Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
September 2006 Vol.4 No.9
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Ilustrations by Thomas Tomczyk

Alfonso Reader
Alfonso Ebanks, the editorialist, has enchanted Bay Islands Voice readers with his wit and imagination for over three years. Now he proves his storytelling abilities with a series of autobiographical short stories.
Son of Vesta Irene Moore, a homemaker, and Allen Ebanks, a merchant marine Alfonso was born on the November 15, 1940 in 'Sand Fly Bay' on Guanaja's north side.
At the age of two his family moved to live on the Lower Cays where later he attended Cristobal Colon public school. At 17 he moved to Tegucigalpa to study meteorology and radio communications. After graduating he worked for four years for the Honduran government after a few years and quit and went to sea as a banana boat mechanic.
This was just the beginning of Mr. Alfonso’s adventures. He worked as a meteorologist in Tegucigalpa, Guanaja and Puerto Lempira, an electrician. He served as an USAF Sergeant in Texas, Massachusetts, Turkey and France. Then he reinvented himself as an IBM engineer in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. These are just a few of his trades. In 1976 Alfonso moved away from the hectic live of New York to his native island where he currently lives and operates his lobster boat on Guanaja's Fruit Harbor Bight. He is married and has seven children.
"I like to share my ideas with others, even if they do not always agree with me on everything," writes Alfonso who's favorite authors include Isaac Isamov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, H.G Wells and Jules Verne. We bring you some of his short stories and a unique perspective on the island life. Welcome to Barry's world.
Saergant Who?
As I descended the stairs of the hotel on my way to the street I remembered that I had no change for the taxi. I tried to make change with the concierge, but he could not help me and absent-mindedly place the bill in my shirt pocket and exited the building.
The day was sunny and the balmy breeze from the ocean made it an ideal day for walking so I decided to complete my errands by walking instead of taking a cab. I had gone about two blocks when a clean-shaven, well dress gentleman that exuded confidence and the odor of a not too expensive cologne approached me.
I became very defensive, as is always the case when I'm not on my home turf. The gentleman was very courteous and his mannerisms had a somewhat military bearing. This made me a little less apprehensive. Before he identified himself he asked me whether I was from Utila or Guanaja, I told him where I was from, he then extended his hand and told me that he was Sergeant Martinez and he had been recently assigned to the police force in Guanaja. He went on to tell me the mayor and the vice major (calling them by name) had promised to help him but had not done so.
His story was heart breaking he told me that his young son had fell from one of the docks onto a cayuco and the kid had seriously fractured his arm and the doctors had recommended that some x-rays be taken of his ribs as well because of the immense pain the kid was suffering. Sergeant Martinez with tears in his eyes begged for my help because he was sure that his son had broken ribs and that this could lead to a more serious medical condition.
I reached into my shirt pocket, where I normally keep taxi money, and passed him the money that I had there. It was then that I noticed that it was a five hundred-lempira bill. I tried to pull it back, but it was too late. The sergeant had already began folding it and was slipped it into his pocket he then donned some rather nice sun glasses and after thanking me graciously and wishing me a nice day he departed.
Later back in the hotel the more I thought about the incident the more I believed I had been fleeced and that all that name-dropping was to set me up for the kill. Eventually I forgot about the whole affair and wrote it off as an error in judgment due to me being a sucker for sad stories.

Many months later I was again in the same hotel and my wife upon returning from shopping looked a little perturbed so I queried her and she reluctantly replied that she believed she had been defrauded of some money. Without mentioning the amount she had given away she told me that a well dressed man had come up to her requesting help because his wife was in hospital and had an urgent need of a blood transfusion.
A bell went off in my head and I then asked her if this person had pretended to be a "sargento de policia" in Guanaja she nodded her head affirmatively and I knew that she had become another victim of the mysterious police sergeant (this time he called himself Sgt. Rodriguez) that makes a living by swindling kindhearted islanders.
I've found out since that there are dozens of victims of this bogus sergeant and that he is still out there some where on the streets of La Ceiba. If you are not one of his many victims then you'd better be on the your guard whenever a well dressed gentleman approaches you with tears in his eyes requesting your help because he will hold you up, not with a gun, but with his good manners and sad tales.
An Old Man’s Dilemma
After considering the old man statement the headman of the judges agreed that they would not destroy the good with evil. As a matter of fact, they would not destroy the nation if the could find any good men in politics.
This made the old man feel a little better because he had a lot of friends and family in the nation. He could not help but wonder if they would they spare the country if there were only fifty honest politicians. The old man posed the question and was told that "yes," they would spare the nation if they could find fifty honest men in government.
The old gentleman sighed and a smiled a smile of relief but as he pondered the situation his smile changed to look of bewilderment because he could not be sure that there were fifty honest politicians in his country.
The old man begged the indulgence of the three gentlemen and would not let them depart his presence until he obtained their promise that they would not destroy his country if they could find one decent and honest politician. The old man knew that across the waters corruption was at an all time high and that graft and avarice had invaded the whole body of government. He also knew that corrupt officials were to be found in every branch of government starting with the ministers right on down to the cop on the street.
The only rule that held true was the old adage that says: "The bigger the fish the bigger the bait." After letting the strangers proceed on their journey the old man returned to his seat in the door and he was quite confident that in spite of his dislike for dishonesty he had saved his country from certain destruction. The old man reasoned that there had to be at least ONE good man in politics over there.
Early the next morning there was quite hullabaloo on the street in front of his house and as he made his way towards the crowd he could not help noticing the reason for the outcry. Out across the placid waters great billows of black smoke filled the horizon from east to west and there could be no doubt that the smoke was coming from an all consuming fire.
He and his neighbors stood around watching the flames and smoke leap ever higher into the sky, and then someone asked: Old man what manner of beast is that? With tears in his eyes the old man replied: That my friend is Honduras burning!
An old man from the outer islands stood looking out across the waters that separated him from the mainland he sat in silence as he remembered the dilemma he had faced and hoped he would never again have to face such a situation.
It all started one day as the old man sat in the door of his house during the heat of the day. As he sat looking out towards the road he spotted three travelers passing by. Being a generous man he ran out to greet them and invite them to eat and rests before continuing their journey.
During the discourse over the meal the old man became aware that these three men were not ordinary travelers. He found out that they were on a mission of great importance and that these three men had the authority and the power to destroy nations. They were the judges and the enforcers and their weapon was fire.
The old man then asked why would the powers that be want to destroy a whole nation and he was told that a nation would surely be destroyed if its politicians failed to meet the minimum universal standards of decency and honesty. The old man shivered and became afraid when he remembered that these strangers were heading in the general direction of the seat of government of his own nation. The old man begged to be excused for his ignorance, but he argued that these wise and illustrious gentlemen would surely not destroy the good with the evil.
The Night of The Rainbow
In the early morning of December the twenty first of nineteen sixty-one I left the military compound at Puerto Lempira carrying a small bag in one hand and a machete in the other. The bag held a few personal belongings and the machete was for any snakes I might encounter on the way to the big almond tree at the landing area on the shores of the Caratasca Lagoon.
From there I would find a ride to the other side of the lagoon where there was an American owned seafood packing house and fishing compound. This was the time of year that many of the shrimp boat captains would be heading home for the Christmas holidays and I was intent on hitching a ride with somebody, anybody going to Bonacco.
I was leaving behind my job at the weather station as my present partner had agreed to cover my shift for the week that I was to be away. My partner's name was Pedro and he was the fourth partner I had in the four months I had worked at the station. All the other partners had been rotated out after thirty days, apparently the bosses had forgotten about me even though every month I radioed in a request for a transfer from my assignment out here in the boondocks.
Without anybody's permission I was taking me a little vacation. It never crossed my mind that I would never return to that weather station, to the buggy beans mess hall or the coral snakes in the rolls of Teletype paper.
On the morning of the twenty-second the sky was overcast as we left the docks, the smoke of the natives cooking fires going straight towards the heavens meant that there was no wind, if there was no wind, there would be no waves a very nice day indeed to travel by sea. There were three boats in our little convoy as we headed out of the lagoon into the open sea one behind the other.
Against the advice of mostly every homeboy at that packing house I had elected to sail on the motor vessel Libby. This little boat was the oldest and the shabbiest of the lot and I had been told that it would probably sink during the voyage. I decided on the Libby because the other two boats had full crews on board and Libby was being sailed by her captain and no crew. I was not much of a sailor as I suffered from motion sickness, but I figured that if I went along at least Captain Bob would have someone to chat with during the crossing to Bonacco.
The weather had been nice as we coasted it down to Punta Patuca. As night fell huge black clouds rolled in from the west, the moon disappeared, the wind started to pickup, the rains began to come down in torrents and we lost track of the other boats. By eight o'clock the wind was blowing at close to hurricane force out of the Northwest with a sea like I had never seen before.
Later, the rains had stopped and there was just enough moonlight filtering through the overcast that I was able to see the waves like so many great black monsters with gray hair coming at the little boat ready to devour us. It was scary and I believe even the captain was a little afraid. It was during this maelstrom that I was told by the captain that I would have to get up and take my turn at the wheel he then set the course at two hundred and seventy degrees.
I was not an experienced sailor but I did posses knowledge of charts, wind, ocean currents and drift factors, remember weather was my profession. I mentioned to the captain that I did not know the exact course from Punta Patuca to Bonacco but under the present conditions I thought we should be steering a few points north of west, to which he replied that he had sail this route at least a hundred times and we would steer two seventy degrees I shook my head in agreement and held on to the wheel.
When ever he was not looking at the compass I would steer two eighty and I did this all during my turns at the wheel. Some time toward midnight the captain informed me that he had received a mayday from one of the other boats, but he did not know if we were ahead or behind the boat that called. He told the other captain to use his spotlight and maybe in that way we would able to locate him and we did.
The other boat was some miles behind us, so we came about and headed in the direction of the light, the boat that called us was taking on water and desperately needed the gasoline pump we carried on deck. Upon arriving at the other boat and after some great maneuvering by both captains we were ready to transfer the pump to the other vessel. We lashed our gasoline pump to a rope that was thrown to us and upon a signal I released the line that secured the little engine to the deck of the Libby.
Our task was finished and we resumed our two seventy course. A few hours after leaving the other boat, the wind had abated, the rains had began again and the night was pitch black but up ahead there was something strange going on, the wind made a shift not consistent with a northern and there was light of some kind up ahead but we were nowhere near our destination and the other two boat were still behind us.
When we got closer to the illuminated area we broke into a clearing in the middle of the ocean and we were suddenly surrounded by towering white clouds illuminated by a moon that hung like a great electric globe in the ash colored sky and here we sat at the bottom of this vertical tunnel formed by billowing clouds on a sea that had become completely calm. At the top of this tunnel in the southwest quadrant was a rainbow, yes a rainbow, I had seen hundreds of rainbows in my lifetime but never at night, it was a fantastic thing to see.
The rainbow had no real colors but its graceful arch had all the shades of gray, we stared at the rainbow until we came out of the circle of clouds and the wind and the waves brought us back to reality. One of the boats we had left behind sunk some time towards morning while the second boat rescued the crew.
The second boat had to be assisted by another vessel equipped with a radio direction-finding device. After seeing the rainbow it took us a very long time to reach Bonacco and because of the rain and wind and maybe a little because of our course we were passing the island on the south side.
If not for the kindness of a Captain Reese on passing ship that gave us our position and a new bearing by radio we would have gone pass completely. I did not know it at the time, but later I found out the there was a great commotion in Bonacco about the three missing boats coming home from La Mosquitia. By the way, I got home just in time for Christmas and was so scared I even forgot to get seasick.
The Sierra Pina Ghost
iA few years ago I was a witness to an astonishing event that has since made me change my way of thinking on matters supernatural. Ever since I got over my childhood fears of things that go bump in the night I became a true skeptic on things spiritual and I have debunked or explained away many yarns of incidents on apparitions and ghosts and such.
The happenings leading up to the event referred to above started on a Monday night in a small railroad-type apartment in the Colonia Sierra Pina of La Ceiba.
I was already in bed when the noise started and at first I attributed the sounds to rodents moving about in the attic but after awhile I noticed that it was not a random sort of sound. I thought I detected a pattern to what sounded like marbles being rolled across the floor from the far side of the room to the side nearest to my bed. And then, after a pause, the pattern of the sound would reverse itself.
After listening to this racket for quite a while I realized that this was not going to go away so I got out of bed and walked across the room to where the light switch was located. Upon turning on the lights the sounds stopped and there were no indications of rodents or anything else in that room, or the adjoining room that was separated only by a waist high partition and a doorway in which hung a heavy curtain.
That Monday night I did not get much sleep, but I did not discount the possibility that the noises were being generated by rodents. I was sure that these sounds had a very rational explanation and I would discover it once I could figure out how to turn on the lights without getting out of bed.
After having to success with the lights I went to town and purchased a powerful flashlight and returned to the colonia and waited for night. As twilight announced the approaching night I became anxious and went to bed earlier than usual and after placing my flashlight under my pillow I waited, and nothing happened. After a few hours of this I decided that "it" was not going to show up. Very disappointed and a bit uncomfortable with that big flashlight under my pillow I decided I would have to try to find out what had made the noises some other time, I then placed the flashlight on the floor next to the bed and promptly fell asleep.
The sound of rolling marbles woke me sometime around one o'clock in the morning and at first I did not remember the flashlight so for a few seconds I laid there listening to the ruckus. When I was fully awake I reached for the flashlight but the moment that my hand touched the shaft of the flashlight it was hit from many directions with such a force that I lost my grip on it and it fell to the floor.
I did not try to retrieve the flashlight nor did I get out of bed to cross the room to the light switch. The noise stopped after I lost the light but I could not go back to sleep and I lost another night's sleep.
The next morning my roommate convinced me that we should move away form this apartment and I must say that after finding the flashlight dented and with a broken crystal I was not too hard to convince so I commenced looking for another place right away and found one. We could not move-in to the new place for another week or so, which meant that we would have to spend another few nights in this "haunted" place. Neither of us looked forward to spending another night in that apartment at least not in the dark, so about five o'clock in the evening we turned on all the lights and intended to keep the lights burning all night.
We showered early and got ready to face our antagonist, we closed and locked the doors leading to the room we used for a bedroom and the adjoining room, empty but for a small refrigerator, as we donned our sleeping apparel. With the lights in both rooms at full blast we noticed a movement of the curtain that covered the doorway of the adjoining room.
The curtain was lifted and held open by the hand of a small boy child of about six or seven years of age. We could see the boy child quite clearly as he was illuminated form the front by the light from the room we were standing in and was outlined from behind by the light of the room from whence he came. The boy was bare feet and shirtless, his only clothing was a pair of blue shorts that was held up by some sort of a string tied in a bow at the navel.
As I stood there in awe the child looked me in the eyes and smiled at me in a knowing sort of way then stepped back into the adjoining room releasing the curtain which fell back into place with a swinging motion. Seconds later I followed the child into the adjoining room and found nothing, the door leading out of that room was securely bolted and the room was windowless so there was no way out and after I had searched behind and inside the little refrigerator I decided that we had seen a ghost.
My girlfriend tried to say something but I motioned her to be silent while I got paper and pencil so that we could record our experience before we had time to discuss it. Our written accounts were identical except that she did not see the smile or the missing front teeth and I believe that she missed the smile because she had not finished dressing and had probably looked away as she searched for something to cover her self with.
As we finished our written accounts and discussed the event for a bit the whole colonia lost electric power and we went into complete darkness. We had no choice but to get into bed and wait for the sounds of marbles to start up. But the sounds never came.
We had to remain in that apartment for another week but we never heard the marbles again. Before we left the apartment my neighbor, a cab driver, took me to see an old lady that lived a few blocks away, this old girl told me a story of an event that had taken place in that apartment many years before.
According to the old lady two young boys had been left alone in the apartment while the mother went dancing. In the apartment was a fifty gallon drum half filled with water, it was surmised that the younger kid, two-three-years-old, climbed up on a chair and fell into the barrel and in a attempt to save his brother the older child, six-or-seven, also fell in.
Upon returning from the dance the young mother found that both of her children had drowned in the drum of water. I could never find a logical explanation for the manifestation that took place in that small apartment on that balmy night in Sierra Pina and today if I'm asked if I believe in ghost, first I tell this story then I reluctantly answer, yes.
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Ilustration by Thomas Tomczyk
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Reco's Emergency Measures by Thomas Tomczyk

RECO obliged and in the company's meeting room tempers soon begun flaring as patronatos accused RECO side of calling them ignorant and maneuvering the word "rate" of the previously signed agreement. RECO on the other hand accused patronatos of living in "fantasy land."
As Rosa Danelia, president of the Bay Islands patronatos remained on vacation, Mirna Puerto, patronato vice president from Colonia de los Maestros, took over as the head of the negotiators. Puerto presented a four point letter in which patronatos expected the February "bill" not "rate" to be continued to be paid by all RECO consumers regardless of the energy consumption, or fuel price changes. Another demand was that from August onwards the entire "fuel adjustment" be eliminated. If these demands are not met read the letter "we are ready to be without electricity."
"You want RECO to subsidize your electricity. This is fantasy. Put your feet on the ground of Roatan," said Felipe Danzilo, RECO's legal assessor since 1994. The meeting showed that RECO board remains unable to effectively handle demands of the patronatos and has so far signed every demand put in front of them. As Danzilo printed out a RECO agreement to keep the February rates for May and June, patronatos quickly asked for the rates to be extended through July. Without question the document as reprinted and signed to appease the patronatos.
If before patronatos were striving to portray themselves as defending the rights of small consumers, in the talks became evident that patronato members weren't preoccupied with getting an honest rate and working with RECO on improving the company's situation, but at getting the lowest electricity rate possible, regardless of consequences.
RECO in its current structure and world fuel prices reaching $75 a barrel cannot be profitable even if it collects 100% of its bills with .88 Lempiras /kilowatt fuel adjustment. "The last month we made a profit was in 2004," said Bodden. The financial situation is complicated further as RECO is trying to make the final payment of 90,000 Euros for the delivery of a 2.2 Megawatt Wartsilla Generator.
A For five hot summer days, RECO decided that work is more important than sleep and 65,000 Roatanians with 1,000 El Salvadorian tourists ended up losing sleep and waking up grouchy. Between July 30 and August 3, RECO introduced cost saving measures and cut power to the entire island between 4am and 7am. The measures coincided with the August spike in tourism when Roatan hotels filled with El Salvadorians guests on weeklong holiday.
The power cuts allowed savings of around 12% or 1,500 gallons of fuel, the fuel that RECO desperately needed, but had no funds to purchase. Patronato leaders encouraged their constituents to only pay the "February amount" of their monthly bill or not to pay their bill at all. RECO collections rates, usually in their high 90's, in June and August fell to 63% and company started running out of cash. RECO hands were tied as the company signed a May agreement that didn't allow them to cut off overdue customers. According to Clint Bodden, acting General Manager, RECO in 2006 has lost Lps. 10 million.
On August 1 at 5pm, RECO was asked to meet with the patronato representatives the following day at noon.
Fact or Fiction
Canadian developer is charged with fraud for taking investors money to build a resort that over the last three-and-a-half years has produced little but controversy.
Bay Islands still offer a place where you can be whoever you say you are. If you've fixed you're moms lamp you're an electrician, if you've helped your roommate with a website- you're a website designer, if you have an idea for couple hundred condos- you're a developer. People far and wide are hearing the mantra 'come to Bay Islands and you can be whom you say you are," at least for a while.
Many Roatan real estate professionals have a problem deciding whether Rick Mortell, 60, is not-so-skilled developer, or worse. While Mortell claims that most of his investors in Roatan Port Royal Resort (ex-Wyndham) are OK with time delays and changes not everyone is convinced. One of the 30 original investors, Penelope Leigh, an American living on Roatan is suing Mortell in a Roatan court for fraud.
On July 30 at Gio's Restaurant in French Harbour, Mortell was arrested by two DGIC officers and taken into custody. The same evening Congressman Jerry Hynds, who according to Mortell is neither business partner, nor client, intervened on his behalf and Mortell was released to stay at his Executive Inn Hotel room. "He just knows that this is a 'real project,'" explains Mortell of Hynds' intervention, whose Canadian passport is still detained by the police.
Mortell doesn't necessarily bring a track record of real estate development success to the table and even his involvement in development is erratic. At one point Mortell owned a wholesale optical company in Vancouver, says he was involved in subdivision developments in Canada and in 1980s was involved in development of Galleon Beach Resort in Cayman Islands. In 1999 he attempted to develop Caribbean Resorts in US Virgin Islands through a $1 million share public offering, but Mortell says that "due to [1995] Hurricane Marilyn the market changed, [and] project didn't go anywhere." In 2002 he was again unsuccessful this time starting a Mexican restaurant and Sports Bar in Bayone, Florida. In 2003 he moved to Roatan but his luck hasn't changed.
Mortell explains that for the past year all work on his Roatan development was slowed down due to the bottleneck in issuing a SERNA environmental permit for the project. "This was a miscalculation on our part," says Mortell who brought in two of his daughters, Tara and Erika, to help him with the marketing the project.
And 'slowed down' is an understatement. The only sign of human presence on the project's north shore site is an abandoned storage shack, a dozen milk cows grazing on the lush grass and machete cuts on the thick mangrove stumps. The artificial beach has been taken back by the sea and the road cut to the site is overgrown with vegetation and practically impassible.
Just east of Camp Bay and bordering a huge mangrove expanse of Saint Helena Island, the 30 acre site borders possibly the most pristine part of Roatan Island. Its natural lagoon is home to disappearing saltwater crocodiles, birds, but the ecosystem has been obviously disturbed.
Mortell explained that the project was originally planned for West Bay, but after problems with the purchase of land, sometime in 2004 he bought 30 acres of East End property from Albert Jackson, who was offered 20% stake in the company, through Mortell's "Bay Islands Enterprises" company.
The project's website tells visitors that the "resort will be completed and open for operations in late 2007," but Mortell's has a record of unrealistic claims. "Have you ever heard of a truly guaranteed real estate deal? Not likely, until now," he wrote in a letter to potential investors in 2005, and signed it as a developer of Viva Wyndham.
The development's website that promotes the sale of condotel units still has a Wyndham association with it: roatanvivawyndham.citymaker.com, even though Wyndham Resorts has posted a website disclaimer: "there is not a Viva Wyndham project located or planned for Roatan, Honduras. Any use of the names or marks "Viva", "Wyndham" or "Viva Wyndham" in connection with such a project is unauthorized."
Viva Wyndham was the brand that originally attracted investors to the project. Mortell says that around 120 investors bought the 200 first phase units and, according to the British Columbia developer, the sale of the second phase will begin in September with the resort beeing planned for around 500 units.
In order the planned 200 first phase units to be pre-sold, Mortell couldn't do it alone. He had to count on the help of real estate agents willing to promote and sell his Viva Wyndham development. Most Roatan real estate offices decided not to promote the development at all. "It just didn't hold water," said Century 21 Roatan rep Al Johnson and he wasn't alone. "The developers [Mortell] couldn't give us straight answers to simple questions. Most troubling, they were already selling investor lots, taking deposits and setting up staged payment programs. (…)The deal smelled fishy to us. (…) We declined the developer's invitation to promote the project," wrote Lief Simon, International Living Real Estate Editor.
The deal looked right to Larry Schlesser owner of Roatan-Real Estate. "I've never met him [Mortell], but I'd like to.

It wasn't Rick who sold us our condo, it was Larry Schlesser," said Peter Kuhlmann, 60, describing that his trust in the project was based on his trust in Schlesser. "The distance issue was offset by him talking of a casino, 18-hole golf course and a resort destination," said Kuhlmann, one of the first 30 buyers of the condotel.
"I was unaware that other real estate operations declined their [Mortell's] services. (…) presume that they did so later versus earlier," wrote Schlesser who will continue to receive a fee percentages for his ex-Viva Wyndham buyers as they continue to make payments. Schlesser became Mortell's top promoter on Roatan, and admits to selling around 20 of the Viva Wyndham units, in the "several months," of their work relationship. Several other realtors put that number at between 30 and 60.
Schlesser explains that he saw Wyndham as a positive development for the island. "Mr. Mortell agreed to bring to the island Wyndham management and personnel. They included a vice president of Wyndham and a couple of architects. They visited more than once," said Schlesser who after "several months" parted ways with Mortell.
The project did a few twists and turns since then: it moved from West Bay to east of Paya Bay, it lost its Viva Wyndham association, all inclusive status, and casino and golf course are no were in sight. In spring on 2003 Kuhlmann, paid $5,000 payment for the Viva Wyndham in West Bay and followed-up with 10% scheduled payment on his $139,000 one bedroom, 750 square foot condotel. His next scheduled payment is supposed to take place once the ground is broke.
Kuhlmann, a retired manager from Fort Worth, already owns a home on Roatan and his $20,000 investment isn't going to make, or brake him. "I'm possibly one of the last people that think this is still going to happen," said Kulhmann. "If Rick wanted to run with the money he'd be gone already."
According to Mortell over a year after deciding on partnering up with VivaWyndham, he decided that the "all inclusive" nature of the resort was not in line with his expectations. A year after cancelling the Viva Wyndham association the developer "has not finalized any agreement" and was unable to go beyond a letter of intent from a major hotel chain whose name he can't disclose on record. "The change is better news for investors as they went from a three to five star resort," says Mortell. He did disclose however the name of the hotel chain to his investors, who in turn circulated it widely to Real Estate agents.
In one such instance Roatan Realty received a letter from one of the ex-Wyndham investors trying to sell their unit. "We are working towards finalizing the agreements with InterContinental," read the Mortell signed letter with attached photos of "construction of the site is progressing," commentary of beach and roads being constructed. In fact, the majority of work on the site was done several years ago by Albert Jackson before Mortell purchased the property. Roatan Realty declined to represent the seller.
According to Michael Cox, a developer of Turtling Bay outside of Corozal, who has been working in development since 1962, any international chain interested in coming into representation of 'Roatan Port Royal Resort' would need to limit their liabilities with potential lawsuits from investors not happy with the change. With the passing of time Mortell's partnering with an international chain is getting more difficult. "The project needs roads, power, and right distance from the airport. It's a beautiful place and it's going to come, but not right now," said Cox. "Rick overstepped his boundaries by relinquishing his relationship with Wyndham without consulting all his clients. If this was in the US, this would be long over and all the investors would have their money back." In the US at least, a developer has an implied covenant, or warranty with his clients to begin developments reasonably soon and not vary from the original promises. But this is not the US.
According to Cox the right way to proceed at this point would be to provide a good faith accounting of all the remaining money, put it in escrow account and work out an agreement for action with all the investors. "For the benefit of the investors and reputation of the island you have to stop the bleeding," said Cox, who declined to sell Wyndham two years ago because "it wasn't a good enough deal I could promote to my clients."
Mortell says that there is no time restriction on completion of the project and investors have to wait until the project is completed. Meantime, the developer is pursuing other investment opportunities, purchasing land around the island and is even in conversation to purchase French Harbour Yacht Club to build another group of condominiums. First step in getting the project back on its feet will be the August 24 court hearing.

 
Cubans, Again
Residency Changes
On June 26, 12 Cuban men on board of the Carnival Ship Carnival Valor arrived on Roatan after being picked up at high sees between Cayman Islands and Bay Islands. Valor's captain contacted Bay Islands Immigration Chief Mario Pacheco to arrange for the Cubans to be discharged from the ship, but Pacheco explained that Honduran law doesn't permit admission of undocumented persons. The dozen continued their journey onto Belize. This is first attempt at landing of Cubans in Honduras since 16 landed at Palmetto Bay. Beginning in July Roatan immigration no longer handles renewal of residency permits. All persons doing their yearly residency renewals have to go to immigration office in La Ceiba, located across from San Isidrio Institute (M-F: 7:30am-3:30pm, 442-0638), present their documents, receive a renewal form, then go to Banco Atlantida to pay a $20 fee. With the payment confirmation La Ceiba Immigration issues residency renewals and after 30 days the applicant can return to pick up the new residency card.
 

Firemen of Roatan

At the fire station post. TOP: Sergio Castro, STANDING: Lidio Aranda, Blanca Funez, Miguel Angel Reyez, Hector Membreño, fire chief Marco Santa Maria, BELOW: Jesus Miranda, Noe Garcia.
August was a particularly costly month for fires. Within six days three fires consumed six buildings.

On August 7 Baptist Church and a home burned down in French Harbour by a fire ignited by faulty electrical installation. A fire in Gravels Bay, Sandy Bay and Flowers Bay consumed three homes. "With RECO power being turned off and on it puts an extra load on electric systems," said Chief Santa Maria, who in January took over for Chief Woods.
According to chief Santa Maria the Roatan Municipal pays around Lps. 110,000 to keep the operation and subsidizes the Santos Guardiola Municipal by attending to emergencies there free of charge. This could soon change as Oak Ridge is due for its own fire and ambulance station. A fire truck purchase planned at the end of the year, one from Roatan Municipal, two satellite fire stations in West End and Oak Ridge are planned to open in December.
Equipped with two fire trucks and an ambulance the 11 firemen of the Dixon Cove fire station have already acquired some new equipment. They use 800 foot long hoses and seawater pumps in addition to their 500 gallon water trucks.
Two sets of Jaws of Life, air compressor, all together $60,000 worth of life saving equipment were donated by Broward Sheriff's Office Department of Fire Rescue with the help of retired firefighter Joe Peterkin. In September Florida firemen are expected to offer Roatan firemen a course in using the equipment.

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New goals at the Chamber by Thomas Tomczyk

Bay Islanders to receive social security benefits and an employment bank

I On June 16 a new Chamber of Commerce board of directors was elected to represent the over 700 Bay Islands businesses for the next two years.
One of the first goals of the Chamber's new president, Andres Cardona, is to create a resumé and employment bank to serve in relieving the archipelagos qualified labor shortage. Beginning in August all Bay Islands businesses were contacted to provide a list of positions that they needed filled. Through an advertising campaign all Bay Islanders looking for employment will be asked to submit their resumes that will be available at the chamber and eventually on the chamber's website.
"We hope to become a voice for Bay Island's businesses and serve as information source for investors thinking about investing here," said Cardona, who took over the position from Rita de Morris, who was one of the founding members of the organization in 2001.
The BI Chamber of Commerce is working with the central government of creating a national social security structure. In December Bay Islands could become the sixth Honduran Department to begin offering a retirement and disability funding and BI Chamber of Commerce will begin coordinating the effort beginning in November. 1% business and 3.5% employee contribution will be funneled to central government who will offer retirement plans for persons who worked for 180 months in the system.


The Chamber is a place for education as well. Electrical and computer technician, arts, handicraft and English courses are offered throughout the day at the chamber's Coxen Hole classroom. The courses have produced success stories with its graduates finding employment in RECO and even teaching. Mrs. Grizelda Solis, from Coxen Hole is an example of such a success story. She has taken several handicraft courses and now teaches handicraft at the Chamber herself. "She has embodied what this is all about," said Cardona.
One of the Chamber's challenges is to make the chamber more representative of Utila, Guanaja and Cayos Cochinos. There are six members on Utila and only one on Guanaja.
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2003

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