Aims to have contracts signed and construction under way before election
Premier Alden McLaughlin insists he has not bitten off more than he can chew by taking on the landfill problem to add to his growing list of ministerial responsibilities.
Mr. McLaughlin said he is confident contracts will be signed and construction under way on new waste management facilities before the next election.
He said the project is a priority for the government and for him personally.
He added that the leadership team steering the process remains in place, despite the ministerial change. And he insisted he can handle his mounting workload.
“I don’t think it is going to affect the process in a negative way,” he said of the ministerial change. “The key component in terms of the resources and personnel that are driving this are still there. I am going to be very hands-on as far as policy decisions and strategies and so forth, but I am not running every aspect of the ministry.”
The premier was speaking as new equipment, including a new garbage compactor, was unveiled at the landfill site. It is hoped that the compactor will help reduce the risk of fires, which plagued the site last year. Ten new garbage collection trucks, scheduled to arrive later this month, have been purchased to help improve waste collection and management at the current site.
However, the search for a long-term solution continues.
A draft national strategy assessing potential options, including recycling and waste-to-energy technology, is expected to be released for public consultation next month.
Mr. McLaughlin said the likely solution would involve a mix of different waste management methods across numerous facilities. The landfill site will stay where it is, but he acknowledged other facilities, potentially including a recycling center, could be located elsewhere.
Though the facilities will not be complete by the next election, he believes a process will have been put in place that cannot be reversed by a new government – without breaking signed contracts.
“On the basis of the current plan we have, I believe that we will have contracts signed and proper facilities under construction by the time we get to the next election,” he added. Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the ministry, said the next step is public consultation over the national strategy, which should take place in February.
Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged that the sprawling landfill site remains a blight on the landscape and a barrier to development as the search for a long term fix continues.
He accepted it is a “huge negative factor” for the Dart group and its development plans in the area. But he said simply moving the problem to Bodden Town would not have fixed the issue.
“It’s a huge issue and concern for all of us – but you are not going to fix the problem by simply transferring it from here to somewhere else. We need a proper strategy that involves the whole range of options as to how we deal with solid waste.
“All the Dart group were doing [under the previous proposal] was providing land and digging four pits, which would be lined, into which the stuff would be put.
“Anything else to do with the facility was on government’s tab, and the reality is the government does not have the wherewithal on its own to create and manage proper comprehensive waste management facilities. That’s why the road we are going down must involve a high degree of private involvement.”
He said he is confident that the process his government is undertaking, while more time consuming, will deliver a better result in the long term.
“I do believe that the road down which we are going will deliver to the country, in the long term, a set of facilities which are going to be able to manage Cayman’s waste for the next 50 years.”
Mr. McLaughlin took over the health ministry, which includes responsibility for the landfill site, in a cabinet reshuffle, effective at the start of this year. Osbourne Bodden, who previously held the portfolio, was facing calls to resign over his behavior and choice of language during a heated dispute with his chief officer Ms. Ahearn in December.