Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
May, 2005 Vol.3 No. 5
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Written by Jaime Johnston, Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

The Good Employer

Bay Islands Businesses Owners Find Creative Ways to Compensate Staff

To some, the term "good employer" may sound like an oxymoron, but not to the employees of businesses throughout the Bay Islands who invest in the development of their staff. Each one of these enterprises has a different way of being a "good employer." Some give first chances to young teens looking for their first job. Others offer health benefits or insurance policies to the employee and their family. In cases, the help comes at a time when it's needed most - a number of Roatan businesses have implemented loan programs for employees or provided residence when it was otherwise unavailable or unaffordable. Various hotels and small businesses have invited health professionals to the workplace to lecture on sanitation, personal health and disease prevention. Although these special employee programs and benefits are not yet the norm in Bay Islands' business practice, their presence is growing.
"I think that employee benefit programs will continue to grow on this island in the future. It's just the way things are moving," said Curby Warren, who took over his father's family business in 1974. This year, H.B. Warren's celebrates 50 years of business. In that time, the Coxen Hole store has served as a steady employer in the community. H.B Warren's started out as a hotel when it was constructed in 1955 by Henry and Esther Warren. The building underwent renovations in 1967 after the family hotel become a grocery store, employing five people. "At that time, we were the biggest employer on the island except for the packing plants," said Curby Warren. Now, H.B. Warren's employs 50 people, many of whom got their first chance at gaining employment at the grocery store.
According to Warren, most of his employees are from the Coxen Hole-Flower's Bay area. "A lot of people started working here before they went off to study or to work on the cruise ships. Some people come back and tell me that working here helped them learn something that they took to their next job," said Warren. According to Lisa Parson, H.B. Warren's bookkeeper, 12% of the store's employees are teenagers and first time workers.
Parson began her first job at H.B. Warren's at the age of ten. Her mother worked in the fabric department and Parson would tag along after school and on vacations. Eventually, she was offered a job stocking toys for Lps. 50/month. "Warren's is known for giving people their first start," said Parson, 37, of West End. Now a 27-year veteran employee of the store, Parson has assumed almost every responsibility at the store at some time. In 1988, she studied bookkeeping in San Pedro Sula and, upon returning, was re-hired by the store as an assistant bookkeeper.
Parson is one of many employees who received medical insurance from the store years ago. It was in 1995 when H.B. Warren's first began to offer health benefits to their employees. The insurance was offered after five years of employment and was extended to the employee's spouse and children. "The employees were very glad to get the insurance, especially because I didn't know of any other employers doing that at the time," said Parson. According to Warren, the medical insurance was discontinued four years ago when the store's finances became limited and the business couldn't afford to offer it anymore.
"The people really appreciated it and it's a shame we can't afford to continue it. I always try to put myself in the employees' shoes and look at their point of view," said Warren. The store still continues to offer life insurance policies to their long-term employees. According to Warren, 35 out of his 50 employees have store-sponsored life insurance policies. "There's a real mix of different people here, but everyone is treated the same. All of us have the same opportunities," said Parson.images/ad-palmetto-1.jpg
H.B Warren's is one of many island businesses who aim to support their employees in addition to salaries. Anthony's Key Resort in Sandy Bay employs over 150 staff, one of the largest employers on Roatan. The resort, established in 1968, has taken advantage of a national program for employee development. INFOP is funded by a 1% tax on employee wages and offers courses for Honduran citizens.
According to Albina Solomon, Executive Director of Roatan's Chamber of Commerce (RCC) since June 2004, INFOP offers courses ranging from marine mechanics and computers basics to crafts and esthetics. RCC, which has a one-year contract with INFOP, organized six courses in 2004, the same number that Anthony's Key Resort hosted exclusively for their employees. "Every employer pays that percentage of their employee wages to INFOP, so each business has the right to order courses from them. Very few businesses deal directly with them, but over the years, Anthony's Key Resort brought through many courses for their employees," said Solomon. Solomon indicated that businesses that order courses from INFOP must cover the transport, food and lodging for the instructors.
On average, the resort hosts six courses per year. The courses are offered to all employees and held during work hours. AKR started offering INFOP courses eight years ago. "They make such an impact on our employees. They can learn things that may help in their job here, but also they can develop skills and apply it in their own lives," said Joanie Galindo, Asst. Manager of AKR who coordinates the INFOP courses. At the end of each course, certificates are granted to each participant. "It's more of a hands-on training. The instructors come and they work directly with the staff. We have had everything from housekeeping to human relations," said Galindo.
Melanie Webster, a receptionist at AKR, took an INFOP course at the resort in April 2004. "It's a really good benefit to learn stuff that you can use at any job," said Webster. The course, offered to 35 participants, dealt with food hygiene and sanitation and lasted 1-2 hours/day for five days. "There is an obligation to take the course if it applies to your department. But, for the other ones, you can take them if you want to," said Webster. Another popular course was Client Services in March 2004. "It teaches you how to talk and interact with clients," said Webster.
It's not only big businesses that are creating employee programs. Mango Creek Lodge is a small fly fishing lodge in Port Royal owned and operated by Canadian Terry Kyle and his wife Patrice Heller. They began construction in early 1995 and hired a group of workers to complete the project. According to Kyle, they looked into Honduran labor laws and paid according to the requirements.

"Then we also saw that the better you treated your employees - the happier they were and the safer we felt," said Kyle. Over time, Kyle noticed a high turnover of employees and a trend in their financial concerns. "Good workers were quitting in order to cash in on their pension. They needed money because there was an illness in the family or an emergency," said Kyle who employs 15 workers at the lodge.
Three years ago, Kyle and Heller started a program allowing employees to borrow against their pension without interest. Pension payments amount to wages for one month per every year worked. "The labor laws don't take into account these situations. Honduran wages are low, but the cost of living here is high," said Kyle. In implementing the program, Kyle hoped to help employees while also fostering concepts of modern banking systems. The system tracks how much an employee earns and gives a corresponding figure of what they are able to borrow. Then, the employee pays weekly installments until the loan has been repaid. With this method, the employers are not at risk of losing the principal loan amount because it uses the pension as collateral. If the employee leaves without notice or fails to repay over time, the employer has the pension funds guaranteed. "It makes our employees a little more independent financially and it's really their money anyway," said Kyle.
In addition to the loan program, Kyle and Heller have constructed residences for their employees, most of whom are from the country's north coast. A 20' by 80' concrete building serves as employee dormitory. The two-story house has seven bedrooms: five for male workers, the rest for females. The house has a central room with television, four washrooms, a deck and a downstairs kitchen. "It's very important that the employee feels that they are getting ahead in life because they work for you," said Kyle.
This idea of the employee benefiting outside of monetary payment is not new to Charles "Vegas" George, owner of Vegas Electric in Dixon Cove. George was the only private sector attendee at the 2004 Copan conference about Honduran projects aimed at prompting social change. "I returned from Copan and thought, 'How do you integrate these services that are available on the island and make it a part of the deal?' We think that our business has a responsibility to help improve the quality of life for our employees," said George, who began his Roatan business in 1987. George approached Dr. Zeni Duarte of the Polo Galindo Clinic in Punta Gorda about conducting a health seminar for his employees. In addition, George invited Valerie Nelson of Familias Saludables to offer a seminar about HIV and AIDS.
On November 15, 2004, Vegas Electric closed their doors to the public and hosted a half day of Health Awareness clinics at Roatan Bilingual School. Between 30 and 35 participants were present, including staff members and their spouses or family members. Topics for the seminar included hygiene and nutritional recommendations, as well as proper food handling. Dr. Duarte lectured on risk factors of contracting illness due to water cleanliness, garbage disposal and proper personal care. "I believe that education is the key factor in order to have a better health situation on the island and I hope his employees understood the message," said Dr. Duarte who indicated her willingness to conduct similar seminars in the future.
In her seminar, Nelson discussed the prevention and transmission of HIV/AIDS, as well as testing and treatment options around the island. She distributed contraceptives to the group and answered a lot of questions to dispel myths about the disease. "There was a lot of new information," said Vegas Electric employee Margarita Hyde, "For a lot of the staff, this topic is taboo, but people became more comfortable during the talk and started asking a lot of questions." Both George and Nelson saw a positive response from the Vegas employees on the lecture and they arranged to have a follow-up testing clinic available on-site. On December 9, 2004, Nelson and three assistants set up a clinic to provide counseling and testing on a strictly volunteer basis.
According to George, most employees took advantage of having on-site testing, instead of having to go seek out testing on their own. "The idea was that we offered it right here and people didn't have to take time out of their day," said George, "So many people don't realize the resources that are available on the island.
The seminar was part of an existing employee program that George created. Once a month, George closes shop for a day and conducts development workshops. In the past, the workshops have focused on professional skill-building. For the future, George hopes to host another Health Awareness day, covering topics such as nutrition, family planning and child care issues. "Vegas is a socially-responsible business owner who understands that businesses will make social change," said Nelson who has conducted similar workplace seminars in other Roatan businesses. "It makes a huge difference and I advocate doing this again for other businesses."
As Roatan continues to develop, more employment opportunities will inevitably follow. The employers who offer extra benefits usually observe a stronger relationship between themselves and their staff. Many business owners observe an improvement in employee work ethic. In a country where the wages are arguably low and labor laws can be frequently manipulated to benefit the employer, employee programs often yield more productive workplaces and happier workers.images/ad-palmetto-1.jpg

  TOP: Line workers at Mariscos Caribeña packing plant in Oak Ridge. ABOVE LEFT: Workers in laundry room at Anthony's Key Resort in Sandy Bay who work six days per week: Soledad Meras Funez, Francis Scott, Marylee Carolina James. ABOVE RIGHT: Security Guards with Companía Isleña de Seguridad work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. They get paid Lps. 3,400 monthly. Working at West Bay: Benjamin Hernandes, Francis Lopez, Juan Blas Ochoa, Amadeo Osorto.
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Bay Islands Cruise Ship Docks 2010 by Thomas Tomczyk, Managing Editor
  images/ad-palmetto-1.jpg

Wardens, Consuls, Liaisons, Oh My!
Several Ex-pat Communities on the Bay Islands are Organized around a Warden's system, still most foreigners know, or care little about its existence.

There are an estimated eight US wardens on Roatan, and probably another three on Utila and Guanaja. Citing post 9/11 security concerns, the US embassy in Tegucigalpa refuses to give out their names, or even exact number.
This secrecy makes it difficult for any American on the Bay Islands to register with a warden or, in case of an emergency, contact a warden directly. At the same time, the US embassy would like the Americans living or visiting Honduras for extended period of time to register with them. This catch-22 situation does not help in clearing some misconceptions about the role the wardens play on behalf of their embassy.
One of the US wardens is Cam O'Brien, owner of Bay Islands Beach Resort, who has been a US warden since 1997. She received a letter of acknowledgement, but no ID, salary or benefits.
Hurricane Mitch in 1998 was the most recent proving ground for the emergency capabilities of US and Canadian wardens. "It was just crazy," said O'Brien. O'Brien stayed in close telephone contact with the US embassy. In the storm that lasted for five days, she drove to Fantasy Island to confirm the status of Americans stranded on the island. In the end, no American citizens were injured on Roatan during the Hurricane.
According to O'Brien, much of the assistance wardens provide is when someone from the US calls the embassy about a missing person. "They say: 'My boy went to spend a few weeks on Roatan and I haven't heard from him since.' Well, they are probably living on West End and they don't wont mom to find them," said O'Brien.
O'Brien had to perform more serious wardens duties when she helped to identify bodies of two US citizens deceased on Roatan: one accident and one suspected suicide. She also helped to repatriate their bodies to the US. "When a US citizen dies on the island you immediately call the US embassy," said O'Brien.
An annual visit of the US council to Roatan was usually an opportunity to hear the concerns of the US citizens here and appoint wardens. Again due to US embassy security concerns, these meetings are now announced days, sometimes only hours before they happen. The US embassy representative has not had a meeting with the US citizens living on the Bay Islands since 2003.
Canadians, the second most populous foreign community on the Bay Islands, are organized by two wardens. Bill Etches, business owner from West End, has been serving as a Canadian warden since 1995. Etches assisted in cases of lost Canadian passport, or helps to fill out applications for Canadian visas. "It's an unofficial 'official' position," said Etches. The more serious cases involved death and repatriation of the body.
Etches has about 50 names of Canadian Citizens living on the Bay Islands on file. He estimates that around 30% of the Canadians living on Roatan decide not to register with the consulate in Tegucigalpa. Like the Americans residing on the islands they are often wary of government knowing too much about them. According to Etches, foreigners, especially Canadians, have some legal advantages over Honduran citizens. "You have the protection of the Honduran law and the rights of a Canadian citizen," said Etches.

Gessell Brousek, 29, business person from First Bight, has been a second Canadian warden on the east side of Roatan since April 2004. He replaced Bob Schrey, who moved back to Canada after providing the service for many years. At the time of writing this article, Brousek was trying to arrange a meeting with a Canadian consul. For the past three years Italians living and visiting Roatan could depend on Ms. Adriana Astorina, owner of Pura Vida Resort in West End as their consular aid. She registers Italian citizens in the Bay Islands and helps them in cases of lost or stolen passports. There are currently 40 Italians registered on the Bay Islands, only a portion of the total Italian population there.
After a series of violent home invasions on Roatan, several British citizens invited a British Consul to visit the British community of the Bay Islands. In early April, Consul Gracey of British Embassy in Guatemala traveled to Roatan, met with local officials and appointed a British warden to the Bay Islands: Sara Mannix, a business owner from West Bay. The British warden will not only assist the British citizens on the Bay Islands, but all commonwealth citizens who need assistance.
The British Government appoints a warden for every 40 British families living in a given area abroad. Just as with the US warden system, there is no salary or benefits that come with this honorary title.
According to Consul Gracey, the war on Iraq has put a financial burden on the British Foreign Office and has forced closure of several British embassies, amongst them Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In January 2004, the British Embassy in Tegucigalpa was closed down, and an honorary consul in San Pedro took over some of the duties. He estimates that there are four British Wardens in Honduras.
Many foreigners living on Roatan don't even know that the warden position exists. Others do know about it, but prefer to stay anonymous citing concerns about tax collection. Still, it is the wardens and embassy liaisons that, in case of emergencies and natural disasters, are supposed to remain a liaison between their embassies and foreigners on the islands.

Foreign Liaisons to the Bay Islands
United States Warden

Michelle Lopez
artwaves@globalnet.hn
(504) 445-4273
Or register online at: travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs

Canadian Warden Gessell Brousek
mapleLeaf@globalnet.hn
(504) 445-4273
Canadian Embassy: IIline De Milla- (504) 232-4551 ext. 3341
Italian Liaison Adriana Astorina
info@puravidaresort.com
(504) 445-4110 or 403-8798
British Warden Sara Mannix
seethereef@hondusoft.com
(504) 397-6444

JSG INVESTIGATED
Municipality Faces Third Fiscal Audit in Three Years

Officials at Jose Santos Guardiola Municipality are being investigated after allegations of corruption surfaced at the end of March. "One of the members of the municipal corporation called for aninvestigation," said Bay Islands Governor Clinton Everett. "As a citizen, everyone has the right to go to the Ministerio Publico (MP) and make sure everything is in order."
On March 30, investigators from the Fiscalia against Corruption in Tegucigalpa arrived in Roatan. The majority of JSG municipal corporation members appeared in front of the fiscal on March 31 for questioning.


The interviews were followed by the investigators searching the Oak Ridge municipal offices room by room, retaining files for their records.
According to Mayor Kerby Ducker, the complaint cited that the Alcaldia issued five domiño planos (land deeds) without collecting the proper fees. Mayor Ducker indicated that all the documents requested by the fiscal were delivered by the municipal. "I think that this is nothing but a political persecution," said Mayor Ducker who noted that this is the third official investigation of his administration in as many years. "The other investigations came out in our favor and I guarantee that this one will also."
Clint Bodden, who has served on the municipal corporation for four terms and is one of the longest-standing councilors in JSG, indicated that the focus of the investigation is not on the municipal corporation itself. "Members of the corporation have nothing to do with management of funds - that is the job of the Mayor and his staff," said Bodden who also serves as RECO's General Manager. Bodden believes that the fiscal will conduct an audit of the municipal records, possibly including questions into previous political terms. "It is all speculation until the investigation is complete. If the Mayor's office has the proper documentation to prove something, they should send it in," said Bodden.
MP continues to investigate the allegations of corruption. According to Governor Everett, MP has only one representative on Roatan and calls for help from the mainland for investigations of this nature. Roatan's MP agent, Lic. Gelmer Cruz, is acting as a liaison for the investigation. "The investigation is ongoing. Until it is complete, we cannot comment on the details," said Cruz.

Sorrenti's Serenity

Canadian Designer Develops an Architectural Vocabulary for the Bay Islands

He is hard to miss as he whizzes by in his red Suzuki Samurai with a thatched roof. Yet in person he is quiet, reserved, always speaking with a composed, low voice. His uncombed gray hair also contradicts his boyish enthusiasm and the charm he can turn on in a Roatan minute.
Hal Sorrenti, 57, has had about eight careers: car rental business, fashion design, restaurant ownership and management, real estate development, manufacturing, and he even started a newspaper.
After graduating with a BA in Economics from University of Western Ontario, he launched himself into a multitude of ideas. He took little satisfaction in doing one thing well and went from career to career learning from one project to the next.
Most of his projects and enterprises had two things in common: they were challenging and provided yet another way of saving a dying community Sorrenti fell in love with. Over the course of 20 years, Sorrenti and his brother Jim managed to pull off a small miracle. They saved Port Stanley, a fishing village on the shores of Lake Erie that once was famous as the Coney Island of Canada, but fell into disrepair in the mid 20th century.
Sorrenti doesn't watch television or read newspapers, and follows world events through month-old issues of MacLean's Magazines. Still, he thinks that many of his ventures were sometimes 20 years ahead of their times. That very well could be, as few expected him to be so successful when he came to an unknown island called Roatan in 1994.
After 20 years in architecture, Sorrenti now has architectural offices in Canada, Roatan and is planning in opening one in Nicaragua. He has the reputation of being the best architect-designer on the Bay Islands and the projects just keep on coming in. Currently, he has 24 ongoing projects and, in the course of the interview, Sorrenti received a commission for yet another one.

Bay Islands Voice: Other than yourself, who has produced some of the better designs on Roatan?
Hal Sorrenti: That's a dangerous question. I am very critical, but I have a very specific image of what I would like to see the island become in terms of development and look and we seem to be getting a very wide variety of things getting built - some of which I basically don't feel is appropriate. It looks like it belongs in the US or elsewhere. (…) I think part of the problem is that Central American people tend to like anything that's American. I think by doing that, they are ignoring their own architectural heritage. They would rather have, for example, a new strip mall than an old restored building with some shops in it. It's unfortunate because I think you lose a sense of place by doing that.
B.I.V: Do you think it's the people's ambition to imitate something that is wealthier?
H.S: It's the ambition and it's also just a perceived thing. They perceive that new is better. Here, I am talking about renovation and restoration of older properties versus ripping them down and building new. And when building new, they tend to copy things that they've seen in the US.
B.I.V: There are several developers on the island. Do you see some of them doing things in terms of quality of design that's better?
H.S: Certainly. I give David Sellon a lot of credit with what he's doing with Lawson Rock. Of course, I have to say that because we've been involved in the design of Lawson Rock, but David, up to now, has the right approach in his development there.
B.I.V: I know John Edwards is importing most his design work from House + House Architects in San Francisco. What do you think about that type of design?
H.S: Let's just say that I think some of it is very nice.
B.I.V: What do you think about the quality of Architecture schools in Honduras?
H.S: The architecture schools tend to focus what the building looks like from the outside. They're making a statement architecturally on the exterior appearance, not paying enough attention to how it functions, how it feels. Is it comfortable? Does it work? I think some of the larger homes that are being built on the island right now, more ostentatious homes, are the same. They have columns, lots of details. One thing I find since I've moved here is that my social conscience has gone way up in terms of I don't like to see the disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. I think it's in your face here and I don't think that it's a good thing. They build them on the main highway where everybody sees them. These poor guys are passing by them twice a day on the way to work and they're only making Lps. 80 per day. I think Dale Jackson is a really nice guy and I like him, but I could kick him for building that house. It's a gorgeous house, but it does not belong on Roatan. I'd like to tell him to take the columns out of the front and break them up and build an orphanage out of them.
B.I.V: Do you think you can build affordably and nicely for people who don't have much money?
H.S: It's something I've always played with, in terms of designing affordable housing. With Hurricane Mitch, we were asked to design some low-cost, but nice homes to be re-built in Politilly, which we did, free of charge. Once a year, we do try to do something pro-bono for the community. We did get involved on a small scale with the hospital to do something with one of the wards there.
B.I.V: How do you differ in designing from other architects in Honduras?
H.S: I think to design a home that will put a smile on your face when you walk in the front door, to the point where you don't ever feel that you have to leave. That's something that not many architects do, to pay attention to how the building feels when you're in it. (…) I like to have fun in my work and in my life and I don't like to take myself too seriously.

B.I.V: How do you address the concept of building quality here? Do you only work with builders that you trust?
H.S: There are builders that we do trust and actually quite a few of them. We tend to design to suit what skills are available on the island. For example, we do not design anything that we feel will be difficult for the local trades people to put together. Therefore, I think we tend to keep things simple with our designs, not very complex or highly-detailed in terms of fancy moldings.
B.I.V: Someone said that the invention of air conditioning ruined architecture.
H.S: We use very little air conditioning. I tell my clients that I would prefer to design a house where they don't need air conditioning. Now, many of them don't believe that this can be done. We have put air conditioning into the homes, but we've put it into homes where they've never put it on. I think with proper siting, proper cross-ventilation and use of ceiling fans, you could and probably should live without air conditioning. I also feel it's unhealthy to come and go from air conditioned environments to tropical heat.
B.I.V: Who are some of the architects or designers who you aspire to or maybe that even shaped your design now or overall?
H.S: Probably the only specific architect that has had a great influence on me is probably Frank Lloyd Wright, but I have obviously been influenced by South East Asian architecture, the openness of it, the way it blends into the environment. The idea of courtyards bringing the outdoors in and taking the indoors out. I come from a very cold, Canadian climate where you sit inside and look through insulated glass to your surrounding landscape and I don't like that. I want to be a part of the landscape and that's what we try and do with our own designs.
B.I.V: Do your influences change on account on your travels?
H.S: Yes, my influences do change and I do like to travel. Probably I am a workaholic in that wherever I go and whatever I do, I am always observing architecture and how it works and how it feels.
B.I.V: When I look at your surroundings, I would say that they're not Spartan, but they are minimalist.
H.S: I find that the longer I live here, the more minimal I am becoming in terms of what I need to live. That is partially due to the social conscience rising, what I have learned from the locals in that you can be happy with less. That we don't need what we have in the first world. And I am practicing that by living it here and I like it. I think that possessions tend to become a burden. (…) I've been brought up in first world, had enough of it and realized that I don't need all the toys to be a very happy person and I feel very happy living in this environment with less.
B.I.V: Architecture became your focus in the 80s, early 90s. Do you think you will make a shift and possibly try something else?
H.S: I think design will always be an interest, but it is not my last career. Creative writing is something I want to try. Resort management, or ownership at some point. There's several things I want to do yet.
B.I.V: Do want to do this here?
H.S: Let's say, within 16 degrees of the equator, because I do like the tropics. I like island environments, although I also like mainland Central America. And I like living in a different culture. I am learning.
B.I.V: Is there one building that you did here that you really like or have an affinity for?
H.S: There's several, but two come to mind: Fuego del Mar in Polytilly Bight that I really like. And I recently completed a home in Lawson Rock called Todo Rojo and the third one is my next one which I would take with me.
B.I.V: Why those two?
H.S: Those were two homes where the client gave me the opportunity to give the total look in the architecture, the interior, the landscape, everything. They have a very tranquil feel about them. I've often said that serenity is something I am after in my designs. I don't know whether it's maybe because it rhymes with Sorrenti, I don't know. But, it's a feeling that I like to have.
B.I.V: Do you think this island grew to a point where it could support several architects?
H.S: I think it could, sure. I hope it can because frankly, I don't know how long I want to be physically here. I might keep an office here, but I think that some of the growth has been a little chaotic here and I am not really enjoying it as much as I did initially. The traffic, the people, the cruise ships coming in.
B.I.V: There are certain things that I think kind of reflect kind of who you are. For example, you drive that little Suzuki with the thatched roof. For me, that says this is who I am. That "I could be driving a more expensive car, but it's about function and it's about style."
H.S: It's about fun too. I like to have fun in my work and in my life and I don't like to take myself too seriously. I don't take cars seriously. If it gets me from A to B and it makes people smile on the way, then that's great.
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West End vs. West End by Jaime Johnston
Community Members Group to Solve Ongoing Problems

"We've been entertaining that idea for the last five years, but what about an alternate route for their traffic? You need to have a solution in place to resolve the practical problems of West End," said Romeo Silvestri, President of CANATURH-BI who recently participated in a municipal effort to clear out illegal vendors from the cruise dock area. This is another issue for WEBS which is concerned that those vendors will seek to re-locate in West End, causing the same problems experienced in Coxen Hole. Silvestri said that illegal operators were harassing tourists and hurting legitimate businesses with price under-cutting. "We can make sure to report these sales and (…) begin to regulate, through WEBS, what goes on in our community," said Drysdale.
To many West Enders, these problems take a back seat to more mundane everyday struggles. "There is nothing more important than our water supply," said West End business owner Delcie Rosales. Residents and businesses on the north side of West End have experienced frequent water shortages. According to Rosales, many residents are relying on rainfall rather than the community water.
Before WEBS, there have been other attempts to unite West End businesses. In 1997, West End dive shop owners formed an unofficial association to tackle some industry problems. Some dive shops gave money to purchase a boat for reef marine patrol. "After a few months, it basically failed," said P.J. Rowntree of Coconut Tree Divers, "The shop owners pulled out and no one could agree on anything." Silvestri has also witnessed some of attempts to organize West End, but, to his knowledge, no group has ever been recognized legally. "I've been hearing about this for 30 years and it seems like that community only gets together when there's a problem," said Silvestri, "If they can achieve their goals and sustain their development, then it will be fantastic for West End."
WEBS' legal status will be finalized in the coming months. Drysdale hopes that the community can overcome differences or past failures to join up with WEBS. "There's no unity in the West End community, but I believe that we can get the whole community to decide on the issues. We need people in West End deciding what they want in West End."

West End has the largest density of tourist-oriented businesses of the Bay Islands. Issues of road paving and maintenance, water supply and noise ordinances have been dividing, rather than uniting its business community. To speak in a more coherent voice and give weight to their concerns in front of the Roatan Municipal, a group of West Enders has decided to form an association.
In order to develop business-building strategies among Roatan businesses PMAIB hosted a series of workshops in August 2004. It was these work sessions that inspired Ian Drysdale and his wife and business partner Jennifer Myton to establish a West End Business Owners Association (WEBS). "We started thinking of what the problems are that West End is facing - the road, trash, overpopulation of taxis, overfishing," said Drysdale, owner of a West End-based environmental consulting firm. With guidance from PMAIB, Drysdale and Myton created WEBS statutes and internal rules and regulations. "Our objective is to improve West End in order to compete on a worldwide scale for quality tourism," said Drysdale.
Over the last nine months, an eight-person interim Board of Directors has been appointed. Following the accreditation, which is currently being reviewed by the Honduran Congress, WEBS will call a general assembly of business owners and elect a new board. "Our response has been about 70% positive; a lot of people are saying 'It's about time'," said Drysdale. WEBS is designed to be financially transparent. The board plans to publish their monthly budget locally and establish an account for public viewing with a bank branch.
While awaiting their accreditation, WEBS members are preparing to confront a number of controversial issues facing West End. One of the first items of business is to make a maintenance plan for the sand-surfaced road periodically plagued with potholes. On March 1 through 3, USAID and US Corps of Engineers representatives were invited by WEBS to survey the road. The representatives left recommendations for proper installation of a drainage system, including sediment traps to protect the reef. "We need also to reduce traffic on the road," said Drysdale who indicated that one option would be to limit West End entirely to pedestrian and service traffic.
This is not the first time this option has been proposed to the West End community.

 

Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8
2003

Vol2 No. 2
Jan.29
2004

Vol2 No. 3
Feb.12
2004

Vol3 No. 3
March
2005

Vol3 No. 4
April
2005