Utila’s infrastructure is falling down while the Municipal awaits funds from ZOLITUR. Though the point bridge had a railing replaced from Utila Municipal funds, the real problem is the bridge structure itself. The bridge is in such appalling shape that locals, fearing a collapse, have stopped moving heavy machinery through it.
Also the Utila municipal dock, the main point of access to the island, has become an eyesore in desperate need of repair. Exposed rebar and broken, fragmented concrete are a visible sign of the compromised state of the structure. “We don’t let people dock their boats here anymore, just to drop and go,” says Gideon Ponce, of Utila Municipality. Both projects were built around 20 years ago with central government funds and have now reached the limit of their life span.
The Municipality of Utila is waiting for money from ZOLITUR but is not making many attempts to secure other funds which are due to all Honduran municipalities from the general fund for infrastructure projects. “You have to go through bureaucracy to get some funds,” said Julia Keller Centero, vice president of Utila’s Chamber of Tourism.
Utila Municipality officials have been skipping meetings not only with the central government but with ZOLITUR as well. Troy Bodden, president of Utila’s Chamber of Tourism, describes a situation in November 2011, in which he was one of five Utila representatives at a ZOLITUR meeting on Roatan, yet no Utila Municipality representatives were present. “It was embarrassing. We felt underrepresented, especially by someone [Utila mayor] who has a vote in ZOLITUR,” said Bodden.
What is more than embarrassing is that Utila Municipality’s absence from ZOLITUR meetings could endanger Utila’s chances at getting funding for their failing infrastructure. These funds are eyed by other, more proactive municipalities like Guanaja and Roatan.
With many properties for sale and fewer tourists arriving at the dive Mecca, Utila is bracing for hard times ahead. Fewer tax dollars and tourist dollars are coming to Utila’s coffers. “It looks like he [Mayor Alton Cooper] is more preoccupied with fishing than spending time in his office and working on solving people’s problems,” said Bodden about Utila’s Mayor, who won the mayoral seat over 11 years ago. “Maybe he lost interest in his job.” [/private]