Question drops by $10 million

The question of what happened to about $14 million of fill from Port Authority property was reduced significantly Tuesday when Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford said there was a typographical error in information provided to him by the Port Authority.

Last week Mr. Clifford made a statement in the Legislative Assembly in which he said 700,000 cubic yards of fill worth $20 per cubic yard had been removed from the property by a company controlled by The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Mike Ryan.

However, Mr. Clifford said the amount should have been 200,000 cubic yards valued at $4 million.

‘I have spoken to [Port Director] Paul Hurlston and he has confirmed there was a typographical error in the information they gave me,’ Mr. Clifford said. ‘While we regret the error, there is still an issue to be resolved.’

At issue is works conducted by Mr. Ryan’s company Cesar Marina Corporation to develop a parcel of Port Authority land next to the Ritz-Carlton as a public marina. The project has become known as the Safe Haven Marina Project.

Cesar Marina was to develop a marina facility on the Port Authority property in exchange for navigable access through the property to the North Sound.

Mr. Clifford maintains that although an agreement for the project was reached in principle in September 2003, there was no final approval by the Port Authority Board.

Mr. Ryan relied on a letter from former Port Authority Chairman McKeeva Bush as authorisation to proceed on the project.

That letter, dated 10 October 2003, stated that the agreement for the development of a public marina at Safe Haven had been ratified by the Port Authority Board at a meeting held in Cayman Brac on 26 September 2003.

‘Permission is now given for works to commence in accordance with the agreement,’ the letter stated.

Mr. Bush signed the letter in capacity of Leader of Government Business and Minister of Tourism, Environment, Development and Commerce.

Paul Hurlston said Tuesday there was no approval reflected in the signed Board minutes from the 26 September meeting indicated the project was approved.

Mr. Clifford therefore maintains that the agreement did not have the Port Authority Board’s approval.

‘I understand that Mike Ryan would have relied on that letter; any reasonable person would have,’ he said. ‘But Mr. Bush didn’t have the authority to write it.’

In any case, prior to the admission of the typographical error, Mr. Ryan denied that 700,000 cubic yards were excavated from the canal and used to fill the Ritz-Carlton property.

‘The correct amount is closer to 80,000 cubic yards as estimated by the contractor that performed the work, Equipment Services,’ Mr. Ryan said in a written statement.

Equipment Services owner Dale Crighton said Monday his company excavated about 80,000 to 82,000 cubic yards of material from the Port Authority property to create a canal.

‘I dug what was laid out,’ Mr. Crighton said.

The canal was 100 feet wide by approximately 1,700 feet long, and dug to an average depth of 12 feet, Mr. Crighton said.

Using those figures, there would have been some 75,555 cubic yards of material available for excavating on the property.

In his statement, Mr. Clifford said that about 4.5 acres of land had been excavated.

Using that figure and an average depth of 12 feet, only about 87,120 cubic yards of fill would have been available for excavating.

Mr. Ryan also denied the entire amount of fill was all used on the Ritz-Carlton property, even though the Heads of Agreement allowed Cesar Marina to make use all the material excavated.

‘This is incorrect as the majority of that fill was unused as it was excavated in summer 2004, stored on the Port Authority site and lost in the flooding caused by Hurricane Ivan,’ Mr. Ryan said in his statement.

Mr. Crighton confirmed that some of the excavated material was still on the Port Authority site when Hurricane Ivan hit, although he said he did not know exactly how much.

Mr. Crighton also noted that the fill material was not worth $20 per cubic yard in any case because it was not trucked. The approximate fill price per cubic yard used by Mr. Clifford would include trucking, which Cesar Marina provided itself. Trucking normally runs between $3 and $3.50 per cubic yard of fill.

In addition, Mr. Crighton said there was about six feet of low-value swamp peat on much of the property before getting to the depth where high quality land fill could be excavated after blasting.

Mr. Ryan noted that Mr. Clifford had said that what was done cannot be changed and that the Port Authority was eager to resolve the matter.

No formal agreement has ever been signed between the Port Authority and Cesar and no other works have been carried out on the Port Authority property since the excavation works.

‘We welcome the Minister’s acknowledgement that what is done cannot be undone and look forward to working with the Port Authority towards whatever outcome is best for all the people of the Cayman Islands,’ Mr. Ryan said.