New Municipal Buildings Open All Over the Bay Islands
With local economies booming the Bay Islands Municipalities have been upgrading their infrastructure, especially their municipal buildings. With increased revenues in local and land taxes, business and building permits, the Municipal governments have money to spend. The 2019-2022 was a period of fixing up the municipal buildings and constructing new ones in the three western municipalities of the Bay Islands.
ROATAN MUNICIPAL PALACE
The ground breaking on the Municipal building took place in December 2019; the construction began in February 2020 and was concluded in October 2020. Basically, the Roatan Municipality was built during the central government imposed COVID lockdown of the island in 2020.
When private businesses were told to lock down because of “safety” measures against COVID the Municipality construction project was providing valuable income to island families struggling to survive economically. According to Ing. Castillo the 50 to 100 municipal construction workers working on the site supported 400 families. “We used our own people for construction and only subcontracted a few times,” says Ing. Castillo.
The new Municipal building is more than 10 times larger than the 5,200 Sf old one in Coxen Hole. The new building is two stories tall and has 75,000 sf. The structure has 25 offices, a space for a bank and a large meeting room.
The symmetrical building named “the Municipal Palace” is visible from the main road across a huge, 74 car parking lot. While the Muni building was badly needed and is built solid, its simplistic esthetic has brought some criticism. With an immense parking lot and three columns on its portico the municipal headquarters is perhaps more reminiscent of a Walmart than a municipal headquarters.
The municipal’s construction was supervised by CINSA, a Tegucigalpa based quality control company. The building was budgeted at Lps. 48 million or $2 million, but cost Lps. 67 million or $2.7 million in the end.
As the new Roatan Municipal building has opened for business, the old Municipal Building in Coxen Hole is being retrofitted to accommodate INFOP – National Institute of Professional Education [Instituto Nacional de Formación Profesional], a government educational school. “The Mayor’s [Jerry Hynds] idea was to move all the services from Coxen Hole and make it [the town] a tourist site,” said Ing. Castillo.
There is still more construction on the Municipal site in Dixon Cove. In June 2022 ground was broken on a 3,500 Sf annex building and additional parking area just south of the municipal building. The building will house offices that are still in downtown Coxen Hole – Municipal Police, Justice office. According to Ing. Castillo the idea is for the Municipal Offices to completely vacate Coxen Hole.
New Municipal building is more than 10 times larger than the 5,200 Sf old one.
The municipal building is part of the bigger upgrade of Roatan municipal infrastructure. The 10.4 kilometer main national road construction form First Bight to Coxen Hole was done also exclusively with local taxes. Only 500 meters was paved with funds of the Central Government. A situation where a national road is constructed, or constructed with Municipal funds is unprecedented in Honduras.
The new concrete Roatan road is expected to last for the next 25-30 years. Ing. Castillo feels that Honduran Central government hires companies that are not based in the Bay Islands and don’t care about the quality of work they leave behind. “This is why we tend to do the work ourselves,” said Ing. Castillo.
Another construction is about to begin on the two-acre Municipal Equipment warehouse and operations and maintenance center in Dixon Cove near the new Public Hospital site.
On the west of the Bay Islands department 8,000 Utila residents received a 9,000 sf municipal building. The construction on the project began in 2019 under Mayor Troy Bodden. The Utila Municipal building is now a three story tall solid, concrete structure. The entire project cost the Utila taxpayers $450,000 (11 million Lps.) or $45 per Utilian.
The Municipal employees moved to this new location from a two story wooden building built in 1990s when Fulton Jackson was Utila’s Mayor. The old 1,600 sf building was located right next to the municipal dock and was too small to accommodate the growing Municipal staff. The old building will now accommodate offices of the judge, registry office and immigration.
On its front elevation the new municipal building has an array of solar panels. According to Ing. Kerry Samson, chief of the Utila Municipality’s infrastructure department, the solar panels have reduced its energy consumption costs by almost 80%. A significant reduction from Lps. 40,000- 50,000 a month to Lps. 10,000. “The municipal operates in the daytime, so we don’t need a battery bank,” said Ing. Samson, who has been working in his position for six years, first under National Party Mayor Troy Bodden and since January 2022, under Liberal Mayor Alexander Ebanks.
A central staircase of the building leads to the second story offices and third story space that can be used for exhibitions. The handsome white building was designed by Ing. Vicente Maradiaga.
The Utila Municipal Hall was built to withstand earthquakes and the building has a 12,000-gallon cistern. The building’s roof catches rainwater and when it’s cistern is full it supplies the Municipal water system consisting of four municipal wells and two wells leased by the municipality. The municipal pumps run 24 hours a day pumping 40 gallons a minute. The daily output of 230,000 gallons or 29 gallons per Utilian.
There are several other needed infrastructure projects that are taking place on Utila. The municipal garbage dump is an infrastructure project of concern. The municipal has plans to relocate the garbage dump to a site on Jericho hill in 2023. “When our dump is on fire it affects everyone,” said Ing. Samson. In 2022 Utila Municipality has begun undertaking a repaving of 507 meters of Mamey Road with hydraulic concrete.