Over the next few months, the Cayman Islands government will issue a series of about 70 tenders for construction work on two new public high schools.
According to Education Minister Rolston Anglin, plans call for Clifton Hunter High School in Frank Sound to be completed in time for the next school year – September 2011. He told a group of about 40 contractors Thursday that the completion of the new John Gray High School in George Town would take a bit longer – likely by September 2012.
The separate issuance of specific project bids under the direction of the ministry and a previously appointed construction manager is a bit unusual for public projects in the Cayman Islands. The move comes after the termination of the project’s previous contractor last year and the more recent parting of ways with the schools’ main subcontractor.
Both of those contract terminations have caused delays in construction, but Mr. Anglin said he believed, in light of the project history and the state of the local economy, that this is the right way to proceed.
“There is still a lot of opportunity on this project,” Mr. Anglin said. “Now, we can’t hire one man…to lay two blocks and another man to lay two blocks; at the end of the day, the best man wins.”
“It’s about access,” said Christen Suckoo with the Education Ministry. “It’s about a level playing field.”
A list of 71 separate project tenders was released to contractors that attended the Thursday evening meeting at the George Town Public Library. Those jobs include concrete work, electrical installation, plumbing and interior design. A few jobs have already been bid out; the vast majority will be made public between now and February.
The construction manager and the ministry will coordinate to ensure that each separate piece of work gets done, Mr. Anglin said.
The ministry’s project liaison, Thomas Ebanks, cautioned that not everyone would be given work simply because they showed up and presented a tender. He said the ministry would not do business with any firm that did not have a trade and business licence, that was not in compliance within the past 30 to 60 days on employee pension payments, or that did not have the requisite public liability or workman’s compensation insurance. Each tender has different insurance requirements.
Also, Mr. Ebanks said, beyond eligibility requirements, the bid process would consider the capability of each firm that bids on a project.
“Please indicate to us that, one, your company is capable of doing the work,” he told the contractors’ group. “If you’ve done similar work, list it all out. We’re not looking to cut any corners.”
Most of the construction work over the next month will be done at the Clifton Hunter site, said project manager Larry Allocco. Work at the John Gray site is not likely to get started until January, he said.
There were no specific explanations as to why the project’s main subcontractor, Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools) 2008, and the government mutually agreed to terminate their “interim relationship” on the schools’ site earlier this year. Representatives of the company attended Thursday’s meeting and seemingly, the company intends to bid for some of the work .
Caribbean Mechanical CEO Alan Roffey has previously declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile, the government is still in court with the former project contractor, Tom Jones International, over that company’s claims of payment totalling approximately $3 million. Caribbean Mechanical has also sought some $2 million from Tom Jones for work it earlier performed as a subcontractor.