Miller takes on ministry over school playing field

| 17/07/2018 | 61 Comments
Cayman News Service

Edna Moyle Primary School playing field

(CNS): Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller (North Side) has said he is determined to do whatever it takes to get a playing field for his constituency’s primary school, as a major battle with the education ministry appears to have come to an impasse. The field at the Edna Moyle Primary School is in desperate need of surfacing, and when a parent donated an artificial field to the school, which had been picked up at auction in the US, instead of the kids finally getting a play area they can use, a drawn out and sorry saga of bureaucracy and obfuscation began with the ministry. 

Speaking to the media Tuesday about his mounting frustration over what seems like a simple project, Miller said the situation was an example of incompetence and ineptitude that fuels so many problems in the civil service.

Although he berated senior managers who refuse to make decisions and take responsibility to get things done, he nevertheless stressed his intention to address the problem, saying it was not insurmountable and that the issue could easily be resolved with the application of some common sense.

Miller recounted the long-standing problem with the piece of land adjacent to the school, which is boggy and muddy in the rain but rocky and scrubby when dry. “The unacceptable conditions at the playing field have caused great concern among parents about injuries suffered by children playing on the field,” Miller said.

Pictures show clearly that the field is not fit for the young children to play on, and since 2014 the school’s PTA has tried to get the field turfed but have failed due to the massive prices quoted by landscaping firms. But a parent who had been heavily involved in trying to find a solution to the playing field happened to be in Chicago when a school there was selling their artificial football pitch and made a decision to buy it and shipped it down to Miami.

Miller then arranged meetings with the education ministry and the Public Works Department, and organised for the turf to be shipped to Grand Cayman, where it arrived in May. But the pitch has been at the George Town port ever since, accumulating some $21,000 worth of storage fees, as a result of a catalog of mixed messages from the education ministry.

Although the pitch was designed for indoor use, there appeared to be no major stumbling blocks to using it outside. Public works came up with a design that would enable the artificial surface to drain, incorporating an asphalt track around it to provide the EMPS with a full sports area. But despite signals from the ministry that all was well for Miller to press ahead, he struggled to pin down either Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly or the chief officer, Christen Suckoo, to get the ball rolling.

Following verbal commitments from the minister last month that the pitch could be used as an interim measure until the next budget cycle, when she could secure funding for a permanent solution, the minister suddenly changed her mind.

On 13 July, O’Connor-Connolly wrote to Miller telling him that there were health and safety concerns about the artificial turf because it was designed for indoors and that the work required to make it function was not budgeted for. Given that other unbudgeted projects had been funded by government in his constituency, they would not fund this field project after all, she wrote. The minister also berated the opposition leader for not consulting with the ministry or gaining approval from government before the turf was bought.

Miller rejected any idea that there had been any unbudgeted capital projects in his district and asked the ministry to detail them, a request that has not yet been answered. He said that he had tried on numerous occasions over the last four years to get the much-needed field for the school, but to no avail. Above all, Miller said, there was no real health and safety challenge to using the artificial turf.

He said that the public works design solved the drainage issue and that any fading of the turf in the sun would not interfere with the functioning of the surface.

“Whatever happens, it cannot possibly be any worse that what we have now,” he said, adding that the safety concerns were just excuses to prevent anyone from having to make a firm decision and take on the responsibility of solving an ongoing problem.

“Given the escalating costs associated with resolving the issue and the fact that we must utilize the summer months while children are out of school to fix the problems, we can no longer hold off while we wait …for the lumbering government machinery to act in the best interest of the children,” Miller said. “I want this thing done; I am determined to get this thing done,” he added as he pointed to the solutions.

The North Side MLA said that it would now cost another CI$50,000 to get the project finished to cover the mounting port fees for the storage of the turf, caused by the ministry’s procrastination, and the cost of laying the turf and dealing with the drainage and other issues.

With more contributions coming in from the parent who bought the pitch and Miller willing to match that donation personally, he said he just needed the education minister and her civil service managers to get past the false stumbling blocks that they are erecting and help him get the turf laid in the safest and most economical way possible.

“We need to do the right thing for the right reason,” he said, as urged the government to act and help him with what is by no means an insurmountable problem.

See the minister’s letter in the CNS Library

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Category: Education, Local News

Comments (61)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe they need to do an Environmental Impact Assessment first. Although the ‘donkey weeds’ are awful and a child could dislocate a kneecap on those rocks, covering them will deny them access to their Caymanian heritage.

    I’m sure the minister will agree that knowledge of foliage and rock formations are an integral part of a child’s development and it needs to be taken more seriously.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s obvious that the field should be redone but the indoor turf is NOT the solution. They need to scrap that idea, sell the turf to someone with an indoor gym and buy the right turf.

    Since additional fundraising is needed, they should launch a GoFundMe campaign and give all of the children sponsor sheets and offer a cash or prize to the student that collects the most funds.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused. How is it only rocky when its dry? Anyway, if you lay down an impervious mat, you are building a pond. Maybe Ezzard can donate some fish for it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @6:57 pm: you forgot the field has lain there as is for four years? Isn’t it about time something is done? Ministry not aware of the conditions at the one govt school in North Side?

    • Anonymous says:

      They are both wrong. Juliana should have been able to get the monry iin the budget for the field. Ezzard should not have encouraged his friend to ship inappropriate turf without clearing it with the ministry before. If it is not fit for purpose then it would really be stupid to go ahead and spend money on customs fees and if he is allowed to install it knowing it won’t work then that is more money again to take it up. If that kind parent wanted to help, Ezzard should have asked for a cash donation instead and between him, the parent, the ministry and the PTA they probably could have gotten it done even though it wasn’t budgeted for this year. Ezzard and Juliana could have sorted it out but that is what happens when too much ego gets in the way.

      • Anonymous says:

        Anonymous 9:30 you are so misinformed everyone understands why you dare not sign your name.

      • anonymous says:

        9:50 pm, I admire your approach in employing even-handed justice, but unfortunately it was based on some erroneous information.

        As far as the Minister is concerned, I don’t really think it is an ego issue — if you recall from the information in media reports, she had been signaling to MLA for North Side that the project had her support. I think her letter to the contrary was prompted by subsequent provision of inadequate or incorrect information. What I would encourage her to do in the future is to ensure that she has all the information before putting her signature to letters.

        In regards to Mr. Miller, I had the benefit of a conversation with him in which he informed me that once the parent had contacted him he HAD contacted the Ministry a total of three times in three successive days. Unfortunately, the Ministry did not reply — either because no one wanted to make a decision or because of the generalized, unproductive mañana attitude.

        As to your point about the possibility installing the turf “knowing it won’t work then… (having) “to take it up” — you may be basing that belief on the inaccurate information regarding health and drainage issues. There is no health issue and the drainage can be dealt with.

        So I don’t think we are in danger of having an issue that would require the turf to be taken up, as long as the field is graded to enable proper run-off of water.

        But even so, it won’t cost much to remove the field and the children would at least have a clean field, minus the rocks and the settled water.

        But I have faith that ultimately people will act sensibly and responsibly and that a workeable solution will come forth.

        If this public exposure of what should have happened behind closed doors is what it takes to provide for the children of North Side the fundamental educational provision of a sports and football field, then all’s well that ends well.

        • Anon says:

          The stunning thing is the new civil service norm of ignoring emails — whatever happened to the basic business protocol not to mention courtesy of at least acknowledging receipt of emails?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Politicians on Cayman don’t understand education because they are uneducated.

    • Anonymous says:

      7:54 pm: I am not sure I believe that — I think the problem is more about commitment and dedication to doing the job they are paid to do. Too much complacency by far.

      And there are many well educated politicians among the bunch. A number with bachelor degrees, and beyond.

      Buu if they don’t care enough, no amount of education will make any difference.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Take it out of the ridiculous OffReg travel budget.

    • Anonymous says:

      The people at OfReg dont care what the budget amount is, they still gonna travel as long as Govt is paying

  7. Better Than Ezzie says:

    Some genius bought indoor turf and now Ezzard thinks he knows more about the product than it’s manufacturer. That’s what the letter says.

    • Anonymous says:

      Better Than Ezzie: not correct. The letter from the Ministry does not quote the manufacturer.

      The ministry alleges in a comment in another media report that the thatch turf turning “chalky white” in the sun is associated with health issues. The manufacturer does not agree but rather says that it is about aesthetics and there is no health- or performance-related issue.

      It is true, according to the manufacturer, that there is a potential for the impermeable thick backing to become water-logged. The plan was that the proper grading of the field would provide for drainage and any run-off would be channeled towards some pre-existing wells.

      Notably, the field would obviously have to be graded regardless of the turf used, whether artificial or the vastly more expensive grass turf.

      In the meantime, the rock-filled field continues to flood whenever there is rain.

      My suggestion to the Ministry would be to get in there and clear the field of rocks and grade it. That has to be done anyway as a matter of urgency.

      Then go ahead and take a chance with artificial turf. There is no health issue. That is a red herring. If for some reason you have to take up the turf, nothing is lost as you already have it and removing it could not incur a big cost.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why crucify Ezzards attempt to help a bad situation? I bet if fart was behind it he would have gotten those port fees waived and another concession from government. As we clearly see the ENTIRE government has ZERO accountability from top managers and if the damn turf ain’t good why not fix it? I bet if it was Cayman Brac it woulda bin fix. The budget would have been found by all means. I hope we all vote better next election

    • Anonymous says:

      LMAO…. Fart they said… great humor… seems he can do every and anything

    • Anonymous says:

      It would be nice to see some shaded tress for the children to play under instead of being out in the boiling mid day sun without a hat.

      • Anonymous says:

        4:50 : tree planting would be a nice PTA/community project. Agree it would be a big help, while adding to the aesthetics.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If you read the article, this turf was not conceived as something that would last forever. Nothing will. Its installation would allow some breathing room for the Ministry to budget for a more permanent field.

    As far as “injuries caused by the installation”, if I were a betting person, I would wager on the artificial turf over the current conditions as described above: “boggy and muddy in the rain but rocky and scrubby when dry.”

  10. Observer says:

    From what I can gather, this field is a dense artificial thatch turf that has a thick 5/8 inch rubber backing. The thatch turf is denser and the backing is thicker compared to the artificial turf for outdoor use. Both points of difference are designed to create the shock absorbency necessary when it is laid on concrete.

    So it sounds as if the indoor turf is sturdier and will provide greater shock absorbency than the outdoor one.

    Interestingly, to create shock obsorbency, the outdoor artificial turfs, which are not as dense, employ an in-fill made up of tiny black pellets manufactured from discarded car tires. Those tiny pellets do tend to fly up when children play on the field and there have been questions about whether they might have health impacts (although authorities currently say there is so far no scientifically proven evidence for that).

  11. Anonymous says:

    Is Ezzard an expert on the difference between indoor and outdoor surfaces and the health and safety impact of these? Or is he just trying to score points when CIG is cautious about possible risks to the safety of children?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ezzard is an expert on nothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, maybe xenophobia.

        • Noor Sidaah says:

          His two wives have been expats so please try something else that makes sense.

          • Anonymous says:

            Farage is married to a German. The politics of the populist nationalists usually come from deep self-loathing.

            • Anonymous says:

              Then there’s that pussy grabbing fella just to the north, what’s his name again?

      • Anonymous says:

        Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done. -C.E.Stowe
        Ezzard has more common sense then most politicians in the house at this time. It is sad how they are treating the Eastern Districts with disdain and discrimination. What are we, the Indians of America being pushed further into poverty without any regard to our future, or our descendants? Stop !!

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think he needs to be an expert.

      The turf was purchased and a government technical team is available to mitigate problems and work on its installation. Politicians come with the ideas and the will, and it is up to government to provide the strategies to make things work. And there is no perfect world.

      However, the description and photos of the current field that children have been playing on for four years suggest a situation that is a danger to children.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good old common sense, ability to do some research, and assembling and participating in a good technical team will do the trick.

        And a supportive government environment for implementation.

        If the politician has that he will be able to function. He does not have to be an expert.

    • Anonymous says:

      You miss the point. The point is, at the end of the day, the children deserve better!!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        2:27: if you mean better that a rock-covered, flooded field, I entirely agree.

        The ministry has done nothing in four years and now has nothing to offer.

        Meanwhile, the children are getting skinned knees and elbows and more. In the process, there is also potential for their contracting a bacterial infection from the settled water running off the street.

        And don’t forget the potential for falling and hitting their heads on one of those fairly large rocks.

        I cannot imagine that the MInistry could risk the serious liability this could pose for the school and the Ministry.

        And now they cannot claim they do not know.

        But remember, they just said they had no budget.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rrrrrright. So the turf is more dangerous than the current disgusting conditions clearly pictured here. Is this what you are saying? I know which I would prefer my child to be around.

  12. Anonymous says:

    That is classic of work within government as they are clueless how to run a business. Drop the storage fees as kids are more important than paying salaries to MLA!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Ezzard Miller? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Petty politics on Ju Ju part.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with the honurable Mr. Miller children are our future yet we find it hard to invest in them and their wellbeing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    OhEmGeeeeee!!!!! This is so crazy!!
    And surely the government can get the port to waive the storage fees under these circumstances!!!
    Please, what can I do to help? Seriously Ezzard. Why has this not been publicized?

  17. Anonymous says:

    C’mon JUJU, you know very well that you can fix this! Think of it as if it is a road in Cayman Brac….does it need paving?…..probably not, but it would look good paved.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So even though PW came up with a design that would allow it to work ouside and the fading won’t affect it’s use. The MLA for North Side would rather our children play in either boggy/muddy conditions or scrub/rocky conditions and get scraped up knees and hands when they fall? Even though all has been donated and the cost to install it was also donated? I am ashamed to say I voted for her. This just sends a message to parents who care about the schools their children go to every day to not get involved to try and make school a better place for our children. Shame on you O’Connor-Connolly. I may not agree with Ezzard on things but I am 100% with him on this. Keep fighting Ezzard and thank you to the donor of the astroturf and those that continue to help.

    • Jotnar says:

      She is not the MLA for Northside as you say. That is essentially the problem – no votes in it for her, plenty for Ezzard. Mr Miller should offer to name the pitch after her.

  19. Anonymous says:

    If it was Spot Bay PS it would be done long long time dahling!

  20. West Bay Premier says:

    MR MIiller take your own money and fix it , and stop beating up your gums making people think that you’re doing something . Trying to get anything out of the Minister for education is like trying to get blood out of rock .

  21. Anonymous says:

    Classic. Create a problem for yourself, blame someone else, cry to the media.
    Install it yourself Ezzard, after you pay the port fees of course.

    • Anonymous says:

      8:08 am: from what I read Miller had been working with PWD to get the installation done but that was disrupted by the ministry—which was initially part of the working team.

      Then rather than invite Milker in to discuss their concerns, they write a letter making allegations about health concerns that they do not define—and which seem to be most likely unfounded.

      Not very helpful.

      We do need initiative and even if it gets ahead of officialdom, the posture should be let’s out our minds together and see how best we can make the best of the situation.

      This seems a plain case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

      Everybody needs to calm down and act sensibly and in the best interest of the children.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, I think Miller has asked for permission to go ahead and lay the turf. And woukd be willing to raise the necessary funds.

      But it would really be unfair for him and the PTA to be lumbered with the Port fees, since govt took so long to respond.

      Why not waive the fees? I understand that it has been done in the past. This is a worthy cause if there is one.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Wow $21,000.00 in storage fees at the port. could these kind of charges have anything to do with the increasing cost of food.
    No problem Ezzard just ask the port to waive the fees it is alleged that the port waived more than that amount for the recent commercial and profit driven carnival operation.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Noe if it honorable O’Connor Connelly could get a all expenses paid trip to Chicago that might change her mind. Remember all the big trips she took for the postal service, how did that help us out? More hot air.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t forget the trip to Qatar, to collect a trophy for the postal service!!!

      • PD says:

        Yea those are real important events for our country. These politicians never seas to amaze me with there real caring attitude. Vote them all out!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Children and education are near the BOTTOM of the priority list for the elected Government. Julianna has the least to account for, she has had education for 14 months. Tara had it for 4 years. Rolston for 4 yeara. Alden for 4 years. Still as a former PE teacher Julie could pretend to care

    Rsults are not a priority for the Civil Service. .

    The issue isn’t why someone bought indoor turf, the issue is why did successive education Ministers and Chief Officers fail to provide a sports field for a primary school?

    Soon every public school PTA will be asking for funds for school supplies. How pathetic.

    Even if the education Ministry doesn’t have the money, take some from the port project and grom the travel budget for the Civil Service and Authorities.

    Fix it.
    In 2018.
    No excuses.

    • Anonymous says:

      No Moses won’t let you have any of that port money. Those kids will just have to suck it up!

    • West Bay Premier says:

      Anonymous 3:23 am , very much says it all , but I will add that they all think and cares for the children and their education as much as they care about fixing the dump and picking up the garbage . I have to believe that the government / ministers are just taking the Education system and the dump for political football , that’s why you see them always hiring the same Consultant Firms . I wonder how many studies that government had done on the dump and the education system in the past 8 years ?

  25. Anonymous says:

    “Politician tries to force through installation indoor surfacing for outdoor use despite it being potentially dangerous to kids and teachers” would be an alternative headline. Is Miller offering to indemnify the authorities for any lawsuits arising from injuries caused by the installation or the added costs of having to replace it very soon when it is shredded?

    • anonymous says:

      1:51 pm: is the ministry indemnifying the school against law suits for injuries to children who fall and hit their heads on the rocks?

      The headline should be “Politician tries in vain to save children from serious injury on playing field”

      • Anonymous says:

        You forget it was Ezzard who asked Govt for the field to begin with, now he wants them to install the tirnnhe bought despite not consulting them before he bought it and found out he got ripped off. Sounds like he is a blundering %^*%#

        • Anonymous says:

          6:57 pm: you forget that sports and physical education are integral aspects of child’s Education? You forget the importance of being part of a team, fair play, developing motor skills, coordination, sense of achievement? Then there is muscular development and all the benefits of exercise? And the whole area of mastery in the sporting world that creates champions, whole careers, recreation as an adult?

          Of course, Mr Miller sought to get the field. Congrats to him.

        • Anonymous says:

          He didn’t buy it, a concerned parent bought it and offered to install it.

        • Anonymous says:

          It was also bought knowing it was made for inside but was discovered to be sturdier than outside turf. Miller is just using a donated gift to help children. Why is this a problem? I guess Juliana prefers potential ringworm and scraped up knees and hands.

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