operations of Vicente D'Antoni Hospital in la Ceiba, in order to establish a protocol between the hospital and the Bay Islands. "This connection is just one of many in the safety net of providing professional safety services," said Shortis.

Despite having extra bright lights, at night Shortis is legally required to land at the La Ceiba airport. However, Vicente D'Antoni Hospital is installing night landing lights so that in the future night operation landings to the hospital will become routine. They will have to go through the legal process to get landing pad approved for night operations. The hospital is slated to complete a direct access gate to the landing field in July. With this direct connection, Shortis can have a patient to the landing field in 27 minutes, and into the emergency room within 35 minutes of leaving the islands, versus the 66 minutes it would take to reach the San Pedro Sula airport, 15 minutes to transfer the patient to an ambulance (which sometimes does not have oxygen available), 30-45 minutes driving time, and 10 minutes to clear security and transfer to an emergency room. For this reason, Shortis prefers to use Vicente D'Antoni Hospital as the first stop to stabilize critical patients. As there are few specialists and surgeons on the islands, the hospital also has a wealth of specialists on standby.

Patients can always select which hospital or city they prefer to go, but in the event of emergency, Shortis and his crew will make whatever decisions necessary to stabilize the critical condition of the patient.

Actual Rescues
The most dear to their heart is the "miracle boy." He fell from the second story at school when the balcony gave out. The result was a rebar impaled 2 ½ inches into his brain. He was stabilized in La Ceiba, then flown to San Pedro Sula. He died twice on the way. Cyndie brought him back. Now he is back in school and seems to be a perfectly normal young boy, with only partial loss of movement in his left hand. Shortis and staff can´t wait to go back and revisit him and take him for a ride. He has no memory of how his life got saved.

The 'worst' trip was taking a patient to San Pedro was the middle of the night, when it took three hours. Shortis had to keep back-tracking 40 minutes through the storm to see if he could find a line through the thunderstorm. He and the crew were carrying a gentleman severely injured in a road accident. They finished up flying through a bottom of a thunderstorm. "It was very unpleasant, not an experience we want to repeat in a hurry," said Shortis.

Last year, Shortis was hit by lightning twice, one time causing a 6x4 inch hole in the blade. Despite his expert knowledge of flying in inclement conditions, he will refuse to fly if he feels there is any danger to the crew. "There is no sense in getting killed to save one life if we could save 40 next year."

Challenges
The warehouse of spare parts are in Australia. Transferring needed spare parts to Honduras can be a hassle. At the time of writing, Shortis was waiting on a package of "four little bolts," which left Australia on a Monday and were in Honduras on a Friday. The cost of the bolts are no more than $10 each, but they are specially machined. Customs held up his delivery for weeks. He can not go to San Pedro because at the moment he is the only pilot. If someone needs his services, he needs to stay on the island.

Aeromedical Services has lots of bills, but not a lot of money. "Boats are a hole in the ocean, helicopters are a hole in the air," said Shortis. He regards himself as a mere custodian of the members' investment. "I'm not allowed to touch their investment. It's a very delicate financial juggling act to maintain these services."

A further challenge is the simple fact that they are the first aeromedical service in Honduras. "It has taken time for the authorities to realize that all I want to do is achieve something worthwhile for them and their country," said Shortis. "Plus the fact that I'm an Aussie," he winks. "Sometimes we're a bit hard to handle."

"As a business, we are still in diapers, trying to get into short pants," said Shortis. "We don't yet have the staff we need, and it's possible we will get overloaded. We are not machines." The whole staff can be severely affected emotionally by the distress they see, particularly when helping children in critical conditions. "With a child, I think that there´s 60 yrs left on this child, and only a few left in me."

Another personal issue is that, being such a small community in the Bay Islands, the crew knows many of the people they fly, and always someone associated with the person. Taking care of friends in critical conditions is an entirely different kind of emotional strain.

There are limits to what a pilot can do: the number of hours a pilot can be on duty, and the numbers of hours a pilot can fly are internationally regulated. These limits have been developed by international aviation authorities based on stress, exhaustion, and decision-making ability. This is one reason it is so important new staff joins the team as soon as possible. In times of fatigue or sickness, Shortis must stand down.

"The final challenge to remember is personal," said Shortis. "I´m the only one person who´s completely unprotected by this helicopter. If something happens to me, I have to go by boat!"

Cyndie Peterkin, Aeromedical's head nurse flies with the team to Utila on for a meeting with the island's citizens on Tuesday, June 1st.
feature story / george / local news / business ______________back to top

History Lessons: Getting it Right by George Crimmin

I don't share Dr. Derbyshire's pessimism, but some of his description of education - specifically, educational bureaucracy, sadly rings true. The past 50 years are littered with hundreds of pedagogical fads and theories that did little to advance real learning. But now back to my theme of getting it right. In Honduras history, I was taught that on the 15th of September in 1821 Honduras declared and received her independence from Spain. Simple enough - but is it really?

Let's review the facts. According to historical records Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810 thanks to the influence of the American and French revolutions, and perhaps most importantly, Spain was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte and was being ruled by his brother Joseph Bonaparte. Total chaos and anarchy ensued, not to mention bloodletting for the following eleven years. In 1821 the treaty of Córdoba was signed granting full sovereignty to Mexico, which immediately incorporated all of Central America except for Panama under its rule. Panama attached itself to Colombia to escape the bloody Mexican rule. This is undoubtedly the date Honduras proclaimed as its independence. But is it factual? Let's continue. For the next couple of years, civil unrest, chaos, and violence continued, and in 1823 Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica joined together and formed the new United Provinces of Central America, freeing themselves from the clutches of Mexico. In my view, seceding from Mexico as a group still falls short of individual independence. Of course the united provinces of Central America were short lived. The bloody chaotic situation in Mexico was transported to the new provinces, and finally, from 1838 to 1841 all five provinces declared their independence FROM EACH OTHER! Honduras being one of the first to do so in 1838.

So, which is the real Honduran independence date, 1838 or 1821? I say 1838. But then again, we are reminded that "history is the propaganda of the victors". There is also this by American author William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) "All history is only one long story to this effect: Men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of this earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others".

Clarence Darrow, an American lawyer (1857-1938) wrote: "Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt." Indeed! What is most striking to me about this statement is, that as a child I was taught just the opposite. Do not question your elders, especially your teachers. Whatever you read in a textbook was accurate and true to a fault. No question about it, period.

Looking back one has to recognize the simplistic view of education 50 years ago - strong emphasis was placed on memorizing facts and figures, while very little importance was given to independent thinking and problem solving. Today, schools are faced with a growing awareness that success in the 21st century requires more than just core academic knowledge.

As global innovations transform the way people live and work, it is increasingly apparent that future success will depend upon an ability to adapt to change and to constantly learn and relearn. Students need to acquire a variety of social, technical and communication skills; including critical thinking and problem solving, which were, for the most part, excluded from my generation. I believe in this one area education today has changed somewhat for the better. I can't help but take note however of a passage in John Derbyshire's new book entitled: We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. Dr. Derbyshire writes: "Education is a vast sea of lies, waste, corruption, crackpot theorizing, and careerist logrolling." He continues by stating "If, as H.G. Wells asserted, human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe, we have lost the race, and had better brace ourselves for the catastrophe."

feature story / george / local news / business______________back to top
RECO Finances Explained By Jennifer Mathews

Bay Islands Approved for New Tariffs and 150 KwH Subsidy

In 1996, RECO's direct operating expenses were $0.027 USD per KwH billed; In 2004, they were $.067 and in 2009, they were $0.084, all not including fuel cost, which today equals about US$0.20 per KwH. This is due to the increased expenses for labor, insurance, generation, and distribution.

In order to provide alternative energy solutions, RECO is making a $6 million dollar investment in renewable/ green energy. RECO has recently purchased 26 wind turbines which should be operational in about one year, according to Warren .

"We do not claim perfection, which eludes us all - but this company is an open book and you can bore yourself to death by coming in and looking at all our records"," said Warren .

"I've been involved with RECO since 1992," said Harper, "and it's the entity on the island that people love to hate. It's an escape valve."

Comparitive Analysis

Compared to either Utila and Guanaja, RECO's current residential rates are significantly lower, with 7.75 lps/KwH on Utila and 8 lps/KwH on Guanaja, as compared to RECO's 5.25 lps/KwH.

It is also necessary to consider the historical value of the Lempira, particularly because the diesel which is purchased as fuel for the generators is purchased abroad and its value fluctuates with the changes in the global market. In 1996, one Lempira was worth more than $0.08; today, since then the Lempira has lost more than one-third of its value and is valued at just over $0.05 USD.

How does that affect the billing rate? Based on a standard average residential rate of 3.21 Lps/KwH, and converting that amount to USD based on the historical exchange rate in 1996, the inflation adjusted rate in USD in 1996 was approximately $0.26 per KwH. Today, including the fuel adjustment, the average residential rate per KwH in USD is $0.27. If you look at the numbers in dollars, RECO's rate are extremely close to what they were way back in 1996; however the services being provided are greatly improved.

Coxen Hole teacher Caroline Larson remembers how only two years ago the power was out regularly from 1pm - 5pm. "There were many days we had to close school because it was just too hot. Now, we have power regularly."

To put this into perspective, consider the following:
The amount of bananas that one could buy in 1996 with $1 would cost $2.10 today; $1 worth of Rice in 1996 would cost $ 2.33 today; $1 worth of Oranges in 1996 would cost $2.32 today; $1 worth of Peanuts in 1996 would cost $1.99 today; $1 worth of Electricity from RECO in 1996 would cost $1.42 today.

Government Subsidy
According to TV Channel 5, the central government approved the 150 KwH subsidy on June 2, 2010, in which the bills of Bay Islands residents who use less than 150 KwH per month will be subsidized with government money. According to Romeo Silvestri, this benefit stands to directly benefit up to 45% of RECO clients. On July 7, Richard Warren is expected to travel to Tegucigalpa to receive a formal resolution of the RECO tariff proposal from the CNE, and to learn about details of the subsidy, how it will be managed, and how this will be integrated into RECO's changing financial structure.

According to Roatan mayor Julio Galindo, "The law is clear about the 150 subsidy. Honduran citizens have been eligible for this subsidy for many years. Regarding this law, now we in the Bay Islands are finally being treated as citizens."

Inside the RECO compound on May 21.

Due to many recent questions raised in the Roatan community about raised RECO rates, the Bay Islands Voice held meetings with RECO president Richard Warren, finance director Luis Rodriguez, and general manager Matthew Harper to review RECO's financial reports from 1996 to the present. Below are the findings from those meetings.

History of RECO and National Energy
Roatan Electric Company, RECO, is a privately held public utility. RECO began as a co-op; originally, the islanders were required to purchase a Lps. 100 share in RECO in order to have service connected. In April of 2008, Kelcy Warren, became 52% majority shareholder in RECO. The remaining 48% share is still held by more than 2000 islanders, many of whom may be unaware of their interest in the utility.

On a national level, The Electricity Law of 1994 assigned policy making to an Energy Cabinet chaired by the President of the Republic with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Secretaria de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente, SERNA) as its Secretary and Coordinator. A regulatory agency, the Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE), was created to approve standards, monitor and enforce laws, and approve tariffs, among other duties. Additioanlly, a national utility Empresa Nacional de Energia Electrica (ENEE) provides expertise to the government for policy making and regulation.

How are the billing rates set and how are they changed?
The rules under which RECO must comply are set by CNE. By law, a tariff proposal must be submitted by the utility to the Energy Commission every five years. The review of the proposal and confirmation of expenses, capital contributions, operational efficiencies and practices is the responsibility of the CNE, whose main role is to ensure that rates are fair and reasonable. This process has not been completed for RECO since 1996.

Regulators have a responsibility to see that the energy provider covers its costs in order to ensure that the second function of the regulators is upheld - to ensure that the public has available reliable energy.

Tariffs are set for five years, however, the generation portion of the tariff, which amounts to about half of the total cost per KwH, is reviewed and appropriate adjustments made on an annual basis. The tariff process implies that RECO presents to CNE what it expects to consume, what the growth might be, how much additional generation will need to be added, where the growth will come from, etc., over the five year period. Investments must be made in advance in order to have the capacity available when it is needed. RECO needs to be able to generate sufficient revenues in order to have resources available for capital expenditures for additional generation, distribution upgrades and extensions, and in order to have the capacity available when the demand is needed.

Within the next year RECO must purchase and install additional generation capacity that will cost an estimated $6 million. That investment must be made in order to provide sufficient energy for the expected increase in demand due to growth in the island.

While the tariff rates have remained unchanged, fuel adjustment charges have been added to cover fluctuations in fuel cost without which RECO would not be able to provide energy to the consumers on the island. During 2009, RECO lost Lps. 34 million, according to audited financial statements. Since commencing operations in 1993, RECO has made a profit during three years; in 1997 (Lps. 1,706,764); 2003 (Lps. 547,746); and 2004 (Lps. 847,542). Over that same period it has lost a total of US $30,353,962.

Emergency Dispatch for Bay Islands Near at HandBy Jennifer Mathews

The committee has requested the support of ZOLITUR for funding to maintain permanent staffing of the dispatch center under the security chapter of the entity. The goal is for the center to be operational 24 hours a day, 365 day a year, and be staffed by trained, bilingual operators. The staff will be trained to answer emergency calls and coordinate dispatch of police, fire, and ambulance emergency services throughout the Bay Islands. Dispatchers would also be trained in basic first aid and standard procedures in dealing with crisis situations. The ZOLITUR charter requires that all the Bay Islands are included.

In efforts to raise money for the project, a fundraiser was held on Tuesday, May 4, at the Henry Morgan Resort. Five-time world champion salsa dance team Swing Latino performed to raise support for the purchase of equipment for the emergency service hotline *199. The evening raised more than $1200 for the cause.

Future projects for the Public Safety Sub-Committee include: emergency preparedness in earthquakes and hurricanes, and the improvement of police stations for better quality of life for the policemen.

Long term, the Committee would like to find a new site for the police station that brings together the police, fiscal, and judges under the same roof, thus facilitating better communication throughout all offices.

"I would be proud if this was the first successfully implemented project of the Rotary on the islands," said Ake. "I would like to thank the authorities, Mayor Julio Galindo, Diputado Romeo Silvestri, and above all, everyone involved with emergency services - police, fire, and ambulance. Commissioner Vides has been particularly helpful in pushing this process through."

The newly established Rotary Club of Roatan has established, as one of its first tasks, a Public Safety Sub-Committee. The first priority of the committee is to set up a dispatch for *199, the emergency services number, specifically for the Bay Islands.

The emergency number is already the established national number, however dialing *199 currently routes callers to La Ceiba, where their call is answered by a Spanish speaking operator. Several reports have complained of operators simply hanging up when callers say they are calling from one of the Bay Islands.

Formerly a project of the Roatan Crime Watch Committee under the direction of Ilias Scott and Herb Morici, the project came under the guidance of Edward Ake, when the Rotary Club took over Crime Watch activities in April. The Roatan Crime Watch Committee had already made significant progress on such things as importing police cars, radio equipment, printers and establishing a website.

feature story / george / local news / business______________back to top
The Bay Islands Get a Yacht Club By John Morris Illustrated by Barbara Morris

Laser Sailing in Half Moon Bay

Aaron Etches called a friend in Fort Meyers to take a preliminary look and the report was that, if the boats cost $5000.00 new, they were now worth $50.00! However, with a little work, they were still seaworthy. Working on a limited budget, Aaron and his father decided it was still worth the trip to have a look for themselves. There were 12 boats available scattered all over the property, dating from between 1972 and 1983 with two trolleys and some assorted spare parts and sails. The owners were asking $1000.00 per boat, way out of the planned budget. After consulting with William, it was decided to at least try with a low ball offer of $4000.00 for 10 boats and the two trolleys. To Aaron's surprise, they agreed to $4500.00. The deal was done and arrangements were made to get them to the island.

Upon arrival to Roatan, Aaron enlisted Denny Cooper to get the boats back in shape and in the water. In the end, with shipping, repairs and initial investment, the boats ended up costing about $ 800 each. In order to cover initial investments and pay for ongoing repairs and new parts, it was decided to offer very affordable yearly memberships for singles, families and businesses, as well as daily rates for visitors and vacationers. There is currently one sailing instructor, Joanna "Jo" Carlow, who can teach up to three students at a time. Aaron is now looking for a second instructor, as demand is now higher than available time. All money charged for the lessons goes to the instructor.

Half Moon Bay can be a tricky place to sail. The winds shift often and gusts are not uncommon. Every Sunday, Sundowners hosts a family BBQ along with sailing races. Aaron sets the temporary buoys and draws a race diagram on a large chalkboard on the beach to study. The turnout has been fantastic though sometimes puzzling. A few weeks ago, a gentlemen, who appeared to be on holiday, inquired if he could participate in the races. Of course, replied Aaron, informing him the fee was just $25.00 for the day. The money was paid and the new entry selected a boat and spent twenty minute re-rigging the boat. Should have known then, smiles Aaron. The start of the race was announced, which is currently Grand Prix style. The mysterious sailor took off, finished the race and was having a cocktail at the bar by the time Aaron, who was second place, hit the beach. After some digging, it was finally learned that all the Bay Islands Yacht Club members racing that day had been soundly beaten by one Mark Foster, former Commodore of the USA's second oldest yacht club in Corpus Christi, Texas and two time world champion in J 80 (a larger sailboat) competition!

The next steps for the Bay Islands Yacht Club is to try to get international status, allowing members to sail at any other internationally recognized yacht club and to begin to upgrade the equipment with some newer boats. The Bay Islands Yacht Club wants to stress that this is not and will never be a business for profit. If Sundowners can sell more food and drink from the bar, they are happy. If William and Lowie have an opportunity to sail when they want, they are happy. But what it is really all about, is simply giving folks young and old to have an opportunity to learn and to sail in a fun family atmosphere on the island of Roatan.

Laser sailboats dart around Half Moon Bay on most Sundays.

If one strolls through West End along Half Moon Bay, especially on a Sunday afternoon, there is something new and exciting in the water just in front of the Sundowners Beach Bar, so exciting that already some have been spotted running down the beach to have a closer look. Believe it or not, a Summer Olympic event has come to Roatan thanks to the combined efforts of a few people with a similar dream, and that event is "One Man Dinghy Sailing" in a small yet agile sailing boat called a Laser.

Back in the day of the Loafers Bar at the far west side of West End, The Etches family dreamed of starting a sailing club but the location of the bar proved to be too much of a late night club rather than an afternoon hangout so the idea never came to fruition. When Loafers was sold and the now famous Sundowner's Beach Bar was created, the plan was different-start early and close early in an attempt to grab those looking to spend the day at the beach, have a drink and some food, maybe a bonfire and then close at a reasonable hour, allowing the late night clubs to pick up the continuing party crowd, keeping all those involved in the project to a more normal life and schedule. With this being the foundation for a successful island business, the idea of a sailing club once again was possible. A chance meeting with William and Lowie Crisp, who were interested to buy some beach front property with the same idea to start a sailing club, sealed the deal and a partnership was formed and thus the plan for The Bay Islands Yacht Club was launched.

After some research, it was decided that the Laser was the sailing boat of choice, partly because of availability and affordability, but mainly because Laser sailing is an Olympic event with several already established clubs throughout Central America. The choice provided future possibilities which could include competitions with other countries, as well as the opportunity for a sailor from Roatan to train for the Olympics!

Advertisements were posted on Laser forums, looking for some boats, and a response came up on Sanibel Island off the west coast of Florida. It seems that an old sailing club was being dissolved as the owners had decided to retire, buy a large sailing boat and spend the rest of their days sailing around the world.

Palmetto Bay Plantation
Real Estate Roatan
Compass Maps

Click for the latest Roatan weather forecast.
  
Google
www BayIslandsVOICE.com