Recovery painfully slow

Recovery from Hurricane Ivan is going slower than expected because money is limited and the demand for aid is great.

That was the word from Health Minister Gilbert McLean at a recovery fund meeting held at the Bodden Town MLA office Saturday evening.

Mr. McLean and Education Minister Roy Bodden said they had heard people are complaining about the length of time it is taking to process grant applications.

To answer some of the questions they invited Orrett Connor of the Cayman Islands Recovery Operations Office; Angela Martins of the National recovery Fund; Clite Linwood of the Recovery Office, CIDB Bank; and Twyla Vargas from Housing.

Mr. Conner said repairs are slow because it had been a challenge to get contractors to participate in the recovery programme, which began shortly after Hurricane Ivan slammed Grand Cayman 11-12 September.

‘Everyone is too busy dealing with other operations that are more lucrative. They are not attracted to a job that is only $15,000 in value.

‘Recently we have been successful in obtaining the services of seven construction companies,’ said Mr. Connor.

‘There are huge amounts of applications from people needing assistance, and we are looking at those persons who were most at risk; the elderly, larger families and those with children.

‘We realize there is much work to do in Bodden Town, one of the harder hit districts. The clean up has begun. After the clean up, plans are in place to rebuild the community.’

‘We have received, so far, 655 applications. Not everyone is asking for $15,000 and not all people will get $15,000.

For the District of Bodden Town the number of sites visited so far for approval of grants is 59 out of a total of 273, he said.

Mr. Connor encouraged those who have not submitted application to go ahead and do so ‘The funds are there to help everyone,’ he said.

‘We have seen a number of applications from homeowners who were underinsured and as a result, they will need assistance as well. Applications will be put in order according to persons who did not have insurance.

‘We are not out of the woods as far as our recovery process is concerned there are serious issues still to be addressed if you have issue come in and let us document them,’ he said.

He briefly touched on the issue of trailers as temporary housing.

‘I do not want it to appear that everything is going smoothly. As far as the record is concerned, we have hit our bumps along the way. There will be challenges to where the homes are placed simply because no one wants them in their back yards.’

Raising money

Mrs. Martins said the Recovery Fund is aggressively trying to raise money.

‘The trust fund is not simply about housing. Only at this point the trust has focused on housing as a critical priority. Anyone living here can apply. We have a very aggressive fund raising campaign going on locally and internationally to raise $15 million,’ she said.

The Trust has received 12,077 applications for assistance; 440 of those are in the A1 category with the focus being on uninsured, elderly and young children living in unsuitable conditions.

Applications cover all the districts, said Mrs. Martins

Between October and December the National Recovery Fund project managers had difficulty recruiting contractors.

That issue has been overcome, she said. There are 30 contracting firms working with four project managers: Hadsphaltic, Arch and Godfrey, OBM and Evans and Oracle. Once a case is assessed it is then passed to the project managers, she said.

‘From the get-go in mid October we had huge problems getting materials. That was a big hold up for a number of homes in Bodden Town,’ she said. ‘To relieve that, we are now doing our own bulk purchasing and have 40 containers loaded with material that is already on island,’ she said.

Mrs. Martins also said her group is working with a group of young architects to designs a simple three-bedroom cottage to meet the needs of people in Bodden Town and East End where many of the applications are from spinsters and widowers with a small amount of money.

Deep concerns

She said they are concerned about people who are elderly who have no children and no one to support them. If not helped now, these people could become a burden to the state. Aggressive work was already done on about 30 properties with roof repairs.

‘The singular focus of the recovery fund is to dry in a home. That is roof repairs, external doors and windows where 75 per cent of the $15,000 – if that is required – has been spent on external work. The other 25 per cent can be spent on internal walls and ceilings, but the primary focus is on getting home dry,’ she said.

Mrs. Matins said she had seen letters in which residents have expressed concerns about their housing issues but they have not applied to the trust.

‘If you have any queries please come by our offices on Eastern Avenue across from Trinity Square,’ she said. The offices are open from Monday to Friday 9am – 4.30pm and the telephone number is 943-3863. Forms are available at assistance offices around the island.

Ms Vargas, said she was there to assist persons interested in obtaining the mobile homes. Offices hours are from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm Monday through Friday. Phone 525-2476.

At the end of the meeting during the question and comment time one Bodden Towner showed his frustration at not getting help by telling the ministers they were not doing enough to help him. It was suggested he take his questions to the office.

Reference was also made to debris In the Cumber Avenue area and what government was doing about the school problem, to which Mr. Bodden replied that Public Works was working as fast as humanly possible to get the job done.

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