story / editorial
/ local news
by Jaime Johnston, Photos by Thomas Tomczyk
Islands Businesses Owners Find Creative Ways to Compensate
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
"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.
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
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.
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,"
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 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
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.
Consuls, Liaisons, Oh My!
Ex-pat Communities on the Bay Islands are Organized around a Warden's
system, still most foreigners know, or care little about its existence.
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.
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
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.
Liaisons to the Bay Islands
Or register online at: travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs
Canadian Embassy: IIline De Milla- (504) 232-4551 ext. 3341
(504) 445-4110 or 403-8798
Municipality Faces Third Fiscal Audit in Three
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
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.
Designer Develops an Architectural Vocabulary for the Bay Islands
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
story / editorial
/ local news
End vs. West End by Jaime Johnston
Community Members Group to Solve
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 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,"
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.