(CNS): A number of North Side residents have accused the National Housing Development Trust Board of making ‘internal agreements’ over soil and marl taken from the site of the new district scheme after several people complained saw the fill being delivered to land owned by the chairman of the board, Geoffry Ebanks, as well as his father’s farm.
The CNS has been contacted by several residents of the area concerned that this landfill, which belongs to the Housing Trust, could have been sold or even given to the pulpit outside the usual supply process.
Two weeks ago, the CNS sent several questions to the Housing Trust, the Planning Department, which is responsible for the NHDT, and to the Minister, Jay Ebanks, who is also the MP for the constituency.
We received an acknowledgment from a government official and responded to the request for information twice, but received no explanation of the movement of soil and marl from the site, which is a well audience estimated at several thousand dollars.
Although the filling may have been sold, neither the ministry nor the NHDT answered our questions about the process by which such a transaction could have been made, despite our persistent requests.
Former district deputy and former chairman of the public accounts committee, Ezzard Miller, said he did not think the chairman of the NHDT board would be a suitable person to have acquired the mandate outside of a rigorous and transparent process.
Miller told CNS he also heard from North Side residents who saw the movement of soil and marl from the site towards what was believed to be the President’s property and towards Willie’s Farm, which is owned by his dad. He himself had carried out a search of the cadastre to verify the ownership of the land and had confirmed these suspicions.
‘I have been informed that the fill has been removed from the Housing Trust site and placed on land owned by the chairman of the council and on his father’s farm,’ Miller said. “As a result, I went to verify the ownership of the land where he had ended up. The embankment is a Housing Trust asset. If it had been sold to the chairman of the board, there should have been a transparent process around which the rest of the board approved the sale and ensured it was at market value.
The site was cleared earlier this year to make way for the neighborhood’s first affordable housing project. The clearing of trees and bushes was the subject of a recent ministry press release, as the green waste had been donated to Beacon Farms, a non-profit organization in the district that provides agricultural employment to recovering Caymanians. .
According to the statement, the goal was to allow the farm to compost all green waste from the site for other farmers, owners and members of the public. But there was no mention in the release of soil and fill from the same site.
Julio Ramos, chief executive of NHDT, said the plan was for current and future owners of NHDT to have access to good quality soil for their backyard gardens from waste generated by housing development sites. But he said nothing about the premium red mold that was originally on the site but apparently removed by the chairman of the board.
Beacon Farms is one of the few agricultural sites to compost, although there is no national program, despite the chronic lack of quality soils and a significant amount of green waste available. Beacon’s composting facility has the capacity to hold approximately 53 tonnes of material and uses industrial crushing and shredding machinery to speed up the process.
“Partnering with NHDT to produce higher volumes of compost benefits agriculture and our community,” said Sandy Urquhart, Chief Operating Officer. “Our social entrepreneurship program at Beacon Farms aligns well with NHDT’s mission to support those in need.”