Three members of the Heavy Equipment Operators Association have questioned aspects of the work being carried out by MC Restoration.
Mr. Paul A. Bodden, Mr. Thomas Jackson Jr., and Mr. Alfred Powery said they felt comfortable speaking as representatives of Heavo ‘because the majority of heavy equipment operators are unanimous in their feelings on this thing.’
The bottom line, they said, was that the clean-up job could have been done at less cost to the country.
The men’s concerns were raised by a Caymanian Compass reporter at a recent press conference held by people working with CIRO, the Cayman Islands Recovery Operation. Responses came from CIRO chairman Mr. Orrett Connor, operations manager Mr. Mark Scotland and Mr. Mark Merrett, a partner in James Lee Witt Associates, which is overseeing recovery efforts.
Heavo members cited instances of truck operators charging $200 to clean a yard, then taking the debris to a disposal site and getting paid again by MC Restoration.
‘If someone came forward and said they paid someone with a placard [from MC]… we’d be glad to investigate,’ Mr. Merrett said. It would be helpful if the complainant could cite date and approximate time, since this information is noted for each load, along with the section of the island the load came from.
Mr. Scotland acknowledged one instance in which just such a report was made. ‘We cut that [driver] out,’ he said.
In another case, a driver was observed at night cutting down a tree on private property so that he could have a load to take to the disposal site first thing in the morning. ‘We terminated that person immediately,’ Mr. Scotland said.
Mr. Merrett explained that JLWA is involved in an ‘overall oversight role – what we’re there to do is validate the units hauled.’
Both Heavo and Mr. Merrett pointed to the fact that drivers working with MC have a placard on the side of their truck with the name of its owner and its yardage (the quantity it can carry, in cubic yards).
Heavo members charged that some trucks were carrying ‘fluff’ – that is, debris not compacted — because it was easier and faster to pick up tree branches instead of stumps. Such drivers could make more trips per day and therefore make more money.
They also questioned how accurately truck loads were measured.
Mr. Scotland said there was some specialised equipment which would have been involved in the collection of debris, but its importation had been ‘stymied by opposition’.
As to measuring quantity per truck load, Mr. Merrett said three experienced monitors had been brought in and four locals had been trained, so that trucks could be checked.
Each truck gets a load ticket specifying truck capacity, load size and the percentage dumped.
Mr. Scotland added that the quantity determined is ‘judgemental’ but the monitors are trained to make those judgements.
Mr. Scotland pointed out that, for example, a truck without a tailgate is automatically deducted 15 per cent.
The Compass was provided with a filled out load ticket as an example of information detailed.
Heavo members asked how the quantity of 300,000 cubic yards had been arrived at for MC’s contract. Mr. Connor said it was the result of a ‘windscreen survey’ — driving through the various districts and making estimates.
MC as ‘middleman’
The Heavo men summarised the situation: JLWA is here overseeing things on Government’s behalf. MC Restoration is being paid by the yard to pick up debris, take it to the dump and process it. But MC is paying local drivers by the yard to pick up the debris and take it to the dump. Why could JLWA not oversee the drivers directly and Government pay them directly?
Mr. Merrett said JLWA could have managed, but it was more practical to deal with one entity – such as MC – because of the number of drivers involved, some of whom are self-employed, while others work for someone else and would not necessarily be the person to whom the pay is issued.
Heavo operators were upset when it was said that they did not have the equipment or the expertise to do the clean-up. They acknowledged that they could not do cars, but said members did have enough equipment to pick up debris. In terms of processing, they had needed some equipment, ‘but we brought it in since.’
MC has the tub grinder, but Heavo members have a drum grinder and horizontal grinder. They also have an asphalt and concrete crusher. They do not have any metal baler, but said they could bring one in, the same as MC is doing.
The press conference participants did not accept that Heavo’s equipment was a big as MC’s.