The Cayman Islands government approved $23.3 million in new spending last week, the lion’s share of which will go toward public works projects like the East-West Arterial road and the Savannah Seawall.
According to Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, $26.7 million in total supplemental spending was approved in Legislative Assembly, along with $3.35 million in budget reductions, bringing the net spending to approximately $23.3 million.
Mr. Jefferson said the expenditure was well within government’s means, largely because the government believes it will be taking in about $31 million more than expected in operating revenue this year.
The largest single expense was $6.5 million for the East-West Arterial, the first section of which is due to open sometime next week, according to Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean.
Another $2 million will go toward completion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. Mr. McLean said crews would lift the section of road between the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Snug Harbour, pave it and install crash barriers. He also said more lights would be installed to make night driving easier.
Four million dollars was slated to begin construction of the Savannah Seawall, which was proposed as the solution to prevent flooding around the Savannah Gully when strong storms come ashore. Government had spent nearly $700,000 on the Savannah Gully project in last year’s budget.
Lawmakers applauded both the long-awaited completion of the Esterley Tibbetts and the desperately needed opening of the arterial road.
Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin urged the works and infrastructure ministry to spend more time repairing side streets in areas of West Bay where he said the old chip and spray paving method wasn’t holding up under the stress of increased traffic.
‘There are potholes on the side of very narrow roads that have no centre line or reflectors,’ Mr. Anglin said, adding that Boatswain Bay Road hasn’t been repaved since 1986.
Mr. McLean admitted the National Roads Authority was spread thin right now trying to finish the major road projects already under way.
‘I feel sorry for the people of West Bay, after all these years they still haven’t gotten those roads fixed,’ Mr. McLean said.
Other public works projects included a $475,000 acquisition of land for a new cemetery in Old Man Bay and another $525,000 set aside to expand the Bodden Town cemetery.
As previously reported by the Caymanian Compass, the Tower building in downtown George Town is expected to be demolished within the next year. The government set aside $1.1 million for that project, although Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said they wouldn’t necessarily have to spend that entire amount.
The Central Tenders Committee is expected to select a company to perform the demolition soon.
Mr. Tibbetts had also said previously that government would put $4 million into the National Recovery Fund to assist families whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The government is still hopeful to receive repayment of those funds from the UK.
The final added expense approved by the House on Wednesday was $3.1 million for the Cayman Turtle Farm to cover the facility’s operating loss. The government has made numerous payments and loans to the tourist attraction in West Bay over the last few years to keep it afloat.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford warned the Legislative Assembly in May that government funding of the Boatswain’s Beach/Turtle Farm operation would not continue indefinitely, but he has not put a date on when government subsidies would end.