With the 19 Dec. referendum now delayed, the Elections Office will once again have to seek funding from government to execute the new vote on the cruise berthing and cargo port project.
Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell, responding to queries from the Cayman Compass following the Grand Court’s decision Tuesday to delay the December vote, explained all government budgetary appropriations are expiring at the end of this calendar year.
“We would have to seek supplementary appropriations in 2020 for referendum-related expenses that are incurred in 2020,” he said in an email response to the Compass.
The amount spent by the Elections Office so far is unclear as Howell said he has asked his finance team to provide the expenditures and they are still putting it together.
Earlier this year he had indicated that the referendum could cost roughly $900,000.
On Tuesday, Grand Court judge Tim Owen granted Shirley Roulstone, a member of Cayman Port Referendum Cayman, leave to apply for judicial review of the referendum.
The National Trust for the Cayman Islands, which had also filed similar legal action, agreed to join Roulstone’s case because both actions tackle the environmental aspects of the project.
The Elections Office said in a statement on Tuesday that it had paused its preparations for the referendum on government’s proposed port facility.
It said all postal ballot requests received to date that have not yet been issued will be held securely pending further developments from the Grand Court.
“All postal ballots that have been received or that are being returned to the Elections Office at present will also be kept securely,” the statement said.
The brief statement also indicated all other activities relating to the referendum such as mobile voting are also suspended.
Last week the Elections Office said a total of 280 postal ballots were issued for the referendum on government’s $200 million port project.
It said just under 30% of the postal ballots issued have been returned, with the Elections Office receiving 81 sealed postal ballot envelopes as of last Thursday.
“The courts have ordered a stay, which is a hold; the staff are therefore essentially on standby until the legal proceedings conclude,” Howell told the Compass.
He said what happens after the court’s ruling remains up in the air as there is no way to tell what the court will decide.
“Where we are now is that the courts have ordered that the referendum be put on hold to allow the judicial review application to proceed on 20 January 2020. To say if at the end of the legal proceedings the referendum will restart under the same terms or otherwise would be speculative,” Howell explained.
Meanwhile Verdant Isle Port Partners, government’s preferred bidder for the port project, has said it is looking forward to the outcome of the judicial review hearing, planned for January 2020.
“Verdant Isle Port Partners believes the information being distributed to date via a variety of channels including public and stakeholder meetings, social media, online resources and media relations, has been effective in addressing many of the concerns raised by some members of the community,” it said in a statement Wednesday.
It stressed that the commencement of negotiations as preferred bidder, it has remained firmly committed to making adjustments to the project plans to address issues raised, to ensure this project is undertaken in an environmentally responsible way.
“As we have discussed during the meetings, if the project is able to proceed, we will resume our ongoing efforts to strive for continual improvement that will minimise and mitigate the impacts of the project. Additionally, more detailed studies will be undertaken to inform any further adjustments to the plans,” the statement added.
The Opposition announced Wednesday that it has postponed its schedule of planned meetings on the port project to await the outcome of Roulstone’s judicial review.