Sunrise centre to close for summer

The Sunrise Adult Learning Training Centre in West Bay will close down for an unspecified period this summer, a move which Cayman Islands’ planning officials said would provide time to correct deficiencies in building safety there.

The problems at the centre, which provides education and training for physically and mentally challenged adult clients, include a lack of fire exits, poor accessibility for wheelchairs and inadequate venting and fire protection for cooking equipment.

The Planning Department’s Chief Building Control Officer, Emerson Piercy, met with officials from the Ministry of Education last week to go over plans to renovate the centre to current building codes. Mr. Piercy said he believes the necessary changes can be made, as long as centre officials receive the permission of the property owner.

‘That building could, in fact, be made safe,’ Mr. Piercy said. ‘The problem is it’s not a purpose-built building, it’s a residential home that’s a temporary building.’

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said the facility the centre now uses has never met planning requirements since it opened in 2003. Approval for the centre to use the home was granted through May 2008 with the understanding that building codes would be met and certificates of occupancy would be obtained.

That temporary approval has since expired and those improvements have not been made.

Mr. Piercy said the centre’s wheelchair-bound clients were transferred to a different location, which centre officials confirmed is the Lighthouse School, a few weeks ago because of the ongoing safety concerns.

He said ministry officials believed egress issues could be resolved with the next week. There were also plans to add some exit signs, a door through one of the sides of the house, and make bathrooms disabled-accessible.

It’s not known how much the repairs might cost.

An exact date for when the facility would temporarily be shuttered was also unknown, but Mr. Piercy said he didn’t anticipate any problems getting the home owner to agree to the renovations.

Last month, Complaints Commissioner John Epp announced his office was investigating whether government was providing adequate care at the Sunrise Centre.

Although a final report has not been released, Mr. Epp said his office would look into a number of issues surrounding the centre including whether the building could be renovated to proper safety codes, and the health and safety of clients and staff.

Last week, Mr. Epp said he was encouraged that efforts were apparently being made to protect wheelchair-bound clients at the centre by moving them to another location. He also said that, historically, the Sunrise Centre has closed during the summer and added it had only stayed open throughout the summer in the last few years.

Sunrise Centre Director Roberta Gordon has previously said that she was not aware of the lack of compliance with planning regulations, but she said she has spoken of overcrowding concerns at the centre to the ministry in the past.