Colonos seeks 5 percent hike
in maintenance fees for 2017
Colonos voters will be asked to approve a 5 percent hike in the maintenance fee for 2017 at the annual assembly convening at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in the Dreams Hotel. The increase does not include a special assessment of an estimated 4,241,501 pesos ($205,840USD at current x-rate) being sought for the main gate second phase. The amount more than doubles the $82,000 spent on the first phase.
The budget does contain extra funds of 20,000 pesos ($1,000 USD) per month to support the Transformar Educando Civic Association. It also includes 10,000 pesos monthly payment in support of the Red Cross clinic and ambulance in the poblado.
The monthly budget for operating expenses is up 9 percent from 2016, rising from 1.414 million pesos ($56,810 US) to 1.542 million pesos ($74,771 US) for 2017, an increase of 127,714 pesos ($6,192 US) monthly. The monthly operating cost in the last three years has risen from 1.171 million pesos ($56,810 USD) a month in 2013 to a 2017 request for 1.542 million pesos ($74,771 US), an increase of 370,408 pesos ($18,005 US) at current exchange rates.
If voters do not approve the 20,000-peso monthly funding for Transformar Educando, the 5 percent fee increase for the year would drop to around 3.78 percent, explained Colonos GM Armando Rincon.
While the main gate project’s estimated basic construction cost is listed as 4,241,501 pesos ($205,840 USD) the Colonos will, if voters approve, collect a project total of 4.461.010 million pesos, roughly ($216,492 US) over two quarters of 2017. If every stakeholder actually pays the 2017 special assessment fee in the first two quarters, it would roughly leave a post-construction surplus of $219,509 pesos ($10,621 USD) for selective spending on attendant costs for equipment such as auto barriers, pedestrian turnstile and operational expenses to finish out the year. The project would be constructed from April through May, says the annual report released on Monday. (See stories below)
Dec. 10 Assembly issues:
Local golfers shrug at park idea
Local golfers are evidently indifferent to developer Roman Rivera Torres’ idea to create a community park out of what was supposed to be the second nine holes of the golf course. But it doesn’t mean the proposal will avoid disappointment at the 9:30 a.m. annual assembly Dec. 10 at the Dreams Hotel.
Colonos board chairman Jorge Kaufer, whose panel is in tune with the park idea, said recently there could be some push-back from property owners, not golfers, along Puerto Aventuras Boulevard who may have purchased lots on the promise their back yards would eventually open to a golf course, not a pseudo-public doggie park, soccer field or picnic area. (The Colonos would not own the park property.)
Kaufer’s view was underscored by golf pro and course manager Jose Luis Ortega, who felt that, if anybody, property owners, not golfers, may complain over what they define as a broken promise. Until last year, Rivera Torres was promising to finish the course, but is now facing fiscal realities.
“Resident golfers don’t play much here,” Ortega said. “We have only five club members.” He said one reason is cost to play. “We can’t compete on price with the promotions offered weekly by the bigger courses.” He conceded the reality that locals with cars don’t mind the drive to Playacar, Mayakoba, Bahia Principe or even Cancun to take a price advantage and get an 18-hole round to boot.
The Pelican solicited comment from three golfers at random who live in the community part-time. They shrugged in agreement with Ortega that they prefer playing elsewhere and thought the park suggestion was better than nothing for the community.
The golfers’ indifference is why, Ortega said, he has changed his marketing strategy by targeting “visitors” who come here for a wedding party, for example, and want to get in “a little golf” without having to pay an airline extra to lug their own clubs here for such a short stay or pay for a taxi to a distant course. For them, he inferred, the price and the place is right.
It should be noted that Ortega is employed by the Fideicomiso, (trustee/proprietor) which owns the course property. He concurs that another nine holes would be a financially foolish proposition considering the ample competition in the area. Another nine holes would add little to the community perks, he says. “For one thing, we have a mature 9-holes that we would have to reconcile with a new design, meaning higher construction costs.”
Kaufer said the proposal is just that, a proposal, and that details would be refined over time in an evolutionary process should the community give its blessing. He said it would take at least a year for the developer to receive permission to carve 80 house lots along some of the perimeter streets of the 74-acre parcel.
The park as now proposed would encompass 42 of the 74 acres. Single-family lot sales would fund $3 million US for park development and the remainder to the owner, after which the 42 acres would be given over to the Colonos for maintenance and further development and maintenance at the community’s expense in perpetuity without actually owning the property.
More money for Main Gate
Phase 1 of the Main Gate Project completed last spring has attracted its share of critics wondering how it could have cost $1.7 million pesos (around $82,000 US at current x-rate) considering what they perceive as disappointing results. On the other hand, other residents are either indifferent and/or satisfied with some of the improvements so far, such as a turnaround that was relocated farther away from the gate congestion to ease entrance onto Bahia Chemuyil.
Others appreciate the small parking lot that accommodates the golf carts of people going shopping outside the gate, where unregistered carts are not legal. The lot is also used by cars and trucks.
On the negatives, a Centro resident complained about the wall of large stones that camouflage a taxi area off Bahia Chemuyil just outside the resident exit gate. He suggested heavy rain will erode the pile of dirt behind the rocks.
Another resident complained of a somewhat confusing lane access change. The auxiliary entrance path to the main gate was outlined with reflectors imbedded in the road at the confluence of an exit from the busy gasoline station and retail area. The critic suggested that the access represents fender-benders waiting to happen. Another said the work did not improve the gate’s aesthetics. On that subject, developer Roman Rivera Torres has said he was not competing with the gate glitz of the all-inclusive hotels.
Critics may be assuaged when Rivera Torres explains the reworked plans for the gate structure itself and placement of two new lanes for resident entrances, and a spare lane to be used for in or out during peak demand . In addition, better working space “with dignity” for the security staff manning the gates.
In the middle of these conflicting views of the Phase I work vis-a-vis its cost is the Vigilance Committee manned by Rivera Torres, condo administrator Carlos Suarez and resident Timothy Howard. This panel acts as financial oversight to provide voters with transparency, outlining where the Colonos money went, what the labor costs were and amounts paid to major-category materials.
In this case, a proposed budget for expenditure of Colonos funds was not provided prior to a sparsely attended assembly. It was explained as discretionary spending of surplus funds.
It is being suggested by some that the fallout from a vague fiscal accounting to voters at the Phase 1 meeting could stall or scuttle voter appetite for spending more than double the amount on Phase 2 without financial details.
A plea from the neediest of needy
The 18-year old certified civic association Transformar Educando, headquartered just south of the Red Cross property on the poblado’s main road, is currently serving 1,100 neediest of the needy in the poblados of Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Chemuyil, 536 of them from Puerto Aventuras alone.
Veteran teacher and administrator Graciela Maldonado oversees the distribution of services including basic education, literacy, work skills and care of the handicapped and emotionally disturbed living on the fringes of the poblado.
They survive there, she says, in abject poverty rife with the complications of negative behaviors. The agency also works in tandem with the philanthropic Friends of Puerto Aventuras (FOPA) teaching English to more than 70 local children a day.
Transformar Educando will be asking voters to approve a monthly payment of 20,000 pesos (about $1,000 USD) from the Colonos maintenance fees. Since some resort residents, particularly ex-pats and snowbirds, are not familiar with the agency and its work, there has been some commentary on a perceived absence of fiscal transparency in the agency’s operations and suggestions that any approvals be accompanied by annual fiscal reports to the Assembly.
In an interview last week, Director Maldonado, who will present at the Assembly, opened some of the agency’s books contained in large 3-ring binders, each page displaying income and expenses neatly typed and protected by transparent plastic sleeves.
The books began to pile on her desk. Some of them contained all papers pertaining to three grants Director Maldonado had applied for and won from such organizations as ADO bus lines and Dolphin Discovery among others this year.
A new schoolroom and ground-level bathroom are under construction for use by handicapped children who attend classes at the community center, where the only rest rooms are on the second level.
The paperwork for that project, used as an example of the agency’s meticulous bookkeeping, clearly shows the requests for and awarding of bids and all pertinent fiscal information and commentary. “But those grants never give you what you ask for, so each project runs a deficit,” the director said, which must be raised from contributions. The new schoolroom will also house sewing machines that have already been purchased and awaiting relocation to the school from Akumal to provide new arrivals with work skills. The community center sits on land owned by the municipality, which leases it to the agency for extended periods.
The director said she reports fiscal activity to a council of perpetual donors. Following a cursory review of the books, Director Maldonado added that with the current projects and growth in clients needing services, the budget is running a monthly deficit of 45,000 pesos (a little over $2,000 USD), which the agency hopes to cut in half, with the approval of resort voters, to 25,000 pesos.
The funds are already included in the Colonos budget which includes a 5 percent increase and indicates the expectation of approval.
Del Prado produce outlet finds
welcome market in the resort
After nearly five months of operation in the resort area, the clean and cool Del Prado fruit and vegetable outlet adjacent to the Pub Restaurant reports it is grateful for the welcoming response it has received from local individual shoppers and area restaurants.
Diego Mesa, a bilingual Mexico City native who received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality from a college in Switzerland, is the company’s project director and resides in the Kantenha Lagoon area of Puerto Aventuras.
He is director for the company’s seven stores in the Riviera Maya, which includes the one in the Puerto Aventuras resort, two across the highway serving the poblado and Puerto Maya colony, two in Tulum and two in Playa, one of which is in the process of being opened.The Del Prado organization, Mesa said, carries more than 200 fruit and produce items, not all of them in every store. Instead, each individual outlet is free to choose which products are in demand from their clientele. “We are always open to customer suggestions and requests for particular items they would like us to carry,” Mesa said. “We shop ‘green’ and we generally copy the US model of controls when it comes to assuring the produce we sell has not been exposed to questionable pesticides”
He said the chain buys locally grown produce and items grown throughout the country. It goes a step further by carrying a frozen assortment of items as well in its gleaming refrigeration section.
There are roughly 50 separate hand-packed bins for fresh vegetablesand fruit, with about four of them containing packaged bags of various fresh spices like chile avbol and a variety of pimento, raisins and grains like avenda and granola. Prices are clearly marked and displayed.
The refrigerated cases carry a plethora of items familiar to visitors and expats from up north, as they say, such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, green grapes, broccoli, mushrooms and scallions to name just a few, all marked and packaged.
What strikes the shopper at Del Prado here is the palpable cleanliness of the place, the gleaming floor and display stands, the cool temperature control that protects the produce, the complete absence of the pesky insects usually found in fruit stores/stands and the neatness of the displays that tell you shipping and handling is performed with utmost care. “Sometimes” Mesa smiled, “people who come in from the hot beach tell us it is too cool.”
Del Prado is nestled in a nook adjacent to the Pub Restaurant at the foot of the main stairs into and out of Centro. Most of all, Del Prado is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Find out more about Del Prado by clicking the logo in the sponsor column to reach the company’s Facebook page.
The waiter who selected the winner of the Hippo’s and Fat Cat’s sold-out raffle last Thursday was named Angel. For Jan Lindsey, he could not have been more appropriately named. She and husband Steve won the dinner for 20 friends provided by Hippo’s on a Fat Cat catamaran cruise. Asked in jest afterwards if she even had 20 friends, Mrs. Lindsey quickly quipped, as she waved the winning ticket, “I don’t know—but I will.” The raffle raised 12,500 pesos ($606 USD) for Transformar Educando, a teaching and social services agency serving the neediest poblado populations.
Nothing to discard? An 8-year old pupil at the FOPA English class asked a volunteer reader, “Is it true there is no garbage in the United States?” The surprised reader said, no, but some people pay other people to come and take away their garbage and others bring it themselves to the disposal area. The reader thought it an odd question for an 8-year-old until remembering the problems with rubbish collection in the poblado and resort a few months ago that inspired loud protests and conversation on the topic. Children are indeed listening.
The Colonos employee party will be held on Dec. 16. An appeal is being made for Yuletide gifts, or cash with which to buy gifts for the 42 employees who keep our roads passable, shrubbery clipped, security fence mended and other myriad tasks that help make life paradisiacal inside the resort. Gifts may be deposited at the Colonos office during normal working hours.
Billboards placed on protective railings of crosswalks over Highway 307 in Playa del Carmen have had unintended consequences. Police have registered four reports by persons who were accosted behind the cover of the billboards while using the crosswalks. Authorities are being asked to take action that would prevent these hidden attacks…
Wine and history… About 40 people attended a wine-tasting at the Divot restaurant on the golf course last Thursday. It was an evening marked by pleasing pairings of food and wine, anecdotal history and congenial conversation. Hostess and Divot manager Laura Pohlenz regaled the audience with historic anecdotes including Renaissance mathematician Johannes Kepler who figured out the laws of planetary movement. Who would have thought such a heady mathematician would have spent time in more mundane activities, such as designing a new measuring rod for the contents of wine barrels. Nor would anyone guess the story would be resurrected centuries later to accompany the introduction of a 100 percent Cabernet at the Divot Restaurant of Puerto Aventuras.
New poolside beach chairs now grace the Omni Hotel and Beach Club pools. They are less bulky than the blue canvas models, simpler in design and armless. The older blue canvas models remain under the palapas on the beach.
Federal offices such as immigration services will be closed from Dec. 22 through January 4 in observance of the holiday season. Don’t even try to get a permanente residente during that time or deal with any other major federal agency…
Undercover police are patrolling Playa del Carmen malls, shopping and tourist areas with municipal, state and federal officers as the holiday season approaches. Businessmen continue to press for added presence and quick response teams to help abate a growing number of criminal incidents particularly in tourist-area bars. Business people say preventive action is necessary to avoid tainting the safety image of the destination. Some 15-to 25,000 visitors are expected in downtown Playa during holiday weekends.
The new colf cart parking area adjacent to the CEDAM Museum at the junction of Bahia Xcacel and Punta Celis was finally completed last week. Golf cart operators and motorcyclists are asked to cooperate by using those mostly shaded parking areas for their vehicles so that cars and particularly delivery vehicles will have more space in which to park. But wouldn’t you know there were three golf carts in the full-up regular parking lot on Sunday while the new cart spaces remained mostly empty.
Sea lions put some romance into entertaining humans here
Ever since the popular Puerto Aventuras Dolphin Discovery made one of its large natural pools available last year to a 23-year-old grand-daddy sea lion named Pingo and two of his progeny, curious visitors have been wooed and welcomed with delight in learning what a “real” wet kiss feels like.
Along with 13-year-old offspring Rocky and Tito, the trio is delighting visitors to the dolphin, lion and manatee pools here. Pingo and the cast of 300-pounders greet those who are willing with a mustachioed peck on the cheek as the lions go about their playful antics that have earned them the title “Clowns of the Sea.”
For visitors, it is Comedy Central time as the cousins of the toothy walrus slap their flippers in self-applause, roar like lions, splash in and out of the water with surprising swiftness and agility and stick out their tongues as their attentive trainers here reward them with morsels of herring, sardines or squid to satisfy the daily 20 pounds of fish they each require.
Backstage, however, there is serious business going on in caring for these seagoing mammals. Guillermo Lobo, the congenial Dolphin Discovery manager, says the low season gives his staff, which includes a full-time veterinarian, extra time to train, play and otherwise connect with the animals and assure they remain in good health and spirits.
Two younger sea lions of Pingo’s lineage, Popeye and Diego, are currently in an adjacent pool frolicking and learning to communicate at the learned hands of trainers. In addition to the five sea lions here, there are 12 dolphins and 10 manatees, two of them babies born here. All the animals provide visitors with a unique opportunity to expand their view of the world and their life’s experience by interacting with diverse species.
Lobo said the chain of Dolphin Discovery sites in Mexico, the Caribbean islands and Florida are dedicated to the preservation of the species under their care and the advancement of animal science. He said the animals here undergo routine physical evaluations every three months including blood tests analyzed in this site’s own laboratory. “We share these health reports with the government,” Lobo said, to assure added oversight and dissemination of information to the larger scientific community.
Meanwhile, the animals and visitors to PA are enjoying the unusual experience of each other’s company by sharing laughs and a smooch.
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