New schools could be facing more trouble

| 21/10/2010

(CNS): The new public high school development projects may have run into further difficulties as the longest running sub-contractor has begun demobilising workers from the sites. A joint statement from the Education Ministry and Caribbean Mechanical released yesterday states that this removal was to “allow the new construction management arrangements to be implemented”, though it was not clear what those arrangements would be. Following the government’s announcement on 15 September that the construction management contract for the schools has been awarded to a local consortium, the minister said he expected full mobilisation by 15 October but to date the sites remain inactive.

The ministry said on Wednesday, however, that government now anticipates that arrangements with the new construction manager, including mobilisation of its work force, would be finalised this week.

The statement said government was “formalising the new contractual arrangements under which the construction manager will be engaged at the new high schools projects, along with the terms on which the remaining trades will return to the project sites.”

The announcement was also made that Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools 2008) Limited, which has been on the project since its inception, was demobilising workers from both of the schools sites because, the statement revealed, “the company’s work is now well in advance of the other trades,” and “this demobilisation will allow the new construction management arrangements to be implemented."

“In addition, the Ministry is also preparing to issue multiple new trade contracts to the contractors who will be managed by the new construction manager and additional tender packages, for a number of work scopes, which will be advertised in the next two weeks,” the statement read.

The school projects have been embroiled in a number of controversies, which escalated when Tom Jones International, the general contractor, walked off the job one year ago, saying that government was not in a position to meet its financial obligations to the firm for the project. Government is now embroiled in a costly legal battle with the firm.

CNS contacted Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools 2008) and the education minister for clarification of the current situation but no one was available for further comment at the time. 

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Comments (32)

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  1. Shock and Awe says:

    Kind of telling.  When the new Government Palace is "on Time" "on Budget" and ready to rock and new schools are put in the Soon Come category.  Especially when it appears it’s the government that needs to go back to school.  Starting with Remedial Math.  Yo!!!  Were you away that day there’s… no money!!!! For your trips, for your cars, fences,etc. We’re in debt.  Debt:  D E B T  say after us: Debt. pronounced DET.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This ongoing fiasco, in my mind, clearly points to incompetence in the both the ministry and department of education. Professional project management is lacking.

    Solution? HIre competent professionals to manage the projects and keep the politicians’ grubby fingers out of the pie.

    • Anonymous says:

      That will never be done as long as the current crop of Caymanian leaders are still in office.

    • CSI says:

      So true.  And remember, when they broke ground on these projects, they were meant to be open for September 2009, then September 2010, then September 2011 – not sure where this list will end.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "Government is now embroiled in a costly legal battle with the firm"

    Note: COSTLY in that statement.

    Did I miss something here?  I thought the government was in overwhelming debt…Where did they get the money to afford to be involved in said legal battles (especially when they couldn’t pay the first contractor in the first place), buy TWO new SUVs and erect perimeter fences…

    This can not continue…something must be done to change the way things are heading.  They always talk about the future of our youth in the Cayman Islands…then make our youth the top monetary priority – finish the schools and stop setting your priorities elsewhere with foolish spending…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes I have to really wonder if the PPM government had got back in if these schools whould have been completed by now or is it  just the UDP government causing all these alarms and refusing to finish these school to make the pervious government look bad . Becasue if this counrty is broke why is it that premier and everyone else on his team can be traveling the world  buying this and that building the wall of China  come on now Mr.Bush everyone isnt as arogant as you are people wake up there has to be money so why is it that the civil servants had to take a pay cut why isnt these schools finish but everything that you and your team wanted  there can be money find . Dont worry Mr.Bush & Julianna You will have a higher authority to answer to and all the BS una have done it will be pay back.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have an answer, cancel the 9 million Brac building project and divert the money to finishing these schools.

  6. Me says:

    After issues faced by current contractor with government, a new contractor would have to be fairly stupid to sign on for this

  7. Anonymous says:

    I realize that is now not politically correct to blame the PPM government for this school construction disaster but everytime I hear an update to this mess I get pissed off all over again.

    These buildings are now a money pit with nothing to show but liability.  Were I the PPM I would hide my face in shame at even the mention of this disaster.

    Drive by there and have your stomach turn over. I am disgusted. Does anyone have an answer before these buildings look like the Hyatt?

    • Anonymous says:

       But how is it that we can’t build the schools but can take many all expense paid trips all over the world and many other things that are too long to list?  I don’t know why you people can’t get it into your head: you were lied to.  There is money it’s just that our children are not the present government’s priority.  Actually, all that is important to them is me, me me.

      • Anonymous says:

        Because "we" is uneducated XXXXX.  And makeing the best of a culture that turns its back on crime.  Understand?

    • BORN FREE says:

      The "money pit" my dear friend is the UDP’s Boatswain Beach attraction (oh sorry, my bad…….finally it has been renamed Cayman’s Turtle Farm). That is our biggest "money pit" because apart from costing us twice what it should have, it continues to cost our government over $10 million every year just to keep it operational. That is Cayman’s biggest "money pit" & we can blame no one but Mckeeva Bush. Please do not complain about the schools which are badly needed (as admitted by 5 successive governments). These new schools when finished will also be used as hurricane shelters, sports centres, community centres, & much much more. What good is the present Boatswain beach (turtle farm) because it sure does not attract many tourists!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Looks to me like Rolston is saying "We have no money to pay you – right now."

    However, whenever they get the money, my guess is that the Premier has a few "projects" and more overseas travel that will take priority over the schools.

    • Anonymous says:

      If they don’t have the money to pay for these buildings now what will they do when they are actually in use.  The buildings don’t exactly look like energy efficiency was a prime factor in design.

      White Elephants to the extreme if you ask me.

      • David R. Legge says:

        Energy efficient? It is my understanding these schools do not include any "green" technology or even eco-friendly design. Don’t ask me why (because I don’t know), but I do know they will cost a fortune to maintain when, if ever, they open for students.

        Regardless of what readers think of their architecture and design, one thing is indisputable: They are fiscal monstrosities, and you don’t need a economic paternity test to identify the "father" of these stillborn twins: The proud papa is the Hon. Alden McLaughlin, former Minister of Education.

        • Anonymous says:

          XXXXX

          I wonder if Mr. Legge could do a paternity test on the former Boatswain’s Beach and help us identify the reckless father.

        • Anonymous says:

          The "proud papa" of the two new schools is the Hon. Alden Mclaughlin, and he should be. As far as I’m concerned it is rather rude of Mr. Legge to make these comments for two reasons (& it has nothing to do with the fact that despite Mr. Legge’s frequent boasts that he is a former writer or editor of a major US newspaper he cannot write properly: "don’t need a economic" as opposed to "an economic"):

          1/. Mr. Legge’s country, the US, has just completed one of many planned schools at a cost of over $250 million each. I know that Mr. Legge will probably say he does not agree with that either, but I think it would be more fitting if, before tearing down what Alden Mclaughlin did in Cayman, he criticizes those who are building those $250 million schools in his country.

          2/. Mr. Legge will never do as much good for our Cayman Islands as what Alden Mclaughlin has done in his short time. We need new schools, it is as simple as that, & Alden Mclaughlin did what many education ministers only talked about doing. These schools are for future generations, for the future of these islands & we are thankful for his efforts. We are glad he was not just full of hot air & promises like other ministers in the past. 

          We are proud of "papa"!!

          • O'Really says:

            Why is it that if a Caymanian can find a worse example of abuse, corruption or waste overseas, this automatically justifies a local problem? I don’t deny new schools were needed, but aiming for the Rolls Royce of schools when a BMW would have done just as well is a reflection of Alden’s ego gone mad, not sensible government planning.

            And please don’t give me the " Caymanian children deserve the best" line. Like children everywhere, they need comprehensive and appropriate facilities, good teachers and parents who care about their education and the first two criteria could have been achieved at a cost the country could bear had the need to build a monument to Alden been eliminated from the equation.

            • Anonymous says:

               If we had to choose between our children getting a Rolls Royce or McKeever and Julie spending on themselves: the chose is simple- we choose our Rolls Royce.

              No one is saying that the schools shouldn’t have been scaled down but looking at the comparisons of investment in ourselves: Turtle Farm is a loss.  Investing in our children: PRICELESS!

              • O'Really says:

                Like you, I will take schools over tourist attractions any day. But what is the point of getting priorities right if the ego’s of the individuals in charge are then allowed to run riot to the point where the projects are left incomplete? Would you rather have the schools completed to an adequate but less costly standard, or sitting idle? Would you rather have had them built one at a time, so that one was completed and open now, with the second project on hold or go for both and fail? Would you prefer to provide capital for the new government administration building at the same time as taking on two schools or concentrate on the schools and get them done? And since I am not motivated by politics at all, would you prefer the government to finish the administration building with scarce capital or finish one of the schools?

                Cayman is in a deep hole and how we got here is a combination of external factors and internal factors. We cannot control the external factors, as BigMac and crew are painfully learning. Internal factors are a different kettle of fish but I see every sign that nothing has been learned from the current crisis. If posters like you give credit to Alden for getting the school projects up and running, but overlook the massive errors in judgement and failure to execute which resulted in the current mess ( and more importantly kids being denied the facilities they so badly need for who knows how long), what hope that we can learn from past mistakes and avoid them in the future?

                You want to invest in your children? Stop excusing poor performance in your politicians of whichever party, elect only those who genuinely have the best interest of the country at heart ( good luck finding many of those ) and pressure sitting MLA’s to earn their salary the hard way, here on island and working for the people.  

        • Anonymous says:

          I really have to wonder about Legge. D’s motives in his comments with the usual sarcastic tone. Why did we not hear from the sarcastic Legge.D. after the illadvised & disasterous redevelopment of the former turtle farm that cost this country million & millions of dollars (wasted money) & has continued to cost us millions & millions? I would have to assume that with Legge. D. it all depends who is behind the project because I do not know about him but give me new schools anyday over a failing Boatswain Beach attraction. New schools are for the children & future generations of our country, but he cannot say the same about the failing Boatswain Beach project. And who was the father of the failing Boatswain Beach project? The proud papa is the Hon. Mckeeva Bush, the present minister of tourism.
          Why then, did we not hear from Legge. D. about Mr. Bush’s Boatswain Beach mistake? I wonder!

          • David R. Legge says:

            Oh, I’m getting tired of posting and am probably boring the CNS readership to sleep, but I do want to keep the "debate" honest and based on the facts.

            I have been a frequent, vocal, and public critic of the Boatswain’s Beach debacle. I have done this in my own SIGNED COLUMNS in Grand Cayman Magazine, which I publish. (If there is any interest, I’ll be happy to "quote myself" to CNS readers chapter and verse from my writings.)

            The reality is that the Turtle Farm, aka Boatswain’s Beach, and now again the Turtle Farm has been a financial and tourism disaster. It cost approximately $60 million to build, has been totally mismanaged, and last year lost more than $11 million—nearly a million dollars a month!

            As I’ve pointed out many times in my magazine, on the radio, and at televised press conferences, the entire UCCI operating budget last year was only $7.2 million.

            Think of that: Boatswain’s Beach: $60 million up front and $11 million a year in losses. UCCI, the highest institution of public learning in the Cayman Islands, $7.2 million to run the entire enterprise for an entire year. Something is very wrong with these priorities, and I’ve been far from silent in pointing this out.

            • Rabble Rouser says:

              What you have conveniently chosen to ignore is that in all of your criticism of Boatswain’s Beach you have never once made any pointed remarks about the "proud papa" of that debacle.

              Alden is more than capable of speaking out in his own defense, and undoubtedly far more eloquently than most of us, but as a journalist (that’s you, not me) you just dropped your pants in public and everyone was able to see the colour of your underwear.

              • David R. Legge says:

                ‘Rabble Rouser’ is making a pitifully petty point. I would have to review my own writings and utterances (unless he is more of an expert on them than I am) to see whether I’ve dealt with the "paternity" of the Boatswain’s Beach debacle. Whether I have or I haven’t, I’m not the slightest bit reluctant to do so here and now.

                Everyone knows, including myself, that Boatswain’s Beach was "McKeeva’s baby." The project was initiated by the then-Leader of Government Business (now Premier) and his administration.To my way of thinking, the project made little sense then and less sense now. I believe factored into the thinking at the timewas the development of a "dock" in West Bay for cruise ship passengers which, in turn, would feed tourists through the turnstiles at Boatswain’s Beach.

                Although I wasn’t privy to the financial projections, that, too, made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine—and still can’t—how you could possibly generate enough tourism traffic to repay the $60 million in construction costs in addition to the outrageously high operating costs of running the place. (I believe, until recent staff reductions, approximately 100 employees were working at Boatswain’s Beach, and I repeat, the facility last year lost more than $11 million that this country doesn’t have.)

                I think the current Managing Director Tim Adam is doing a good job, but both he and I know that raising the price of turtle meat, or even reducing staff size, is not going to make much of a dent in solving the intractable problems and debt of the Turtle Farm. The financial sinkhole is simply too deep to be filled, and the facility probably needs to be dramatically scaled back, closed, or, if possible, repurposed or privatized.)

                Final points:

                I was drawn into the Boatswain’s Beach discussion by a previous poster who suggested incorrectly that I had never publicly criticized the project. It is, however, worth recalling that the topic of this "thread" is the difficulties completing the two new schools which were initiated under the then-Minister of Education, the Hon. Alden McLaughlin.

                Cayman could not then, and cannot now, afford these schools. For those not paying attention to the fiscal condition of this country—and the impact these new schools have had in bringing us to the brink of bankruptcy—I refer you to a long letter in last Friday’s (October 22) Caymanian Compass, signed by Messrs. Truman Bodden and John McLean. Mr. Bodden, you will recall, is a former Minister of Education. They wrote:

                "The PPM Government borrowed excessively on the two new high schools and the administrative building and super highways which Cayman could not afford. They committed the present and future Governments to complete the contracts and pay for these and the massive loans."

                While I would personally much prefer to build schools over Boatswain’s Beaches, the reality, given our shrinking population and diminishing economic base, is we should have been looking at modest affordable schools (built one at a time, not two simultaneously)—certainly not the gold-plated, energy inefficient, expansive campus called Clifton Hunter that to date remains a behind-schedule, underfunded, legally challenged, partially built, uninhabited sarcophagus on Frank Sound Road.

        • Thinking before speaking... says:

          Is Mr Legge a researcher and/or speech writer for the Premier and/or other governmentMministers – and if so, is he willing to give the dollar figure of the fiscal strain his said contract puts on Cayman’s coffers?

          • David R. Legge says:

            Ah, this one I can answer. I am not, and never have been, a speechwriter (or a researcher) for the Premier, for any other Government minister, for any elected member of the Legislative Assembly, or for any Government department. In fact, since we formed our company more than 15 years ago, we have never received one cent in compensation from Government for this kind of work.

            Also, we have never worked for either political party or on their election campaigns. We simply do not engage in that kind of partisan work.

            From time to time, I’ve been asked to act as the "spokesperson" for some rather high-profile individuals, such as former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Judge Alex Henderson, Burmon Scott (just a tiny bit of work for Burmon), and a few others. I take on these assignments simply because I believe the people involved have been unfairly and unjustly accused. I have never asked for, nor ever received, one cent in compensation for any of this work. Many people, especially when they are under stress and duress, are not comfortable in dealing with the media. If I believe in them— and believe I can help—I will do my best, and I will never send them a bill.

            On another level, although we are a small firm, we donate tens of thousands of dollars annually in goods, design services, printing, and financial contributions to worthwhile Cayman causes and organizations.

            So, to your point: The Cayman Islands Government might be racking up record levels of debt, but it’s not because they’ve been writing any checks to me!

            • Anonymous says:

              Somehow you forgot to mention that you are also the spokesperson for Tom Jones International – the contractor hired by Alden’s ministry. Given how this conversation started that’s a major slip. I can understand why you might take pity on Burmon but I find it hard to understand why you would volunteer to speak for people and organizations that could well afford to pay for a PR representative unless you wanted to get involved for whatever reason. I don’t think you get much in the way of kudos for philanthropic gestures for a major corporation or a grand court judge. There are plenty of opportunities here for reaching out to people who are really suffering injustices whose causes would not be front page news.

              • David R. Legge says:

                I did represent Tom Jones International, but not "pro bono." They were a paying client.

                I’m afraid that neither I (nor PR) can solve all the problems or injustices in the world—or even on the island. Nevertheless, if people are being victimized by the "state" (as I believe Commissioner Kernohan, Judge Henderson, and Burmon Scott were), I find it very difficult NOT to get involved. These are moral imperatives—not business ones—and that’s why I don’t charge.

                In a very real way, Cayman News Service provides a similar "service," making available its space for legitimate grievances.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you for signing your name Mr. Legge as you always do. We have known each for other for quite a few years. I am quite familiar with your past magazines as we even advertised in some of them  and attending many of the same functions sometimes hosted by me for our Company. I remember you chasing the Former Minister of Education the Honorable Alden McLaughlin when he was in power to take his photograph and print is photograph in your beautiful magazine. I have notice that you have a tendacy to sit on the fence. You go with thewinners of the time.Noboby can disagree with that. Just look at the magazines right ? The difference between you and I is I have GOOD friends on both sides of the fence and I have never hidden it. If i am not happy I will tell you because election day is" WE THE PEOPLE DAY" and sometimes we have to wait and see who will do what and pay the consequences for a while. I hope you can vote now ! Alden, I consider a very good friend and I ‘m offended by your comment. I have known him many years and he as always shown me the same face and with him is what you see is what you get( he even represented an aqaintance of ours, remember againts me ) and he has never been afraid of speaking his mind because . I remember one day he told me Boy Michel when I was an attorney I was making money but being a politician that his honest apart from the salary, your private family life ain’t there and you really have to care about what you do. And I could say the same about many others on the other side of the fence in the past and now. No their all not perfect but show me one that is. Show me one that is perfect and I’ll let him cast the first stone. It was nice blogging to a face I know. And no disrespect Mr. Legge we can agree to disagree like the good old days. I know you have spoken your mind in the past not necessary on popular subject before you received your status and your still here. Regards to Mrs. Legge.

      • Anonymous says:

        The only energy efficient items in these schools was the hot water solar heaters for the gyms and were deleted for cost saving.  Save peanuts now to spend bundles later in operation.

  9. Anonymous says:

    these projects and contracts will again turn  into a huge costly disaster……

    “formalising the new contractual arrangements under which the construction manager will be engaged at the new high schools projects, along with the terms on which the remaining trades will return to the project sites’……zzzz….who writes this nonsense??????

  10. Anonymous says:

      Could it be that after all that has transpired and with the impending court case coming up that the subcontractor was smart enough to pull out while the getting was good?  Sounds like just good business practice.  Just keep watching as the Ministries keep showing the world how little they know about how to do their jobs and yet even more money that could have been spent on actual education is squandered on stupidity.  Too funny Cayman. CIG is one expensive comedy show.