All but three of the 16 members named to the waste management steering committee work for government entities, the Caymanian Compass has confirmed.
Of the three nongovernment employees, one is Bodden Town MLA and Progressives party backbencher Alva Suckoo. The two designated private sector representatives, Woody DaCosta and Ray Farrington, unsuccessfully ran for elected office with the Progressives in West Bay last year.
Health Minister Osbourne Bodden, whose remit includes responsibility for the George Town landfill and who recently announced the appointments in the Legislative Assembly, said he would not be a member of the steering committee, to ensure its work was “neutral and free from political involvement.”
The committee, which was recently appointed, will be led by Mr. Bodden’s chief officer in the Ministry of Health, Sports, Youth and Culture, Jennifer Ahearn.
Other members include: Health Ministry deputy chief officer Nancy Barnard, ministry administrative officer Sheila Alvarez, Department of Environmental Health Assistant Director Maysson Sallam, Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Senior Assistant Financial Secretary Anne Owens, DOE environmental assessment officer Wendy Williams, Public Works project manager Jim Scott, Kiran Kumar of the Public Health department, Water Authority Cayman Director Gelia Frederick van Genderen, Hendrik van Genderen of the Water Authority Cayman, Planning Department Director Haroon Pandohie and Public Works Director Max Jones.
Mr. Bodden said the committee began meeting in late January and will have periodic meetings on the landfill management issue, from which he will be given regular updates that he will pass along to Cabinet members.
“Cabinet is relying on this steering committee to provide government with their best economic advice, to take responsibility for business issues associated with the project, to approve budgetary and procurement strategy, to define the realized benefits and to monitor the risk, quality and timeliness of the comprehensive waste management system,” Mr. Bodden said.
“This will be a fairly lengthy process,” the minister added.
The committee will be responsible for all aspects of a comprehensive waste management strategy for Cayman, not just the George Town landfill, which has ballooned to an 80-foot high mass of garbage and which has been the site of two large dump fires in the past six weeks.
A plan to seal the landfill site in George Town and open a new site in Midland Acres was shot down by Minister Bodden early in the Progressives government administration.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush queried who, apart from two private sector members already on the steering committee, would provide professional, independent advice to the ministry on the landfill issue.
“I would advise [Minister Bodden] to move quickly to get waste management knowledge outside of what we have,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bodden said the private sector would be co-opted as the government’s steering committee moves through the review process.
The minister said in January that government would deal with the George Town landfill problem “in situ,” meaning the landfill will remain where it is.
Mr. Bodden also noted that any proposal would have to be undertaken in a public-private partnership arrangement and follow proper bidding procedures according to a U.K.-ordered fiscal framework.
“The urgency of this matter has not escaped us,” said Mr. Bodden. “Our government has identified a comprehensive waste management system as a project of national importance.”
In December 2013, Cabinet approved general policy guidance for the project.
The guidelines stipulated that government would provide the Cayman Islands with a “sound and cost-effective means” to manage the disposal of all solid waste and that any solution must be done at no greater cost than what is currently spent on solid waste management.
Long-term plans for public waste would include recycling and could involve waste-to-energy options, Minister Bodden said. “Waste-to-energy is the way we would like to see this go,” he said.
However, Mr. Bodden said he would not rule out other options if they made more financial sense for government.