It appears Cayman Brac residents will have to wait at least another year before construction of a long-promised new fire station is begun.
Sister Island MLAs expressed concern at the delay during a recent meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee. Government back bencher Moses Kirkconnell also said money set aside in the current budget to renovate the Brac’s existing fire station has not borne fruit.
‘There’s $150,000 (in the budget) and now we’re 10, 11 months into the cycle and the work still hasn’t been done,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said.
Opposition MLA Julianna O’Connor-Connolly questioned whether the old Brac firehouse would be ready to withstand a major storm, with the onset of the 2007 hurricane season just days away.
‘When we built that station…over 20 years ago, it was built as wisely as we could,’ Acting Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks said in reply to Ms O’Connor-Connolly’s question. ‘But I certainly wouldn’t say it would stand up in Category 3, four or five conditions as those are defined today.’
Mr. Ebanks told the committee that a potential site had been identified for the new station toward the western end of the island on the bluff. The land is owned by the government, and he said arrangements to allow proper access to the site are being worked out.
He also noted planning and design work need to be completed before starting any construction.
‘We don’t have plans finalised,’ Mr. Ebanks said. ‘While sticking $1 million in the budget looks nice, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a new station over there.’
In addition to the $150,000 in the current budget, another $300,000 has been set aside in the upcoming year’s spending plan for the Cayman Brac extension. That’s essentially renovation work on the old fire station.
Mr. Ebanks said any money left over could be used to get the design work for the new facility started.
The government tentatively plans to insert $550,000 into the 2008-2009 budget to begin construction of the new fire station, according to Mr. Ebanks. However, the legislature won’t begin considering that spending plan until next spring.
Mr. Kirkconnell and Ms O’Connor-Connolly were clearly frustrated by the hold up.
‘For me to come here again this year…and still be trying to get the extension built, and there hasn’t been a nail driven yet,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said. ‘I want to be sure that there is a sense of urgency. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for Cayman Brac.’
‘It seems to me that we have a bigger hindrance…to the establishment of the fire station,’ Ms O’Connor-Connolly said.
Mr. Ebanks said he understood lawmakers’ concerns, and said construction on the new fire station could start earlier if the site is determined to be accessible and the design is done.
‘I’m confident that it can be moved along…maybe 12 months from now,’ he said.
Mr. Ebanks also pointed out that the Brac recently received a new fire truck. Acting Chief Fire Officer Roy Grant said he planned to assign two or three new firefighters to the island in the near future.