More than $800,000 spent since July
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush defended his government’s apparent decision to pave the parking lots and driveways of private homes and businesses in Cayman Brac over the past several months, following a Caymanian Compass report on the situation last week.
Although the government ministry and the minister responsible for the recent paving of roads and parking lots in parts of Cayman Brac have refused to answer Compass questions about the paving, Premier Bush said Tuesday night that he saw no problem with the government paving sections of private property.
Some residents of Cayman Brac have privately been asking why public resources and equipment were being used to pave private car parks while many of the Island’s public roads remain unpaved.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said last week that concerns about the private property paving in the Brac were brought to his attention.
According to information provided through an open records request, just more than $800,000 has been spent since July on the Brac paving work. The documentation recommended that funding for the Brac paving projects be reallocated from a fund set aside for several road works on Grand Cayman.
Premier Bush said Tuesday night during a political meeting in George Town that he didn’t see a major issue with the Brac paving.
“[Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly] has done a tremendous amount of work for Cayman Brac,” Mr. Bush told an audience of more than 200 gathered outside the courthouse for the political meeting. “Now they are cursing and trying to make a game…of her fixing somebody’s driveway or fixing the church [parking lot].
“They’re cursing her right now about building roads. We have in Cayman been assisting people, but that’s the least we can do…when you pay your money for your cars, import duty and annual fees…is to do something to your driveway or road that was leading to your house.
“We have been doing that for years, so it is not that strange.”
Mr. Bush said paving public streets outside homes may cause flooding problems in driveways that come off the road if those areas are not repaved at the time the road is done.
“The road keeps getting higher. Your piece of property keeps getting lower. It behooves government to fix that drop off at times,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said he questioned the need, in light of the current budget situation, for government to be paving roads anywhere.
“To go further and actually use [public money] 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 told the Caymanian Compass last week.
Mr. Bush said Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly, who is a Cayman Brac representative as well as Minister of Works, should “keep her head high” in the face of such criticism.
“Miss Julie’s not doing anything wrong that is ultra vires (Latin phrase meaning ‘outside the law’) the constitution or the financial laws,” Premier Bush said. “We have done that in Cayman for years [referring to the paving projects].”
The Deputy Premier has never responded to repeated requests for comment from the Compass about this issue.
Mr. Bush said Tuesday that Cayman Brac has frequently suffered from infrastructure neglect that has stunted its ability to grow and prosper in certain instances.
“When I was first elected…I went to Cayman Brac and it seemed that Cayman Brac stopped at the western part of the Island,” he said. “No roads, people were walking in ankle-deep water sometimes to get to their house.”
The Premier also said he supported, and would continue to support, government’s providing assistance to community-based organisations and churches that can often manage projects like playing fields or basketball courts at less cost than government.
“It saves government money in the long run,” he said.
“We have said we are going to continue to work with the churches because they are the moral guidance of this country.”