A protest took place this morning in Punta Gorda Town. Toledo Correspondent Paul Mahung has the been following the event and filed the following report.
A motorcade was held with owners and drivers of vehicles protesting bad conditions of streets in Punta Gorda. The protest motorcade was an initiative of concerned citizens of Punta Gorda with coordinator of the event Will Maheia who spoke to Love News.
Will Maheia, Protest Coordinator: “I am very happy with the turnout today. Like I had told people that this is not a political thing. As you know it’s not even political season here in PG but people are just tired of the streets, this weekend we’re having a big event here Battle of the Drums and the street is in terrible condition. Belmopan has roundabouts that cost millions of dollars and the streets in PG is in such deplorable conditions and I just think that the people have had enough. We did very little advertising for this and the amount of people that came out I was really – I mean you can see from the videos I was really happy. There were more than twenty vehicles which is a lot for a small town like Punta Gorda. There were people on bicycles, there were people on motorcycles so all in all it went really good I’m really happy and we have a message for the mayor “We’re giving you two weeks to fix this. If not we will be back in the streets again.”
Like other motorists who participated in the feeling of being fed up with bad street conditions and urgent need for upgrading of bad streets in Punta Gorda was expressed by motorist Ashton Martin.
Ashton Martin, Protester: “As you can see I have to drive an off road vehicle because if you’re going to the Uno gas station you can’t reach there in my truck. You’re going to Front Street by the market you will fall into some big holes so really and truly I got this ranger here to do my farm work but I have to drive it in town because the whole of Front Street or if your turn by in front of Charleston you can’t even pass. You have up by Green Supal where you can’t get into the junction there either so I just want people to come out and let us step up in this thing the right way and make them know that we are just trying a better way to make the people of PG drive and stop dropping in those pot holes.”
Love News caught up with Mayor Ashton McKenzie at the Punta Gorda Town Council compound.
Ashton McKenzie, Mayor of Punta Gorda Town: “As it relates to the street conditions in Punta Gorda the present status of the streets there is great concern to rectify the situation however it is not as easy as it looks. The maintenance of streets is something that is very costly and it is even more costly when you don’t have the equipment or the asset base to maintain streets. Presently the Punta Gorda Town Council does not own a grader, a backhoe, a dump truck, any of those things which are very essential if we are to execute our duties to maintain streets in the municipality; that is one. Two, tax collection. On an annual basis the Punta Gorda Town Council our budget is a little over a million dollars. Out of that we must ensure that the town is clean, we must ensure that we deal with payroll, social security, a wide variety of other things in the municipality. So we don’t really have much room within our budget to deal with the type of maintenance or the upgrade of streets that people would want. The other thing we have an elected area representative and it is the role of the area representative to see how we can alleviate some of the existing conditions that people have to deal with. As the elected area representative he collects $7,100 apart from his salary on a monthly basis- some of this money can be used toward the maintenance of streets. As an elected official it is your duty to ensure that you look after the needs of your people. For the past going on ten years we have not received not even a grain of span from Michael Espat so I do believe while I welcome the protest this morning I do believe that Mr.Espat should experience his fair share of this protest that took place as well because I believe that the concerns of the people should not only fall on those that are in the cabinet but our area representative as well.”
The protest motorcade with honking horns of vehicles which started from the area of Unu Service Station on Front Street proceeded through other main streets onto the area of the Punta Gorda Town Council where the peaceful motorcade ended.