Premier: 'We do not have a choice' on landfill

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Increasing public criticism of what government says will be a lengthy process in bringing a final solution to the George Town landfill problem will not dissuade his administration from its stated course, Premier Alden McLaughlin told the Cayman Economic Outlook conference Thursday morning.  

Speaking before a record crowd at the annual forum, held at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, the premier said he fully acknowledges the urgency of resolving numerous issues with the 80-foot high trash pile now visible to all cruise ship passengers entering the George Town harbor and which has caught fire twice in the past two months. But he added that government “cannot reasonably be expected to resolve [the landfill problem] overnight.”  

Mr. McLaughlin cited United Kingdom-proposed budgeting requirements placed into Cayman Islands law during the previous government’s administration that set out a specific process for public project bidding, including for any tenders government might pursue regarding the landfill.  

“We do not have a choice,” the premier said. “The process that we are required to follow is identical to the one that is being done for the cruise ship berthing project. We must create a strategic outline case, which will provide an overview of the issue and identify and broadly assess the various actions for the project. This strategic outline case will then form the basis for an outline business case, which will provide further evaluation of the options and result in better definition of the project for procurement.  

“There will also have to be an environmental impact assessment and stakeholder consultation, including public consultation. The processes that are in place under the amended Public Management and Finance Law are there in large part because of the disastrous consequences of the last tendering exercise conducted by government for a waste management solution. I’m sure my good friend, the president of the chamber [Johann Moxam], will recall this well as he was involved in that tendering exercise.” 

Premier McLaughlin referred to the previous waste management tendering process which selected Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. to negotiate a waste management solution in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands, following a June 2011 decision by then-Premier McKeeva Bush’s government, went in a different direction with Dart Realty on an entirely separate project, which eventually led to plans to create a new waste management facility in the Midland Acres area of Bodden Town.  

The Midland Acres proposal was rejected shortly after Mr. McLaughlin’s Progressives party gained a majority of seats in government following the May 2013 general election, a victory made possible by a four-seat sweep of the Legislative Assembly representatives in Bodden Town district.  

Mr. McLaughlin’s comments about Chamber of Commerce President Moxam appeared to be a dig at Mr. Moxam and the Chamber Council’s comments earlier in the week regarding the government’s perceived inaction on the landfill issue.  

Mr. Moxam clarified that a private sector group he was involved with had submitted a response to the 2010 request for proposals issued by the government on the initial landfill project. Mr. Moxam said it was “irresponsible” of the premier to disclose this in a public forum.  

The Chamber indicated its disagreement to the approach proposed by Health Minister Osbourne Bodden in the Legislative Assembly last month, stating that reams of data regarding solid waste management already exist in Cayman or are easily available through “desktop technology.”  

“The [Chamber] Council questions the merit and value of this approach, of travel, fact-finding missions and exhaustive research,” read a Feb. 4 letter from Chamber President Moxam to Minister Bodden. “In fact, we assess it to be unnecessarily protracted and unlikely to deliver value for money. 

“The failure of successive governments to find a solution is not the result of lack of information, it is the lack of clarity about what the government is trying to achieve,” Mr. Moxam continued in the letter. “It is lack of courage to make a decision in the best interest of our islands.”  

On Thursday, Mr. Moxam added: “I challenge the premier and Minister Bodden to demonstrate mature leadership, properly focus on national priorities and tell the country how they are going to fix this problem and refrain from releasing confidential information that is intended to cast negative and false aspersions as to why the Chamber decided to address this national issue.”  

Dump committee 

In late January, Minister Bodden told the Legislative Assembly that the 16-person committee he appointed would take some time to complete its review and that he hoped to have some form of remediation under way at the landfill site within two years. The committee consists of 13 civil servants or government employees, one elected member of the Legislative Assembly, and two former political candidates who sided with the ruling Progressives party in the May 2013 general elections.  

On Thursday, at the Cayman Ecnomoic Outlook forum, Mr. McLaughlin urged his audience not to confuse government’s deliberate approach on a long-term landfill solution with a lack of action in the short term. 

“We have assembled a very capable group with a tremendous depth of technical expertise that will be required to successfully steer the project through the process,” Mr. McLaughlin said of the landfill project steering committee. “But we are not simply going to sit back and do nothing while the committee takes the larger project through the procurement process. 

“There is much work that needs to be done to enhance the capacity and management of operations at the landfill. We are reviewing the situation with regards to landfill equipment. We’re also undertaking efforts at recycling and reuse, such as the recent contract to remove the scrap metal which is still ongoing, and the tender to remove the tires.”  

During the most recent landfill blaze, which broke out on Feb. 12 and lasted for more than three days, ive pieces of equipment that were supposed to be available to solid waste crews had broken down, including two excavators and two bulldozers which would have assisted firefighters in digging down to the core of the deep-seated blaze.  

Minister Bodden has said replacing that equipment would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.  

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Premier Alden McLaughlin addresses the Cayman Economic Outlook Forum Thursday. – PHOTO: BRENT FULLER

8 COMMENTS

  1. Q:How many Cayman politicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: 15 and counting… one to hold the bulb and the rest to turn the room.

    From Aldins response last night it seems that nothing has been done and this is a super complex issue they are dealing with.

    We must create a strategic outline case, which will provide an overview of the issue and identify and broadly assess the various actions for the project. This strategic outline case will then form the basis for an outline business case, which will provide further evaluation of the options and result in better definition of the project for procurement. he says.

    You need to deal with how not to add to the dump. The drivers are still going and picking up what ever is on the side of the road and making the problem bigger by the day.

  2. Oz, be careful about waiting two years on a committee review to solve the dump problem. Tails are wagging in your district and they are not playful.
    People do not take lightly to projects which take place on the eve of elections.

  3. Sorry but he’s full of it, they may not have a choice now. But that is because they rejected the offer from Dart which would not have had to go through the same long and lengthy process because it wouldn’t cost government anything. And I am also sick of his continual finger pointing at the last administration for all of Caymans financial woes when he himself played a huge part in the UK’s Budget requirements and loan restrictions being place on Cayman due to excessive spending when he was last in office. Now I am not saying the Bush didn’t cause his own set of problems but Alden is not innocent and free of fault. The only reason they won’t consider accepting Darts offer is because they are in office based on the promise of No Dump in Bodden Town and as a result everyone else has to suffer.

    The one quote the is absolutely correct is The failure of successive governments to find a solution is not the result of lack of information, it is the lack of clarity about what the government is trying to achieve. It is lack of courage to make a decision in the best interest of our islands.

    The PPM mainly Alden from what I have seen since being here in my opinion is good at casing negative and false aspersions as Maxom said against the other side but not too good at coming up with alternate solutions. While the UDP were in office and he was the opposition all he did was constantly take shots at Bush’s character doing everything he could to destroy his image while opposing everything he put on the table yet not once offering any alternatives of his own. This is a style that I have to give Bush credit for not following now while he is the opposition.

    Well it’s now clear to me that nothing is going to be done about the landfill now are for years to come so all we can do is sit back and wait again. In the end the only solutions this committee will come up with or the ones we already know about and cannot afford. The only thing we can be assured of is that there will be no Dump in Bodden Town, but we can also be assured that there will also be no fit for Mt Trashmore.

    Hopefully at the next election people will realized what happened here.

  4. In 2007, when I was working on the Matrix scrap metal contract story, it emerged that in 2006 CIG had been offered a counter proposal that would have both cleared the scrap and created an in-house recycling centre at the dump.

    Despite the fact that this plan was a simple low-cost option with considerable long-term environmental benefits, plus it would have created employment and revenue, it was ignored. The information package, which was copied to Net News and included a DVD showing a plant similar to the one proposed for Grand Cayman in operation, was not even acknowledged.

    With due respect to the Hon Premier the previous administration in which he was a minister had plenty of time to deal with this issue, ministers and civil servants even made several high profile fact finding trips to explore disposal options but these never produced any tangible results, so this story just looks like history repeating itself.

    I am not saying that setting up a re-cycling operation in 2007 would have solved all the problems but it might at least have moved the Islands further towards a modern waste disposal programme. As it is about the only thing that has changed since I first visited the Cayman Islands in 1992 seems to be the size of the garbage heap.

  5. I don’t know about you but I feel like I have been reading the same story about Mt.Trashmore for at least 10 years now.
    The government had a great cheap solution and it was called DART.
    We are still waiting for our dock and we are still waiting for this trash to be cleared.
    I will be shocked if at least one ever comes to fruition.
    Plain and simple-Our Government is a joke.

  6. Let me quote Alden…
    The process that we are required to follow is identical to the one that is being done for the cruise ship berthing project. We must create a strategic outline case, which will provide an overview of the issue and identify and broadly assess the various actions for the project. This strategic outline case will then form the basis for an outline business case, which will provide further evaluation of the options and result in better definition of the project for procurement.

    There will also have to be an environmental impact assessment and stakeholder consultation, including public consultation. The processes that are in place under the amended Public Management and Finance Law are there in large part because of the disastrous consequences of the last tendering exercise conducted by government for a waste management solution

    Never in all of my life have I heard so many words used to say absolutely NOTHING!

    My fellow Caymanians, the Emperor has on NO CLOTHES. It’s time we called him out. He delivers empty platitudes and no results.

    There is no logical reason why a government that has so much power provides so few solutions.

    What’s next? Property tax?

    I say that with tongue in cheek because I happen to know that the next expensive drive from the government will involve the politically correct topics of equality, diversity and discrimination.

    The real issues won’t be touched. I know the decent, middle-class, working Caymanians are busy keeping their heads above water, but if they continue to be silent, the Pied Piper will play any tune he wants and the masses will follow.

    Alden you represent something, but it sure isn’t the Caymanian people.

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