Instead of lobbying and insisting that the central government return vehicle registration fees collected on Roatan, Roatan Municipality decided to spend hard-earned local tax dollars, $54,000 (Lps. 1,024,000) of it, to do the job of paving a pot-hole-ridden intersection of the main road in French Harbour. “If we didn’t do it no one would,” argued Mayor Julio Galindo.
In Honduras fees collected from vehicle registrations are to be used for road construction and maintenance. With 3-4,000 vehicles registered on Roatan and fees approaching $300-$400 per vehicle, the central government receives over a million dollars in fees from the island every year.
The concrete paving of French Harbour intersection began before Christmas and blocked traffic toward French Harbour’s biggest shopping centers of Eldon’s Supermarket and McNab Plaza. Drivers waited for close to an hour to make it across, then waited again to get back. Retailers lost money as shoppers chose to go elsewhere.
At an inauguration event on January 16 Mayor Galindo apologized to owners of Eldon’s Supermarket and McNab plaza for any loss of business they suffered due to poor timing of the project.
With all their good intentions and money to pay for the central government’s obligation, Roatan Municipality has no expertise, nor professional staff, nor experience to do complex road projects. Familiar with doing only small access roads in towns, the Municipality found itself in deep water with the national road intersection.
The devil often lies in the details, and there is plenty of devil to go around at the island’s third busiest intersection. With protruding curbs, a long-bed truck will not be able to stay within the narrow confides of the turn lanes.
Twelve palm trees, now small but soon to be two feet across, were fitted into narrow, bathtub-like containers, some of which are situated just two feet from the road itself. The palm trees obstruct the view of traffic coming from French Harbour and turning west. “If they are driving drunk, they will hit somebody anyway,” said Mayor Galindo dismissively about the hazard created by the trees which he donated.
The intersection has gone from being a pothole-ridden obstacle to a decorated deathtrap. “You should move the palm trees, and cut down the curb,” suggested Governor Shawn Hyde.
Excusing the central government from fulfilling its responsibility also sets a precedent for the future in which the central government collects taxes and fees from Bay Islanders but doesn’t feel pressured to spend it here. Money collected from vehicles on Roatan is spent in Olancho and Esperanza.
The timing of the intersection construction coincided with the ongoing construction in West End that, despite assurances by the Municipal government that late fees are being applied after December 31, 2011, now looks to last through the height of the tourist season, perhaps very close to Semana Santa in early April. [/private]