The first stage of construction for the new Bodden Town emergency services complex will cost an estimated $9.7 million and is expected to be built by early 2009.
When finished, the centre will combine to serve as the new headquarters for the Cayman Islands Fire Service, a new district police station, and as administrative offices and responder station for the island’s Emergency Medical Services. It will also include a helipad and a holding cell for police prisoners.
Design plans for the centre were unveiled at a public hearing Thursday night at Bodden Town Primary School.
‘We want this building to be fully sustainable for up to two weeks, in case the island is cut in half (by flooding),’ said Assistant Deputy Chief Secretary Eric Bush. ‘(If that happens) this facility will serve the eastern districts.’
The police station at the emergency centre will replace the current Bodden Town Police substation, which will be used for ‘another purpose’ according to Tourism Minister and Bodden Town district representative Charles Clifford.
‘They (RCIPS) can’t operate from that location in a hurricane,’ Mr. Clifford told the audience.
The emergency centre will be built to withstand Category 5 hurricane strength, according to officials who participated in the design of the project.
Island residents who live in the eastern districts will also be able to get police criminal records checks done at the Bodden Town emergency centre, instead of having to travel into George Town.
Residents seemed to generally understand the need for such a facility, but wondered whether a 27,000-square-foot building housing police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and helicopter landing facilities wouldn’t be out of place along Anton Bodden Drive.
‘I live a stone’s throw away from this,’ said one resident who asked that the Caymanian Compass not print his name. ‘I am concerned about the noise factor. You have a helicopter, ambulances…this is right in the middle of a large residential area.’
Mr. Bush said several steps are being taken that government hopes will both serve to protect the centre’s property and keep residents insulated as much as possible from its activities.
For instance, he said trees and other foliage would be planted around the site to provide a ‘buffer zone.’ To reduce flooding, a retention pond will be constructed at the south-east corner of the site.
Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks said explosives would have to be used to burrow down to 22 feet to create the pond. He said the additional fill obtained by blasting the area would be used to help reduce the cost of the project.
‘To depress this area 22 feet, we have to blast it; it’s very hard rock,’ Mr. Bush said.
Residents at Thursday’s meeting weren’t happy about it, but Mr. Ebanks noted a similar blasting procedure was used safely at the Northward Prison site.
A total of $6.9 million is expected to be spent on the construction of the 27,237-square-foot building, while an additional $2.8 million will be used to build things like parking lots, vehicle and fuel storage, the helipad, fencing and security gates.
The overall project will take up 10 of the 15 acres that government owns in the area.
Mr. Bush said residents would likely start to see site works at the centre’s location in the next six to eight weeks. He said full construction wasn’t scheduled to start until the beginning of next year.
There are three other construction stages for the centre which would put the cost above the $9.7 million slated for the first section of the development. However, it’s unknown when or even if those will be completed. Work will likely not start on them until after the May 2009 elections.
The delayed projects at the emergency centre site include: an indoor firing range for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, a headquarters for the Cadet Corps, office space for the police joint intelligence unit, traffic management, and kennels for the K-9 Unit among others.