Visitors to Cayman Brac are smelling a new odour on the island – fresh asphalt.
A project to pave Cayman Brac’s roads for the first time in 30 years began last June and since then, the north coast road has been paved along with several private parking lots of businesses and churches.
The south coast of the island and most of the roads on the Bluff – part of the 50 miles of road on Cayman Brac – remain unpaved.
Another stretch that has been paved is the road to the Agricultural Grounds on the Bluff, a road used once a year for the Agricultural Show. This road, which is about quarter-mile long, now includes a four-lane entrance and exit and two roundabouts. Near that road sits a hand-painted sign placed beside a marl road full of pot holes. The sign says: “Please fix this road.”
The Ministry of District Administration, which is administering the paving on the island, had not responded by press time to questions about who is paying for the paving of private parking lots.
When the paving work began, Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said: “Our roads were in dire need and, even in this stringent economy, this government managed to find the funds to improve safety and beautify the island.”
Now some residents of the island are asking why public resources and equipment are being used to pave private carparks while much of the island remains unpaved, and during a time when the government coffers are stretched.
Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin said concerns over the paving of private property by the National Roads Authority and the Public Works Department had been brought to his attention.
He said he had not seen the paving work himself but added, “I’ve had a number of reports from people on the Brac about the paving of private driveways and parking lots, ostensibly with government equipment and at government cost.”
He said if the paving of private property is being paid for out of public funds, “it is wrong, even in the best of times, to use government resources for private properties, unless it is a needy cause.
“Particularly in these austere times, when there are shortfalls all around and the government, by all indications, is still struggling to bring the government budget and its operational expenditure under control, I question the need to spend significant funds on paving roads anywhere at this point.
“To go further and actually use it to improve parking lots and driveways of private individuals and private institutions is not just wrong, but it is hugely unwise in these times,” he said.
The asphalt plant cost between $600,000 and $700,000 and was shipped from the US in April last year and installed on the Bluff. It is capable of producing 80 tonnes of asphalt an hour.
Cayman Brac’s Public Works Department and the National Roads Authority are working together on the project.
In response to questions about the paving project on the Brac, National Roads Authority Director Brian Tomlinson said: “The NRA loaned its hot mix asphalt paving crew and equipment to District Administration for the paving work that is taking place in Cayman Brac. District Administration is managing and administering the project.”
District Commissioner of Cayman Brac Ernie Scott explained that people who wanted their private property paved had to apply to the Ministry of District Administration. “If approved, the National Roads Authority, who is doing the work, would be notified… All are approved and processed through the Ministry of District Administration,” he said.