The National Roads Authority’s equipment used to pave public and private property in Cayman Brac is not returning to Grand Cayman anytime soon. Along with the paving equipment, apparently some roads authority staffers also remain in the Brac, according to information from the roads authority.
The paving equipment was transferred to the Brac in 2010, where nearly $3.5 million was spent paving roads, including more than $500,000 on private parking lots, according to an auditor general’s report on the situation.
This spring, a memorandum of understanding was forged among various government entities “in which the NRA will supply certain equipment, labor and engineering services for the project of hot mix asphalt paving of certain roads in Cayman Brac.”
The agreement was between the roads authority, Department of District Administration, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture – entities ultimately responsible to then-Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the Sister Islands Member of the Legislative Assembly.
According to the minutes of the roads authority board meeting from April, “Training of Cayman Brac Public Works Department (PWD) staff is to be done by the NRA and at the end of training (anticipated to be six weeks) the project is expected to be fully handed over to Cayman Brac PWD.”
Five months later, three roads authority employees are still in the Brac. The roads authority is being paid for use of the equipment on the Brac, though at what rate is unclear.
Bare bones for Grand Cayman
Last week, the roads authority’s acting managing director Edward Howard said, “The revised MOU included a reduction of the personnel on the Brac and a new rental rate structure for the NRA equipment. Only three NRA employees remain on the Brac, along with the NRA equipment. The idea is for [Public Works Department] employees to gradually take over the paving operations completely with limited NRA oversight.”
Mr. Howard added, “however, it is the lack of funding (not the equipment in the Brac) why paving work is not being done in Grand Cayman. We have a ‘bare bones’ budget that allows us to carry out routine maintenance and a little paving (far less than is needed). No new road construction projects have been financed for 2013/14.”
In September 2012, then-managing director Brian Tomlinson told lawmakers that transferring the equipment to the Brac meant the roads authority had to contract with private companies for staff and equipment to pave Grand Cayman’s roads.
The government hired Colford Scott, then director of the roads authority board, as project manager on the paving initiative. Earlier this month, Cabinet chose not to reappoint Mr. Scott to the board.
According to the minutes from the board’s January meeting, the ministry said it wanted to keep the paving equipment on the Brac and the NRA paving crew to return to Grand Cayman. Then-acting managing director Paul Parchment wanted some of the smaller paving equipment returned to Grand Cayman to do trenching work.
“It was noted that the board was not involved in the original decision for the paving crew to work in the Brac and so should not be involved in the decision re. the future of the crew and equipment,” according to the January minutes.
In May, after the MOU was signed, board director Steve McField questioned whether the roads authority was “running afoul” of the roads law by delegating its responsibility for roads in the Sister Islands.
“It was explained that PWD Cayman Brac is currently acting as agents for the NRA in regards to road repairs and maintenance in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with funds provided by District Administration. It was suggested that with the onset of elections, when the new minister is elected, the board should arrange to meet with them to either continue the arrangement, change it completely or improve it,” according to the minutes.
As of 2004, all personnel performing road works in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman “should be NRA employees,” according to the minutes.