In an effort to get garbage pick-ups back on schedule, government announced on Thursday that Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services Director Richard Simms has been temporarily appointed as the acting director of the Department of Environmental Health.
Mr. Simms is filling the role left by Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter, who has been on unspecified leave from the department since late last year. Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit Manager Mark Bothwell has also been seconded to serve as the Department of Environmental Health’s acting assistant director (solid waste).
The announcement stated that Messrs. Simms and Bothwell, who have been seconded from their positions by Acting Governor Franz Manderson, have been meeting with the department’s 140 workers to emphasize their responsibilities to deliver on a key public service.
“Garbage collection is extremely important to the health, beauty and reputation of the Cayman Islands. Our goal is to ensure that the work that we do to keep the Cayman Islands clean also provides the people of the country with value for money,” stated Mr. Bothwell.
Residents across Cayman have reported late and inconsistent collections since late last year.
In May, the then Deputy Governor Manderson apologized on behalf of the civil service for the situation, and promised that it would be solved soon.
He blamed a combination of equipment problems, staff shortages, staff absenteeism and issues with the management of overtime at the Department of Environmental Health for persistent problems with roadside collections.
He said at the time that a number of employees at the Department of Environmental Health had been disciplined, adding that these workers were letting themselves, their colleagues and the community down through non-attendance and poor performance.
He said “emergency appointments,” including solid waste drivers and assistants, and support staff for the fleet manager, had been made to address staff shortages.
Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn stated in the press release that the DEH management team was now “back to full strength,” so the department will be able to dedicate more time to improving overall garbage collection processes.
Private sector companies have also been engaged to “plug gaps” in cases of equipment failure, and a vehicle replacement strategy is being drawn up to address the aging fleet of garbage collection vehicles.
Government has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime to its staff to address the delays in garbage pick-ups.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said in Legislative Assembly on June 29 that the Department of Environmental Health was paying staff $100,000 per month in overtime for garbage collection as of late 2017, and continues to pay about $25,000 per month since the start of this year.