Courts expansion remains uncertain

Cabinet ministers have not green-lighted the construction of a new 40,000 square foot Summary Courts building on Grand Cayman, despite statements from the country’s Chief Justice last week which seemed to indicate the project was going forward.

Addressing the opening of the Grand Court Wednesday, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said the intention was to break ground on the project on Lyndhurst Avenue in July.

However, government leaders waffled Thursday when asked to commit to that timeline.

“I do appreciate the Chief Justice’s prodding,” Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said. “But there are many unknowns in the world today.”

Government plans at the beginning of this budget year on 1 July, 2008, had $2 million earmarked for the construction of the new courts building, which is hoped to divert Summary Court traffic away from the central business district of downtown George Town.

It’s anticipated the Grand Courts, which handle far fewer cases that are of a generally more serious nature, will remain downtown.

Government has been forced to scale back ambitious plans that at first included the construction of three new high schools, the new government office building, the Bodden Town Emergency Centre, the Esterley Tibbetts Highway expansion, the Savannah Gully seawall, a law enforcement marine base, and the new courts project, because of financial constraints.

Some of those works, including two of the three high schools, the government office building, and the marine base will continue. The third high school, the emergency centre, the Esterley Tibbetts expansion, and the Savannah seawall will have to be delayed.

Government ministers have never made any definitive announcements regarding the new Summary Courts building.

Architectural plans for the building have not been completed, and the project contractor and the Central Planning Authority have previously disagreed over how high the courts facility should be built.

A CI $15 million drop in government revenues was projected during the current budget year, largely due to external factors such as trouble within the financial industry and a declining US economy.

In addition to scaling back construction projects, the government has also required its ministries and portfolios to cut their budgets anywhere from five to 13 per cent to make up the shortfall. None of the cuts affect the upcoming budget year, which begins this July.

Government leaders have not said whether further cutbacks will be required in the upcoming fiscal year.