July 26, 2021

Prospect brightens for reducing gap in Cayman Islands District’s shelter provisions

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Alva Suckoo

Following the posting of an advertisement in connection with the completion of the long-delayed Bodden Town Church of God multipurpose hall, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo, this week thanked Government for activating the project designed to help close the gap in the district’s hurricane shelter provisions.

On completion, the building, whose construction works were abruptly cut short in 2011, is expected to significantly boost both capacity and capability of the district’s hurricane shelter facilities.

Government has set a February-11 deadline for submission of bids by qualified architectural design consultants. This will set in motion arrangements for the construction works and all that that entails.

As far as the current status of the building, it has had a roof on it as part of the original construction works, since when the church has been engaged, at its own initiative and expense, in the installation of windows and doors. As part of the final effort to close the building, the church is awaiting some steel doors that have been on order for some time now.  

According to church officials, the main structure having been done, the works to come include electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, and internal and external finishing.  A generator will complete its readiness as a purpose-built Category 5 hurricane shelter, although unlikely to be completed by the end of the 2019 hurricane season. Current projections are more in line with readiness for the 2020 season.

Church officials say that they intend to remain closely involved and will be organising a core group of members skilled and experienced in construction to maintain a level of oversight to ensure maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Plans for upgrading of another of the district’s shelter, the Bodden Town Primary School assembly hall, are reported to be progressing as well. 

“This is also welcome news, although I have not been informed as to whether the upgrading of the school auditorium will be ready for the 2019 season,” Mr. Suckoo said. “Nevertheless, I am grateful that Government has at last taken action to enable the Church of God multipurpose hall to take its place in due course in boosting the quota of hurricane shelter facilities for the district.” 

The news of the planned resumption of works for the church hall comes against a background of advocacy by Mr. Suckoo and his colleagues, MLAs Anthony Eden and Christopher Saunders, that began at the parliamentary level in a Finance Committee meeting back in June 2017.  At the time Finance Committee was debating a $2-million additional shelter for Cayman Brac. 

In conjunction with the Brac shelter proposal, Mr. Suckoo had contemplated a motion to secure $125,000 to re-start the stalled Bodden Town building to make it serviceable as a shelter. However, he had dropped the idea, the MLA said, when the Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for District Administration, promised help in securing funding.

Last September, the promised funding having failed to materialize, Mr. Suckoo revived the issue in a parliamentary question tabled at the Cayman Brac meeting of the Legislative Assembly.

With this week’s announced developments, Mr. Suckoo paid tribute to the Hon. Joseph Hew, Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, for his formal initiation of the long-stalled project.

Nevertheless, while heartened that the church hall project is now moving, the availability and standards of hurricane shelter provisions for the district for the 2019 season are once again at the fore of his and his colleagues’ worry list, Mr. Suckoo said.

“Beyond the immediate concerns, we hope that there will be no delays in the resumption of works for the completion of the Church of God multipurpose hall, and that the upgrading of the school’s auditorium will move forward with the necessary haste,” the MLA said, as “these delays are not without serious associated risks.”

In the interim, Mr. Suckoo said that he and his colleagues would be meeting in the next few weeks with Government’s Hazard Management to discuss arrangements for shelter accommodations for the district of Bodden Town for the 2019 season.

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