School projects in limbo

| 10/12/2009

(CNS): Over a month after his workers were laid-off by Tom Jones International (TJI) one local contractor is crossing his fingers and hoping his men will be back on the job very soon. Although the government’s new project manager has been meeting with the sub-contractors, no firm plans have yet been set in place, even though it is over two weeks since government issued the former general contractor TJI with a notice to quit work.  Alan Roffey, the owner of Androgroup and Caribbean Mechanical Limited, said it is time to get the men back to work.

As speculation mounts that government plans to take on the school projects without a general contractor but by co-ordinating the sub contractors under its own project manager, Roffey says he thinks that would be a sensible option. “We have met with David Benoit but no firm decisions have been made on the way forward,” Roffey told CNS. “We sincerely believe that we ought to be part of the solution and hope that solution is agreed quickly so we can get our people, particularly our Caymanian tradesmen, back to work.”

Several hundred workers have been laid-off among the various sub-contractors that were working on the two sites, many of them Caymanian, as a result of the works stoppage in early November when the impasse between TJI and the government reached stalemate.

Since then, Roffey’s firm, Caribbean Mechanical Limited, has sued TJI for over $2.2million for unpaid work, which he says government has already paid the general contractor. Following that, negotiations with TJI completely broke down and the government issued a seven-day notice to quit to the contractor just over two weeks ago. TJI then filedits own writ against government for $3million, which government has said it will defend as the money is not due.

The dispute surrounds a number of issues including more than $15 million in disputed change orders as well as TJI’s demands for surety. It has said on a number of occasions that it does not believe the government has enough money to pay the contractor to complete the two high school projects at the John Gray High School campus in George Town and the new Clifton Hunter site in Frank Sound.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly one week ago, Minister for Education Rolston Anglin said that it was government’s position that TJI had wrongfully abandoned the projects, breaching the contract. He said that plans would be announced shortly on the way forward. However, CNS contacted the ministry yesterday (Wednesday 9 December) and is awaiting a response.

Speculation has been mounting throughout the week that government may press ahead as its own general contractor on the Clifton Hunter site and possible delay the JGHS project until after that school is finished. Aside from the need to get the schools completed before 2010 to accommodate growing student numbers and changes to the education system, with unemployment on the increase and Christmas around the corner government is under pressure to get Caymanians back to work.

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  1. what a mess says:

    Cayman Islands govt. should have used McAlpine, Hadsphaltic or Arch and Godfrey…or better yet a combination by negociating a way to share all.

    Furthermore CIG should have staggered the projects. This in itself would have helped to create competetiveness as such large scale projects would have been less scarce. And would have required less money be found per annum to finance same. The whole world knew and said an economic slowdown was upon the entire world. Yet our leaders said "it won’t affect us". How silly a statement even then…how sad now.

    The companies listed above have invested in Cayman for many decades… and i’ve never heard of such actions as those by TJI…yet CIG hired Tom Jones (who the heck is TJI)?

    Sounds similar to Matrix, the helicopter fiasco, changing the Turtle Farm to Boatswain Beach, the President of UCCI fiasco just to name a few examples of maladmistration.


  2. Anonymous says:

    If truth be told, Sir John Cumber would aptly qualify as a true National Hero. I am not sure if he ever held Caymanian Status so whether or not he would be eligible is debateable. However, it was Sir John’s vision which saw the creation of the MRCU (under Dr. Marco Giglioli) without which the development of these Islands as a tourist destination would definitely not not have matured. From that, the first Tourism portfolio in Executive Council and the first Dept. of Toruism were formed and flourished. Sir John also implemented the Cadastral Survey program which put an end to land ownership squabbles depending on boundaries marked by ‘grandpa’s breadruit tree’ or ‘my old well’, etc. and established defined property boundaries – which of course opened the islands for real estate development. Then there was his vision of creating the Caymans as a financial centre and the creation of the Chamber of Commerce. Sir John also recognized that he had exceptional, qualified and dedicated civil servants around him, whom he charged with the realization of his vision for these islands. Hence, men like Desmond Watler, Vassel Johnson, Harry McCoy were assigned these administrative duties – their works speak for themselves. In addition, on the political side, were men with true statesmanship qualities, like Berkley Bush, Warren Conolly and others who ensured that Cumber’s vision had the political support to ensure their realization.  All of this saw the ‘preparatory’ developments of the late 60’s and early 70’s andled to the 1972 Development Plan, an excellent roadmap for where we could have been had it not been trashed by Jim & his broomsticks of the 1976 Government.  

    So, Sir John Cumber’s consideration as a National Hero is certainly in order. BTW, for those who might not make the connection, he is the father of the Cumber family which stayed, made Cayman their home, became Caymanians and continue to contribute to our development and economy. If his professional contributions are not enough convince some, his family’s decisions in that respect should say something about Sir John’s love and dedication for these islands. 

    • longtermnewcomer says:

      Thank you for this article which rather puts things into perpective. Sir John Cumber was a truly outstanding Administrator with great foresight and should not be forgotten.Much of the work he started was carried on by Athol Long who had to stand strong against those who protested the implimentation of the Cadastal Survey.Oh happy days.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The project needs to be managed by a top quality international organisation and managed and performed by top quality international workers rather than sabotaging the future of our children to protect the jobs for the boys brigade.

  4. Streete Khred says:

    Perhaps we should have another honour to bestow on our esteemed leaders, what with National Heroes, OBEs, MBEs and the like?

    How about Honorary Pirate?

    Oh yes I forgot, "Save Our Schools".

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow — don’t know who you are but you seem to pinpointed the source of a great many problems. If only they could be corrected now.


    Seems the present is a good time:

    1. environmental bill

    2. school completion — with the vocational training capabilities

    3. stop #7 with fair employment practice

    It maybe 10 years before you see the results but you have to start somewhere.

    Good luck!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well written, we all have very short memories. Thanks for reminding us how we got to this point.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Today’s Caymanian Compass features a letter to the Editor signed by Truman Bodden and John McLean, criticising the PPM’s education policy and specifically the management of that policy by ex-Education Minister Alden McLaughlin. Generally, I support the criticism of the PPM and Mr. McLaughlin in regards to some facets of their education policy but I question where Mr. Bodden and Mr. McLean have ANY room to criticize ANY Government since 1984 ( that being the year when their National Team Government was voted from office), on ANY matter!

    The National Team Government of 1976-1984, under Jim Bodden’s leadership, was the Government which did the majority of damage which is now manifested in many of the woes we are experiencing in this country today – more than any single Government before or since! To wit, the National Team Government:

    1. discarded the 1972 Development Plan which, among many visionary items and processes, included a multi-lane carriageway from George Town to West Bay, before the east side of West Bay Road was developed, thereby making the construction of such a carriageway vastly easier then than what was undertaken by the last Government in extending the bypass to its current location.  

    2. in discarding said 1972 Plan, did not replace it with any real Plan but instead fostered the total wanton and unplanned development of Grand Cayman, especially the Seven Mile Beach. 

    3. Mr. Truman was Education Minister when the National Team discontinued vocational training (woodwork, mechanics/tech drawing, home economics) in the high school, which had been a part of the high school curriculum up until that point. Their intent was to create a vocational college on the site of the old compound behind the Public Library. They started with a marine training institute which soon disintegrated and therefore no other vocational training ever materialized. Not saying that their concept wasn’t reasonable but they established the marine college (vocational college phase 1) using retired Caymanian seamen as the instructors. Again, sounds reasonable on paper; problem was, many of those seamen had worked their way up on ships (I believe some were licensed engineers) – they were not trained how to impart their knowledge to others in an academic setting. Just because I know a subject does not necesarily mean I can teach it. Essentially, the marine college concept failed because those retired seamen couldn’t teach. From that point on, no emphasis was placed on other vocational subjects. 

    4. OK, so here we are in the late ’70’s & early ’80’s with unparalleled, mushrooming development, our schools system not developing children with vocational skills, what do we do? Obviously, import labour.

    5. that was the primary foundation of our immigration issue which itself has developed without any real management into the mess we have now.

    6. National Team is also responsible for the ‘misplaced Nationialism and entitlement culture’ evident in many of our younger generation. I know, I was at their meetings (not as a supporter but as a concerned citizen) – the same meetings where they disrespectfully told voters that if they (politicians) dressed up broomsticks they (the electorate) would vote for them – and witnessed the rhetoric that ‘foreigners are taking away your jobs’ and ‘you are Caymanian, you deserve these jobs’. Perhaps their intent was noble but I can assure you their delivery was clearly devisive!!  The parents would leave these meetings and regurgitate that rhetoric in their homes, hence the ‘entitled and under-equipped generation’ we now experience, with the associated baggage of anti-foreigner sentiments.

    7. Political interference. No Government prior to 1976 had the hallmark of interfering with civil service and private sector alike. Everyone knows Big Jim could reach out and ‘touch’ whomever he wanted. He could either force someone to employ someone (qualified or not) or to dismiss someone  (justified or not).

    8. Ineptness in the public service. Because of #7 above a lot of unqualified and inept people ended up in public service jobs. Just look at our civil service today, need I say more?

    9. Political cronyism, mismanagement of public funds and questionable ethics. How many people got jobs for which they were not qualified just because of #7 above??? Remember Big Jim’s brother-in-law being appointed as CAL’s Head of Security at CI$60,000 per year (late 1970’s/early 1980’s – about twice that in today’s dollars)? He would fly up to Miami on CAL 102 every morning, conduct his own business in Miami all day and fly back on CAL 107 each night. As to questionable ethics, which politician before or since has been called to testify as a defence witness in a major cocaine trial. Not to speak of the notorious Italian and other associates!!

    So Mr. Truman and Mr. John, you guys were the EXCO when ALL of this was being put into motion. Not only don’t you have room to be critical, you should hang your heads in shame on what your mismanagement has wrought on these islands. 

    Of course, I will get criticism about my views on the National Team and Big Jim. I would wager though, that such criticism will come mostly from those who reaped the quick rewards of the unmanaged development boom and see Big Jim as a saviour or the ones who sat in the political meetings and swallowed all the swill and cheered when they were insulted and took it home and fed it to their children – the same disenfranchised and lost generation of today.

    • Common Sense 101 says:

      Well said.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow Anon 14:48!

      You really know your recent history and you are spot on (a little inaccurate about Truman and Home Ec in para 3 but not much) in your analysis of that time and its consequences. Those of us who remember how our National Hero ran Cayman (including the airline) as his and his Texan friends’ personal business shudder at the memories.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hear, hear! Big Jim has never been seen as a hero by many Caymanians. He like many others had his following, however, the truth be told there were many questions surrounding him and his activities. That of course is the nature of politricks but the true hero to the majority of Caymanians is Dr Roy McTaggart.

        • Anonymous says:

          Anon 17:26:

          yes-Dr Roy was a hero. But Haig Bodden in a political meeting in Bodden Town that I attended described him-I’ll never forget it because he spat it out "that bastard".

          That was the way the Unity Team (not yet called the National Team) conducted itself in those dreadful days.

    • Anonymous says:

      There appears to be a multitude of comments from posters on other CNS storylines concerning immigration, government policies, education, construction development, crime and the Civil Service, to name a few. What we have on the 14:48 post cuts to core of a lot of these issues. Can I assume from the lack of responses to this post, that most of the readers are in agreement? It’s eerily silent out there.

      Hmmm……now I do we move forward?


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, this group or an earlier one were the "heroes" that gave away our beaches by moving the vegetation line to the present high water line thus allowing construction down to the water’s edge!