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Plans for Cayman Islands’ Bodden Town Hurricane Shelter moving ahead

Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo, the deputy leader of the Opposition, (Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018) thanked Government for moving ahead on long-advocated arrangements for the completion of the Bodden Town Church of God building for purposes of adding to the quota of the district’s hurricane shelter facilities.

“It is hoped that this project will be completed in time for the 2019 hurricane season,” said Mr. Suckoo, who, along with Savannah MLA Anthony Eden and Bodden Town West MLA Christopher Saunders, has been advocating over the last six years for the completion of the building as a shelter.

The news came in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Mr. Suckoo at last week’s meeting of the Legislative Assembly on the progress being made to resume works for the shelter’s completion. The building works had been suspended in 2011 when anticipated funding became unavailable.

In response to Mr. Suckoo’s question, the Minister responsible for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, the Hon. Joseph Hew, said that the Public Works Department (PWD) and Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) were collaborating on a draft agreement on the roles and responsibilities of HMCI and the Bodden Town Church of God regarding the use of the facility.  PWD was concurrently preparing the drawing package to be used in the tendering process for selection of a suitable contractor, the Minister said.

On completion, the Church of God facility will complement the two current shelters for the district—the Bodden Town Primary School, the use of which as a hurricane shelter could considerably impact the school’s continuity as an educational institution post-hurricane—and the Civic Centre, Mr. Suckoo said.

In addition to the limitations in number, neither shelter is currently rated to withstand a hurricane above Category 3, the MLA said.

The plan to resume works at the Church of God shelter would help considerably to mitigate the shelter deficiencies, Mr. Suckoo said, expressing appreciation to Minister Hew: “I pay special tribute to Minister Hew for pushing the project forward, in contrast to the previous administration’s negligible effort in four years to advance the project.”

Recounting his recent efforts to move Government to address this critical need, Mr. Suckoo said that the Opposition’s appeal to Government had again risen to the fore in 2016 when the Legislature had approved $2 million for an additional hurricane shelter for Cayman Brac.

In conjunction with that move, Mr. Suckoo said, the Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Deputy Premier & Minister for District Administration, Tourism and Transport, had given an undertaking that a comparatively small allocation would be found to bring the church building to a stage at which it could be used as a shelter.

At that time, Mr. Suckoo had asked that a maximum of CI$125,000 be earmarked for the resumption of the long-suspended construction works to fully enclose the building, the MLA said.

Nothing having materialized from Minister Kirkconnell’s commitment, Mr. Suckoo again put the concern forward for consideration in the 2017 Government budget—when he said that the building could be completed as originally envisaged for under $2 million.

That similarly failed to gain the necessary support to move the project forward, he said.

In making the case at the time for Government’s investment in the project, Mr. Suckoo had said that it was envisaged that the hall could additionally serve as a community centre, hosting district events such as school concerts, graduations, and other gatherings too large for current district venues.

Now with Hurricane Isaac aiming at the Cayman Islands this week, he said, the availability and standards of hurricane shelter provisions for the district were once again at the fore of concerns.

Expressing his frustration at the pace of response to filling the void, Mr. Suckoo said, “Our government had in the meantime been reaching out to other Caribbean countries offering help in their times of crisis.”

While he supported that initiative as a neighbourly gesture, the MLA said, “It was frustrating to think that at the same time the safety of our own people was being given such a low priority,” and added: “With the inadequacy of shelter facilities for Bodden Town, especially for residents of low-lying areas, God forbid that we should have another Ivan this year.”

Nevertheless, the MLA said that the Opposition is grateful the project is at long last moving forward.

However, Mr. Suckoo said, “We must underscore that the delay in the resumption of works on the Bodden Church of God building has not been without its serious associated risks.”

He appealed to Government to consider the consequences of inaction and delay in areas of public safety: “We have to do better—this cavalier attitude on the part of those charged with the responsibility for the safety of its own people is not only disturbing it also borders on dereliction of duty.”


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