Bordallo, Metcalfe face off


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE two candidates running for the U.S. congressional delegate seat in the upcoming election squared off for the first time in front of an audience yesterday afternoon, with incumbent Delegate Madeleine Bordallo listing her accomplishments in contrast to challenger Margaret Metcalfe’s call for a change in leadership.


Bordallo was the first to speak and noted that she has years of experience in the delegate seat. “My opponent is new to this, so she won’t have a record to compare with mine. If we were playing golf, to be fair, you would have to add some strokes to my score – maybe a lot of strokes,” Bordallo said.

Bordallo and Metcalfe spoke yesterday at the Rotary Club of Guam lunch meeting at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa. Yesterday’s forum was the last of a series of election forums hosted by the club.

For every question asked by Rotarians, Bordallo listed the strategies or initiatives she formulated in the past in support of the topic. When the issue of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) was introduced, Republican candidate Metcalfe urged that there be a limit of migrants allowed into the island.

Bordallo, in turn, said her opponent’s approach is impractical, and echoed statements from Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary of the Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, that Guam be realistic about the budget environment in Washington. Bordallo also told the audience that during her term, the amount of Compact-impact funding increased sevenfold, from $4 million to $30 million.

Pressure

Metcalfe called for pressure in the U.S. Congress and the need for quotas for freely associated state migrants. Bordallo said while the current situation is not sustainable, FAS citizens make important contributions to the island and she does not agree that Guam should limit the number of migrants, adding that such an idea would be opposed by the Obama administration.

When Metcalfe called for increased representation for the island’s military veterans, she also said all of Guam’s veterans should be registered.

Bordallo countered her opponent’s statements by saying she has been a strong advocate for veterans issues. She said she pushed for the construction of the community-based outreach clinic and started a veterans advisory council.

Both candidates said they support the military buildup under certain conditions. Metcalfe said she would support the least invasive plan. Bordallo said she supports the buildup if it is beneficial for everyone and the concerns of the community are taken into account.

One Rotarian asked if the women had traveled to the Federated States of Micronesia, one of the freely associated states in the COFA, and asked what they had planned to help the FSM to improve conditions in that area.

Metcalfe said she had not traveled extensively to the FSM and said they are receiving funds from the federal government for improvements and also said the Compact is not being enforced.

Bordallo said she has traveled extensively to all the Micronesian islands, and that while setting limits is difficult, she will continue to work on getting money for Compact-impact reimbursements.

Bordallo said she has built relationships during her 12 years as delegate that are crucial now that the military buildup is near. “We cannot afford to start from the beginning,” she said.

Metcalfe said she is not a politician but a successful businesswoman and a local girl who grew up on Guam. “I would like to seek your approval to serve you and bring your voices to Washington,” she said. “You just need to look around to see our friends, our families and our island are hurting.”


Final FY2014 tax refunds to be sent today


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GOV. Eddie Calvo announced yesterday that income tax refunds will be mailed to those taxpayers owed refunds whose 2013 tax returns are error-free and were filed before Sept. 30.


About $6 million in tax refunds will be mailed today to about 2,400 taxpayers, according to Phil Blas, Department of Administration spokesman.

Refunds are also being sent to taxpayers who filed returns with errors or whose payments were otherwise suspended, but whose filings have been rectified.

With the mailing, all income tax refunds due for returns filed during fiscal 2014 have been paid, administration officials said.

“That’s the fastest we’ve paid out tax refunds in 20 years,” Calvo said in a statement. “Our fiscal team has worked really hard to make this a reality.”

Today’s payment is the second large payout of government funds this week. On Monday, Calvo announced that he had ordered the Department of Administration to release about $15 million for cost of living allowance (COLA) payments to government of Guam retirees. The funds for the $2,000-per-retiree payment were released Tuesday and retirees received the money this week.

“(The COLA payment) is a little bit early,” Calvo, who is a candidate for re-election, said. “By law it’s supposed to be paid by Nov. 1. In previous years, administrators waited until the last minute to pay because cash was a problem. We’ve managed the finances well. We didn’t have to wait for the last minute.”

Calvo also noted that he called the Guam Legislature into session this week to consider legislation to pay $4 million in overdue overtime wages to Guam Police Department, Department of Corrections and Guam Fire Department personnel.


Investors urged to take advantage of Guam opportunities


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM’S potential for growth coupled with the federal government’s “commitment and confidence” in the island is why private investors should take advantage of the opportunities to put their money into the Guam market, said Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina.


Kia’aina spoke at the second day of the Guam Economic Development Authority’s Economic Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Guam to a crowd of about 150 people yesterday morning. Kia’aina is on Guam after meeting with Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands officials last week as part of her first official visit to the CNMI and Guam since assuming her current post.

“Guam is uniquely situated for growth and investment, and that is why this conference couldn’t be timelier,” Kia’aina said. “Together with the commitment and confidence that the federal government has committed on behalf of Guam I invite and encourage private investors to take advantage of the opportunities that the federal relationship with the territory provides in this part of our world.”

Kia’aina spoke of the various federal funds that Guam has been granted that affect major industries on Guam as evidence of the commitment and confidence the federal government has in the local economy.

Further, Kia’aina said the federal government will continue to work closely with the local government along with the private sector to provide economic opportunities for local people.

Funded

The Interior department has funded improvements to the island that include new school buses and an updated radio system for the Guam Police Department that benefit the current population and businesses, and also lays the groundwork to attract new investors to Guam, Kia’aina said.

The island was also given funds to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by 20 percent by the year 2020 by the Office of Insular Affairs. “That is a laudable and significant goal and an opportunity for investment,” Kia’aina said.

As the newest assistant secretary for Insular Affairs, Kia’aina said she will support federal collaboration in such areas and she encouraged private investors to do the same.

“Investing in Guam also means investing in critical issues like climate change which can have a major impact on Guam’s economy,” she said. “President Obama has made climate change one of his administration’s highest priorities.”

Kia’aina announced that a climate change coordinator will be established within the Insular Affairs office to help identify and coordinate federal agencies’ climate-change programs. She said this will help Guam and other territories develop a robust response to climate change.

At the symposium yesterday, Kia’aina also commended GEDA and Gov. Eddie Calvo for seizing the opportunity to improve Guam’s economy and said “sometimes the problem is not that territories are overlooked, but that they have trouble leveraging what is currently available.” She also said she will be urging the other American territories to leverage what is available to them.

Kia’aina also spoke about Compact-impact funding and said Insular Affairs will develop a uniform Compact-impact reporting process. Additionally her office plans to develop adequate health services in the freely associated states to help mitigate the effect it has on territories affected under the Compacts of Free Association.

However, if federal funds are limited because of federal constraints, Kia’aina said she will recommend that FAS citizens become eligible for SNAP Benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. FAS citizens are not considered eligible for these programs since the Welfare Reform Act was enacted in 1996.


Bordallo assures Guam military buildup moving forward


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM Delegate Madeleine Bordallo on Tuesday said the military buildup will be complete in seven to 10 years.


But she said that once it is done, Guam will see the multiple benefits for its people and its economy.

Bordallo made this assurance during a luncheon meeting with about 50 officials of the various Filipino organizations on Guam.

In acknowledging the delays in the original timeline for the military buildup project, Bordallo pointed out that it’s important to note at this time that the project is moving forward.

“The good news is, it is moving and may take seven to 10 years before everything is completed,” she told the group at the Seafood Chef Restaurant in Tamuning.

According to Bordallo, Guam’s unemployment rate is anticipated to dramatically reduce once the buildup is fully realized. The promise of new jobs for the people, as a result of construction projects lined up for the buildup, will help families sustain and recover the cost of living.

Bordallo said that by 2015, Guam will see the start of the infusion of millions and millions of dollars into the economy based on the long list of construction projects that are up for implementation.

She said the “heart” of the military buildup on Guam is jobs.

Bordallo said the Department of Defense submitted the military buildup master plan a few months ago, which was the requirement of the U.S. Senate to lift the freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding for the construction of the Marine facilities on island.

Ironed out

She also said that previous concerns such as the housing location for military families who will be relocated as a result of the buildup have already been ironed out. The issue of the proposed firing range has also been addressed, including the concerns of some on the security fences which, she pointed out, are designed to mark safety zones.

She said decisions on some of these issues will be decided by DoD in April.

Under the revised buildup plan, about 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents are to be relocated to Guam from Okinawa.

Besides updates on the military buildup, Bordallo also talked about Medicare and Obamacare and how Guam could benefit from the federal law.

She also reminded the leaders that “Medicare is more than just reimbursement.”

Organizations’ leaders affirm support

In the luncheon with the delegate, the attendees affirmed their continued support for Bordallo, who is seeking re-election in the general election on Nov. 4 and is running against Margaret Metcalfe.

One by one, during their introduction, each official shared how their individual families and loved ones were touched by Bordallo’s “helping hand.”

A majority in the crowd said that they’ve been loyal supporters of the delegate and her family for decades.

Touched by the compliments and stories shared by attendees, Bordallo assured them that she will continue to serve with their best interest at heart, at all times.


New ER doctor at GMH to lead Guam Ebola preparations


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


DR. GEORGINA Calderon is a new physician in the Guam Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department and will lead an Ebola response team, which hospital administrators put in place in the event the disease makes its way to Guam.


Calderon is an experienced physician specializing in emergency medicine who was working in Liberia at the start of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa earlier this year. She has been working at GMH for about a month.

“I’ve asked Dr. Calderon to help improve our Ebola preparedness here at GMH and she’s kindly agreed,” said Joseph Verga, GMH administrator.

Verga said Calderon will be offering the insight she gained from her experience in Liberia. “The hospital is taking Ebola preparedness very seriously,” Calderon said. “We’re in the process of reassessing hospital preparedness as (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines change.”

A four-step plan has been proposed and Calderon said the plan will also include the input of some of her colleagues in California and Massachusetts.

Calderon said Guam is “thankfully remote” and the risk of an Ebola case occurring here is low. “With that comes the thought that if it does happen, it’s a very high-risk occurrence so we have to balance those things out,” she said.

The four-step plan that will be developed in the coming weeks will take into account Guam’s location, the doctor said.

Delighted

Verga said the hospital is “delighted” to have Calderon head the response team and that there is probably no one else on the island with her medical background.

While she was in Liberia, Calderon said the conditions she worked under included the absence of running water and the facility she worked in ran on a generator. “It served a large area including some patients from neighboring counties. We were incredibly ill-prepared, nonetheless, I brought some privately donated personal protective equipment ... we set up an isolation unit,” she said. “It all really comes down to preparation.”

During her stay at a Liberia rural hospital, there were a couple of patients who they suspected had Ebola and were transferred to a larger hospital in the country that could treat the illness.

As Verga announced that Calderon would be leading the Ebola preparedness efforts, the hospital was wrapping up its International Infection Prevention Week complete with an Infection Control Fair, which featured a display of facts about Ebola.

Calderon received her undergraduate degree in Massachusetts and moved on to get a degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed by a medical degree from the University of California San Francisco. Calderon has worked in several countries and has been academically published about 30 times and speaks at least three languages.




Two announce write-in candidacy

Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Romeo Carlos has informed the Guam Election Commission of his intention to run as a write-in candidate. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety

GUAM voters in the Nov. 4 general election can vote for the candidate of their choice even if the name does not appear on the ballot.

Maria Pangelinan, executive director of the Guam Election Commission, told Variety yesterday that write-in candidates in every election – primary and general – are permitted under the law.

Except for the Guam Education Board, all positions being contested on Nov. 4 are open to write-in candidates.

As of yesterday, two individuals have informed the commission that they are running as write-in candidates. Patrick Iriarte told the commission he is running for the seat of the Guam delegate to Congress against incumbent Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party’s nominee for the position, Margaret Metcalfe.

Romeo Carlos has informed the GEC of his intention to run as a write-in candidate. However, Carlos didn’t say what office he is running for. However, Carlos participated in a forum for candidates for the 33rd Guam Legislature at Guam Community College on Tuesday.

The positions up for grabs in the general election include the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, seats in the 33rd Guam Legislature; the office of delegate to Congress, attorney general; seats on the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and on the Guam Education Board.

Pangelinan said that 15 seats are open for the Guam Legislature so voters can write in up to 15 names for the positions.

The name of only one write-in candidate may be entered per ballot for the governor position, for congressional delegate and for attorney general. The same goes with other positions like CCU with three open seats.

Barred

Pangelinan said that under the law, only the Guam Education Board is barred from accepting write-in candidates.

Pangelinan said that all votes received by write-in candidates will be counted – the same as votes for any other candidate.

If they garner enough votes, “Then they will be proclaimed winner (for the position they’re running for),” Pangelinan said.

In the case of the 33rd Guam Legislature where 15 seats are open, in the event a write-in candidate got more votes than 16 candidates on the ballot, the write-in candidate will be placed among the top 15 and once results are certified by the election commissioners, they would be declared a winner.

Pangelinan said it is not a requirement that individuals running as write-in candidates inform the GEC about their intention.

She said she believes that in the past, some write-in candidates have actually won.

Referendum lawsuit

Pangelinan yesterday declined to comment on the recent dismissal of the lawsuit challenging the medicinal marijuana referendum in the District Court of Guam. Members of the GEC were named as respondents in the lawsuit.

She said she cannot make a comment on something that remains in litigation. However, she said the election commissioners were fully informed about the current status of the matter.

GEC was sued by veteran lawyer Howard Trapp in federal court for putting before the voters this general election the legislative submitted referendum on the medicinal marijuana. On Monday, the federal court dismissed Trapp’s lawsuit.

On Tuesday, Trapp said he is appealing that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Pangelinan said the commission is scheduled to discuss the matter in tonight’s continuation of their meeting and it will also discuss other preparations and updates for the election.

GEDA investor symposium kicks off

Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

YESTERDAY was day one of the Guam Economic Development Authority’s Economic Symposium with the focus on the visitor industry. Today, attendees will have the chance to hear presentations focused on defense and the military buildup.

GEDA acting Administrator and event chairwoman Mana Silva Taijeron said Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina will speak today. Kia’aina will address President Obama’s view of Guam related to America’s role in Asia.

Other topics today include the island’s infrastructure, clean-water mandates, road construction, the island’s “strategic position” in Asia and the U.S. National Defense posture in the region.

Taijeron said presenters touched on at least two promising projects at the conference that can lead to opportunities for economic growth.

Yesterday, in addition to the expansion of the Guam International Airport Authority’s facilities, United Airlines spoke of increased direct flights between Guam and China. “(That) is big news for us because we are really trying to tap into that market and make that grow,” Taijeron said.

Another project that will occur in October next year is the Regional World Health Organization conference. “We got the approval. It’s very big, especially with some big news that’s affecting the entire world. They made the announcement in the Philippines about a week and a half ago and we’ll make the huge announcement at this conference,” Taijeron said.

In addition to three days of presentations, networking lunches and panels, symposium attendees will have the chance to tour Guam facilities so potential investors have the opportunity to visit the areas discussed during the event.

Tours

Taijeron said tours to the Port Authority of Guam, the airport and some commercial properties will be mixed in with other recreational tours for investors.

Potential investors from Australia, China, Singapore, the U.S. mainland and Japan along with local businesspeople attended the symposium which is being held at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

Yesterday, officials from the airport, the port and Guam Visitors Bureau presented about each respective agency’s status and potential.

Frank Chin, chairman of the Public Finance Group of Citigroup, and Jay Saakvitne, head of municipal credit division of Barclay’s PLC, spoke about Guam’s bond market rating to attendees in a plenary presentation, entitled “Guam’s Economy: An Investor’s Perspective.”

The symposium will end Friday with site visits and networking meetings.

Ulrich steps down as chief financial officer of hospital

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Alan Ulrich

GUAM Memorial Hospital Chief Financial Officer Alan Ulrich has tendered his resignation and will step down from his position at the end of this month, citing personal reasons for his departure. Department of Administration Director Benita Manglona will step in as interim CFO.

Ulrich has been at GMH since December 2012, working alongside Joseph Verga, GMH administrator, to help the hospital’s fiscal matters improve. Ulrich replaced acting CFO Jun Infante when he started.

Prior to working at GMH, Ulrich worked as interim CFO at Gila River Health Care in Arizona.

Ulrich will return to Arizona with his new bride, Terri Ulrich, and the two will live in Scottsdale. Ulrich said he informed Verga when he married earlier this year that he promised his wife their marriage would take priority and he would not renew his contract as CFO at GMH.

“After I arrived, (Verga) told me that I should work as if I’m starting from scratch,” Ulrich said yesterday. “It’s really difficult to build a hospital’s fiscal infrastructure from scratch. Working with the managers and staff, GMH has made gains in the two years I’ve been here.”

Ulrich said he is proud of defining the hospital’s path for fiscal solvency, receiving unqualified reports for fiscal audits and reducing the number of compliance matters.

Before Ulrich’s last day as CFO, the hospital was able to convert part of its system to help automate the hospital’s finances. “We actually converted our revenue cycle software to a new operating system ... on Oct. 8 and we’re in the process of continuing that conversion,” Ulrich said. “It’s the revenue cycle software that deals with everything from patient registration, insurance demographics for patients and the billing and collecting.”

Paper chase

Verga said the hospital is essentially trying to eliminate the “paper chase” between departments.

It is the completion of this “system conversion” that Manglona hopes to tackle among many other tasks and she will also need to do an assessment of the finances as well.

With Manglona on board at the hospital, Verga said he hopes there will be better cooperation between DOA, GMH and the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Verga said he has two plans to replace Ulrich as CFO; the first being that Manglona does stay longer than “a while.” His backup plan is to hire a new CFO, and he said he’s already announced the position online. GMH has not yet interviewed anyone for the CFO position.

Between now and the end of this month, Ulrich and Manglona will work together for a “smooth transition,” Verga said.

Verga said he is sure other rumors of Ulrich’s departure would come up even after he leaves, but he stressed Ulrich’s resignation was for personal reasons – to be with his wife. “This is the official reason, this is the real reason,” Verga said. Verga said Ulrich’s accomplishments would fill pages and he brought a level of competency to the CFO position that was unprecedented.

Core Tech wins $44M Navy project

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo yesterday announced that Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific has awarded Core-Tech-AMEC a $44.53 million fixed-price contact for utilities infrastructure and site development of the North Ramp area on Andersen Air Force Base. The project is critical to supporting future North Ramp construction at Andersen, which is utilized by Marine Corps aviation elements on Guam.

The funding for this project was provided through funds contributed by the government of Japan, also referred to as mamizu money, in support of the Marine realignment from Okinawa to Guam. The contract is the first award of mamizu funds since 2011, and its release builds off of progress made in the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that removed some restrictions on using mamizu funds for buildup-related projects.

Core-Tech-AMEC is a joint venture of Core Tech International of Guam and UK-based global engineering and construction firm AMEC.

“I am pleased the Navy is executing funds contributed by the government of Japan for the Marine realignment,” Bordallo said. “This award builds on the progress we made in last year’s defense bill to remove some of the restrictions on these funds imposed by the Senate, and it represents the significant progress we are making to move forward with the realignment. It also underscores the Obama and Abe administrations’ commitment to moving forward with the realignment. Further, this year’s defense bill contains my provision to remove the remaining restrictions on using mamizu funds for realignment projects. As a conferee on the NDAA, I continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to keep this provision in the bill. I remain confident that the submission of the master plan to Congress in July has given Senate leaders confidence in the overall cost of the realignment. I look forward to working with them to keep the buildup on track.”

GEDA hosts first-ever Guam Economic Symposium

Posted: Oct 22, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - The time is now, not only to invest in Guam but for the island to welcome regional and international business leaders to the first Guam Economic Symposium.

The event kicked-off today at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, with GEDA chairman E.J. Calvo saying, "So far, it's been a big success."

The three-day event hosted by the Guam Economic Development Authority and the Guam Visitors Bureau features regional and international business leaders from the Philippines, Singapore, Korea and Japan representing a variety of industries. Calvo continued, "And so this symposium is a culmination of all the marketing efforts done by GEDA, GVB and the government in general and brings together some networking opportunities and sharing of information of where can businesses truly get started in doing things on Guam."

Today's event focused on several topics from Guam's strategic plan for visitor industry growth to increasing arrivals to Guam.

The keynote speaker was Joshua Cooper Ramo, who spoke on Guam as a portal for commerce between Asia and America. He announced, "We're in the process of a tremendous change in the way the international system operates part of them inherently is the financial system is changing and also with that comes new routes of trade and economic opportunity, Guam's position is its geographically unique in that sense so in a networked economy the role for a place like Guam is maybe very different than it had been in the past but that also means the opportunities are very different."

Ramo is the vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and a director for the Starbucks and FedEx corporations. He has lived in China for the past 12 years and shares the value of Guam's location, saying, "I think Guam is tremendously important for the US-China relation for any number of reasons. It is the part of the United States that is the closest to china so the opportunities for investment ties and trade ties obviously are quite tremendous."

The symposium continues Thursday with discussion on Guam's strategic position in Asia and building Guam's infrastructure. Calvo noted, "I think this is something we should build upon and every year try to have a marketing effort to explore economic opportunities and see how our plans are working out so I definitely think this is something we can look forward to seeing more of."

 



‘I killed my mother’


Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Allan Agababa, right, is shown with his lawyer Randall Cunliffe during Agababa’s trial in the Superior Court of Guam. Variety file photo


Witness who claims to be Agababa’s friend testifies

A 34-year-old man claiming to be a friend of Allan Agababa – the man accused of murdering his mother, Shelly Bernstein – testified yesterday that Agababa purchased a gun days before Bernstein was killed. Randall Fulcher also testified that Agababa burnt his own clothing and smashed his laptop to get rid of evidence that might connect him to the killing.

Fulcher and his wife testified during the second day of the trial of Agababa.

Fulcher said one night in August 2013, Agababa phoned him to inform him that he would be coming to Fulcher’s house in Carlos Heights in Tumon to talk to him. Minutes later, he said Agababa appeared at his door carrying two translucent bags – one containing Agababa’s clothing, the other one containing a gun.

Fulcher told the court that as soon as he arrived, Agababa told him “I killed my mom” and “I need to get rid of these.”

The two continued their conversation in Fulcher’s backyard where Agababa burned his clothing in a burn pit while Fulcher went to the kitchen to get a drink, Fulcher said.

Fulcher said he took the gun and hid it in his car, with the intention of getting rid of it later.

In addition to the plastic bags, Fulcher said Agababa took a laptop from his car which was initially offered to him. When Fulcher refused to accept it, he said Agababa asked for a hammer and then smashed the computer on the kitchen table before pouring water on it. According to Fulcher, the broken laptop was taken by Agababa when he left Fulcher’s house.

On that same night, “he asked me if he could tell police that he was with me, but I said no,” Fulcher said.

Hide gun

According to the witness, he and his wife went to a vacant house owned by his wife’s family to hide the gun. He said he put the firearm in the ceiling and returned home.

Agababa and Fulcher have known each other for about eight years, Fulcher said.

Fulcher told the court that Agababa, prior to his mother’s killing, had sent him a message on Facebook asking if Fulcher could find a gun for him.

Fulcher said he acquired a .357 magnum from someone which he sold to Agababa for $150.

Fulcher was asked by the prosecutor whether he believed Agababa when he told him that he killed his mother. Fulcher said he was not convinced at first. The next morning, a friend phoned him saying Agababa’s mother had been killed. After this conversation, Fulcher said he and his wife retrieved the gun from the vacant house and threw it, along with the bullets, into the Ylig River. He told the court that what he had thrown was the .357 magnum he allegedly sold to Agababa.

‘Plea agreement’

Bernstein, 55, was found dead in her Tamuning apartment in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2013. According to the autopsy report, she died from blunt force trauma.

During cross-examination yesterday, Agababa’s attorney, Randall Cunliffe, questioned the witness about his background.

Fulcher said he was arrested in April in a case involving the manufacture and dealing of marijuana. He also admitted that he had been arrested numerous times for dealing marijuana. Currently he is incarcerated for that offense.

Between September and October, he said he was interviewed by both the attorney general and the defense counsel, both asking about his knowledge of Bernstein’s murder. He admitted that he lied to them and said that he had no knowledge or information about the incident.

Recently, Fulcher said, he was offered a plea agreement by the government under which all charges against him will be dropped in exchange for testifying in the case for the government.

Fulcher’s wife, Leialoha Borja-Fulcher, also testified yesterday and corroborated her husband’s statements.

She told the court that when Agababa went to their house in August 2013, she was watching television in the sala. Borja-Fulcher said that her husband, after Agababa left that night, told him about the conversation the two men had.

“My husband was frightened and worried. And I know something was wrong,” Borja-Fulcher said.

She said her husband told her that Agababa asked Fulcher to destroy Agababa’s clothing and get rid of the gun.


Agababa murder trial begins


Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Allan Agababa, right, is shown with his lawyer Randall Cunliffe during the start of Agababa's trial yesterday in the Superior Court of Guam. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


Witness: Defendant was ‘fairly calm’

THE murder trial of Allan Agababa began yesterday in the Superior Court of Guam as prosecution and defense attorneys presented opening statements to the jury.


Agababa is charged with aggravated murder in connection with the death of his mother, 55-year-old Shelly June Bernstein, on Aug. 13, 2013. According to the autopsy report, Bernstein died from blunt force trauma.

Prosecutor Brian Gallagher called six witnesses – all of whom had said they doubted the story told to them by the defendant regarding Bernstein’s death.

Guam Police Department Officer Bert Carbullido was among the officers who first responded to the crime scene on the early morning of Aug. 13, 2013 where Bernstein was found dead in her Tamuning apartment.

Based on his experience as a police officer since 1997, he said that contrary to information given by Agababa when they reached the crime scene, the apartment did not appear burglarized. He cited the absence of elements of a burglary such as forced entry or damaged doors or windows that are usually evident in a burglary. There was also no disarray of household goods that might indicate the apartment was ransacked, according to Carbullido.

Carbullido and Officer Virgilio Antonio Jr. said they were escorted into the apartment by Agababa upon their arrival. The defendant, he said, led them directly to the bedroom to see his mother’s motionless body lying on the bed.

Carbullido said that in his initial interrogation, Agababa told him that his mother’s home had been burglarized and a laptop had been stolen.

Receipt

When discussing the location of the defendant when the crime happened, Carbullido said Agababa pulled a receipt from his pocket showing he had purchased cigarettes and then went to his brother’s workplace for about 25 minutes and socialized with his brother and his friends. When he arrived home, the officer said Agababa told him that he noticed the screen door was open and the door was unlocked.

Carbullido said if he was in that situation, he would "still be emotional." Carbullido said Agababa seemed more concerned with finding a charger for his cell phone which he was holding.

The second witness told the jurors that the 911 call reporting the death was received from the victim’s neighbor, and not from Agababa.

Antonio described the murder scene. He said he noticed blood stains on the victim’s pillow and bed sheet. He also said he noted a “head trauma” on the victim. When asked to elaborate, the witness described severe damage to the victim’s skull. Antonio said he then requested the presence of crime scene investigators.

When Agababa was transported to the GPD Criminal Investigation Division in Tiyan, he was interrogated by Officer Anthony Borja, who had not been to the crime scene.

Borja said the defendant didn’t appear traumatized or upset during the interrogation. He was told by Agababa, when asked for identification, that along with his laptops, his passport was stolen during the burglary.

Borja said the defendant told him he left the house at 10:24 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2013 to go to his younger brother at the request of their mother.

On his way, Agababa told Borja he purchased cigarettes at the East Hagåtña Mobil gas station. In fact, Borja said, Agababa handed him the receipt which indicated he made the purchase at 11:40 p.m. on Aug. 12.

Gallagher showed Borja the written statement made by Agababa after the incident where he wrote that he left the house at 11:30 p.m. to purchase cigarettes and then went to his brother.

Borja said when he confronted Agababa about this “discrepancy” between his oral and written statements, Borja said the defendant told him that “my phone is an hour off.”

Benefits inquiry

Clarissa Perez, Bernstein’s superior at United Airlines by whom Bernstein was employed as a flight attendant, testified that she learned about Bernstein’s death from Agababa. She said she received a call from him while she was in Japan for a business trip.

Perez said Agababa told her that his mother was dead and that her house had been broken into.

Perez said Agababa told her that Bernstein had instructed Agababa to contact Perez in case something happened to her. Perez said during the call, the defendant inquired about the death benefits that Bernstein’s survivors might receive.

Perez testified that she was surprised by the timing of the benefits inquiry considering there remained a lot of unresolved matters.

During a second conversation, a day or two after the first, Perez said the defendant texted her and then she called him. Agababa, she said, told her what transpired during the night his mother died.

On the defendant’s third call to her, Perez said Agababa made specific inquiries about his mother’s Social Security Number which the manager refused to give him, citing company protocols. “I was a bit surprised,” she said.

In the conversations with Agababa, Perez described the defendant’s tone as “fairly calm” and it “didn’t appear he was distraught.”

What neighbors say

Two of Bernstein’a neighbors also testified yesterday.

Robert Plew, who occupied the apartment unit next to Bernstein, said it was past midnight when he was awakened by Agababa’s knock at his door.

Upon opening his door, Agababa told him that someone broke into their apartment and that laptops were stolen, he said.

Plew said the defendant, while saying this, appeared “not panicked at all” and kept repeating that Plew “needed to come and see” Bernstein.

“I was expecting that it (the house) was ransacked, but it (was) not. Then I got a weird feeling when he (kept) on saying that I need to go and see the bedroom,” Plew said.

Plew also said he had once heard an argument between Bernstein and Agababa over phone bills and Bernstein was not happy with a bill.

Plew said he called 911 after he was informed by Agababa about the incident.

Phillip Kapp, also a neighbor of Bernstein, testified that he also got a knock on the door from Agababa on the early morning of the incident. He also said he was told by the defendant that they were robbed. Kapp was also led by Agababa to the unit where he also saw Bernstein’s body in the bed. Kapp also described Agababa’s tone as “pretty calm” during the incident.

'Victim on medication'

During the opening statements, defense attorney Randall Cunliffe told jurors that the victim had been under different medications – enough to cause her death.

He said the defense will prove Agababa’s alibi during the trial. Agababa, according to his counsel, was very concerned about his mother’s condition and that he went out that night to go to his younger brother at the request of his mother.

Cunliffe said police were suspicious of Agababa because they didn’t like how he reacted to the situation.

The trial will resume Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Maria Cenzon.



Company turns on first Solar4All residential solar energy system

Monday, 20 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MICRONESIA Renewable Energy Inc. (MRE) flipped the switch on its first Solar4All home on Guam, with the Yigo family of Gen and Greg Calvo as the first beneficiary of the zero money down solar energy service program.

MRE officially launched its Solar4All program last July. In its soft launching, MRE reported listing 20 participants in the program.

For the initiative, MRE partnered with SUNNOVA Energy Corp., a company based in Texas which provides solar energy services to several states across the nation.

MRE and SUNNOVA officials were on hand last week to explain the program and its affordability to all Guam residents.

While a typical solar energy system could be cost-prohibitive, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, MRE said under the Solar4All project, the system will be installed for free. The company will also provide maintenance for the life of the agreement.

Jeffrey Voacolo, MRE vice president, said the company owns the system and sells power it generates to homeowners.

For homeowners interested in the program, Voacolo said the entire process could be completed within a month.

“So we can come here at a house, tell you about the program, do a site visit, do the proposal and the contract, and be out within 30 days and put a free system in your house,” he said.

“With the Calvos they are saving $800 a year. As the utility rates increase, their savings increase as the years go by. They did not pay any money down. Year one they save $800; year two will be more. ... The entire time, we are maintaining the system and ensuring the system works,” he said.

Voacolo said MRE provides 100 percent insurance and the program does not impose a lien on the property.

“As long as you are a homeowner and you have decent credit. You can get a solar system installed in your house,” he said.

Gen Calvo said the program offered them a way to save money and cut power costs. “We first installed the solar power water heater and since that was a success, we heard about this program and applied,” she said. “Right now, I have no complaints. The maintenance comes up with the program. If there is a storm that comes and damages one of the panels, they will come two days after and fix whatever needs to be fixed.”

Difference

William J. (John) Berger, SUNNOVA CEO, said the company is proud to now call Guam home. “We have an excellent partner with Jeff (Voacolo) and the team at Micronesia Renewable Energy,” he said. “We look forward to helping everybody here on Guam to be able to save money and put that money back where they can really make a difference for their families.”

According to MRE, with Solar4All the customer simply pays for solar power by the month, just like the normal power bill, only lower.

MRE is a Guam-based company that specializes in the development, design, engineering, procurement and construction of renewable energy infrastructure and alternative energy solutions.

SUNNOVA’s mission is to be the most reliable and efficient provider of low-cost solar power to homeowners, according to its website

Investors to get closer look at assisted living center

Monday, 20 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

INVESTORS who will be attending the Guam Economic Development Authority Economic Symposium will get a closer look at the assisted living center proposed by American Medical Center’s principal partner Dr. Vince Akimoto, who wants to build the center at Oka Point in Tamuning.

“This is ready right now,” Akimoto said. GEDA officials were initially opposed to the idea of using the 52 acres in the Tamuning space for an assisted living center for the elderly population. “There’s been resistance from GEDA but the governor broke the stalemate on Friday and told GEDA, ‘put (us) in the conference,’” Akimoto said. “So the point is not just to be there but to do this presentation in front of all those hundreds of off-island investors who apparently are going to drop a lot of money on Guam to do something.”

Akimoto said there are not many opportunities for investors to invest in Guam right now, with the exception of the assisted living center.

The project is estimated to cost $573 million and already has some investors, he said.

There is no other shovel-ready project on the table, Akimoto said, and the governor agreed that the assisted living facility should be presented at the symposium on Wednesday to guests and investors. “The whole theme is ‘The time is now’ and this is (ready) right now,” Akimoto said. “GEDA is on board.”

The land is also under the purview of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, and the commission supports the assisted living center, according to Akimoto. Nasion Chamoru (Chamorro Nation) is also in favor of the project and has written a letter of support.

Further, both gubernatorial candidates have shown support for the project. Akimoto said it was former Gov. Carl Gutierrez who signed off on the legislation that will allow the CLTC to enter into a general lease for the commercial development of Oka Point back in 2001. More recently, Gov. Eddie Calvo has approved the development of an assisted living facility in the area.

The area at Oka Point has been vacant for years and as far as he is aware, there is no assisted living facility on island for the senior citizens on Guam or the region, Akimoto said.


‘No part-time legislature, no minimum wage increase’

Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Aspiring senators agree

SENATORIAL candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties seemed united yesterday, at least on two issues – a part-time legislature and the minimum wage hike.

The Rotary Club of Guam’s third round of candidate forums yesterday was attended by six contenders for the 33rd Guam Legislature – all of whom have never before served as legislator.

The GOP panel comprised Wil Castro, Adonis Mendiola and Glenn Leon Guerrero. The three panelists from the Democratic Party included Derick Baza-Hills, Rodney Cruz and Nerissa Underwood.

Rotarians discussed the U.S. Department of Labor’s final ruling on the implementation of President Barrack Obama’s executive order that would raise the wages of workers hired under federal construction and service contracts. Beginning January 2015, the wage will go from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 an hour.

Democrat Rodney Cruz was vocal in saying that although he may support the idea, the timing is not good for Guam now. Cruz cited the still unstable economy of Guam, and the fear of losing – instead of creating – more jobs for the people.

The GOP’s Adonis Mendiola said he believes that raising the federal minimum wage on Guam, without conducting an economic impact study, may create more burdens than benefits to the Guam economy.

Republican Wil Castro also expressed hesitancy about the federal minimum wage hike implementation without the economic impact study.

Cost of living

“The issue here is not how much we pay our people, but the cost of living. I will fully support a wage increase, but it has to go on a study. Instead of talking about this wage hike (now), why not examine the ‘inflationary pressures’ – the power, the water,” said Castro.

Democrat Nerissa Underwood said if Congress mandates the increase in the federal minimum wage, “Let’s obey it.” However, she said, Guam cannot act “before that.”

“Raising the minimum wage is not the solution (we need now),” she said.

Democrat Derrick Baza-Hills pointed out that raising the minimum wage gives employers some “pressures. And I am not in the business to force the employers.”

For Baza-Hills, providing incentives to employers and high school students is a more viable way to help the working poor families. In his proposal, high school students may work for three to four hours after school to help out their families.

In the issue of raising the federal minimum wage for federal contractors, there remains uncertainty that the Guam Employers Council said it wants clarified. This is regarding a provision in the ruling that this increase in federal minimum wage may exclude Guam since it is a U.S. territory.

All six of the panelists agreed that the people of Guam deserve to have a full-time lawmaking body that will enact legislation with their best interest at heart.

Underwood said she would like to restrict the “limited session legislature.”

Castro also pointed out that the legislature’s primary job is not restricted to just passing an annual budget.

 

  • Mathew

    If you are already going to chicken out on the wage issue, for instance, before you even become a senator, stay home and raise chickens instead. At the same time, you want a full-time Legislature? To do what? To appropriate money, you do not need a full-time body. To pass the medical marijuana issue onto the voters as a referendum, you do not need a full-time body. To do the bidding of the Governor, you do not need a full-time body. Maybe you like the trappings of a full-time entity, just like you like the benefits of not paying your student loans, for instance, Mr. Castro.

    IslandLife

    Reporting not correct: Aspiring Senator Glen Leon Guerrero clearly stated that he would be FOR a part-time legislature.

    Senatorial candidates breeze through GWCC forum

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    TWELVE senatorial candidates said as much as they could within the hour and a half they were in front of attendees at last night’s Senatorial Conversation forum, and considering the minute-long response time, that’s saying a lot.

    Last night was the second of a two-part forum hosted by the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam’s Ysrael Auditorium of Fine Arts. The participants were a mix of incumbents, new candidates, Republicans, Democrats and even a write-in candidate.

    Incumbents at last night’s forum included Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes, Tommy Morrison, Frank Aguon, Rory Respicio, Brant McCreadie, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Speaker Judith Won Pat. Candidates Mary Torres, Wil Castro, MiChelle Taitano, Nerissa Underwood and write-in candidate Romeo Carlos were also at last night’s forum.

    Carlos was the lone candidate on this year’s primary ballot that did not garner enough votes to appear on the general election ballot.

    Four candidates – Sen. Tony Ada, Frank Ungacta, Adonis Mendiola and Rodney Cruz – were unable to attend.

    From the start, candidates were tested as to how quickly and thoroughly they could address the audience, which made for an informal and light tone throughout the forum. While some candidates had to be cut off during their 30-second introductions, others had to drag out their concluding words to make it long enough to fit the time span.

    The candidates then drew two questions that ranged from retirement to marriage between homosexuals, and were so efficient at keeping time that moderator Carmen Kasperbauer suggested a third round, which was ultimately dismissed.

    Packed

    Still, between the two rounds, candidates packed their answers tightly and delivered them rarely with an intrusion.

    Castro kicked off the round answering a question about retirement and said it was not reliable that employees should be made to believe that they should rely on welfare. Kasperbauer asked if it was “realistic for employees to believe that in the future they will be able to live on their retirement considering the continued high rates of inflation.”

    Castro said millennials, the generation of individuals now in their 20s, are projected not to retire and that the legislature should provide as much opportunity for the younger generation to have the necessary training and expertise so they can earn and sustain their lifestyle as they choose.

    Next, Cruz said it was important to support more tourists as well as invite tourists with higher incomes, which is in line with the Guam Visitors Bureau’s Tourism 2020 plan. Cruz also said he supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

    McCreadie said he supported any effort to benefit the island’s athletes and the youth and supported the government pursuing growth in sports tourism.

    Respicio was asked how he would cut down the current processing delay of Medicare and MIP payments for physicians, which is why some physicians do not accept those insurance plans. The senator said his law to fix that issue was vetoed but he would, if re-elected, try to resurrect that bill.

    Republican candidate Taitano said she would revisit the impact of adding another dollar to the minimum wage before voting in favor of that proposal, when asked by Aguon if she would support raising the wage from $8.25 to $9.25.

    Casino gaming

    Aguon himself was asked in the second round if he agrees with casino gaming machines at Liberation festivities which he said he opposes. He said he is against the machines and if there is one piece of legislation he regrets supporting, it is the law that allows 200 gaming machines on island which was intended to help Guam Memorial Hospital.

    Torres was asked if she would repeal that gaming law, a surprising sequence of events, considering the questions were randomly chosen at the beginning of the event. Torres said she would look into auditing the documents to ensure the actual remittance from the gaming machines lined up with the projected remittance and go from there.

    In response to a question about gay marriage, Carlos said the vote to legalize gay marriage should be up to the people and that he would not leave it up to a 15-member legislative body to make decisions on the happiness of thousands of people.

    Won Pat was asked about helmet laws for motorcycle riders, which she said are individual choices to be determined by each citizen.

    Morrison said the position of attorney general should not be appointed by the governor, as it was in the past.

    Finally, Muña-Barnes closed the conversation last night in saying she would work closely with mayors for a separate bus system for each village for a revised public transportation system that could work.

    The forum is viewable online at GWCC’s Facebook page, on YouTube and will be rebroadcast on Docomo Channel 2.

    2014 Women in Business Conference

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    PRESS RELEASE

  • SBDC) – The Guam Small Business Development Center, along with the Bank of Guam Women in Business Program, presents the 2014 Women in Business Conference with this year’s theme: “Made Local. Go Global.”

    The conference will be held at the Westin Resort Guam on Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with guest speaker, Douglas Smith.

    Smith is the assistant director at the International Trade Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio, certified global business professional, with a master’s degree in international relations, and has his MBA in finance international business from the University of Texas Austin.

    The registration fee is $50 per person which includes lunch and refreshments.

    Requests for reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested two weeks in advance. For arrangements or more information, contact the Guam SBDC at 671-735-2590 or email nicole[at]pacificsbdc.com. Services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

    Smith has been involved in international trade and marketing consulting for more than 20 years, focusing on import and export development, international marketing strategy, international market research, marketing channel management, and industry and economic research.

    His consulting experience involves a broad range of industries, ranging from industrial products and computers to food products and textiles.  He has consulted for small businesses as well as major corporations such as IBM and Motorola.

    The 2014 Women in Business Conference: “Made Local. Go Global” will de-mystify the export process and explain it in a logical series of manageable steps. Smith will cover topics such as: benefits from exporting, export marketing and pricing, payment methods, finance and risk management, and U.S. and foreign regulation and taxation.

    The conference will also include an export expert panel featuring local business owners and professionals discussing the financial and technical logistics of exporting from Guam. The Women in Business Wine & Networking Event will follow immediately after.

    Airport responds to DFS lawsuit

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    THE Guam International Airport Authority released a statement yesterday following the news on Tuesday that DFS Guam has filed a complaint with the Superior Court of Guam protesting the award of the airport’s specialty retail contract to Lotte Duty Free in May 2013.

    According to GIAA, the latest complaint filed in Guam Superior Court by DFS Guam LP relating to the specialty retail concession contract “rehashes” old accusations that the airport has already refuted in numerous court filings and public statements.

    Earlier in the month, the Guam Superior Court entered final judgment in favor of GIAA, dismissing the first lawsuit brought by DFS in this same matter. (Tuesday’s) court filing by DFS comes in the wake of the dismissal of DFS’s protest by Guam’s Office of Public Accountability on Sept. 30.

    “Since DFS’s first attempt to stop Lotte from taking over the GIAA duty free concession failed in July 2013, Lotte has renovated and opened the airport concession space and made over $20 million in capital improvements at the airport pursuant to its contract with GIAA. Such improvements include much needed renovations to airport bathrooms and the food court,” GIAA stated. GIAA added that under the contract, Lotte also pays GIAA $15.4 million in annual minimum guaranteed rent which is more than three times greater than the minimum guaranteed rent paid by the predecessor concessionaire, DFS. Based in large part upon the Lotte concession contract, GIAA said it was also able to obtain over $200 million bond financing in September 2013.

    “GIAA expects to prevail in the latest action as we have in every other attempt by DFS to dispute a fair and competitive bid process that continues to pay dividends for the people of Guam. This matter has been a distraction and has taken far longer than it should have because of all of DFS’s legal maneuvering and tactics. Fortunately, we were able to move forward with projects that not only make our airport a more beautiful and efficient facility but also enhance the security and safety for our people and the traveling public,” said Chuck Ada, GIAA executive manager. “GIAA is committed to making the A.B. Won Pat International Airport a world-class facility that will help fuel economic growth for all of Guam. The new concessions contract with Lotte that was awarded through an open, competitive process has led directly to a significant series of improvements at the airport and allowed GIAA to move forward with $110 million in capital projects, financed in part by revenues guaranteed under the new contract,” he added.

DRT meets tax refund deadline

Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Department of Revenue and Taxation’s court-ordered deadline to pay income tax refunds within six months was yesterday and the department is “well ahead” of meeting that deadline, said DRT Director John Camacho.

    A court order issued in January 2013 requires the government of Guam to pay income tax refunds within six months or it will face possible receivership.

    Camacho said the last batch of refunds was paid last week and includes taxpayers who filed 2013 income tax returns through April 30. He said that batch was about $7 million.

    The government began paying tax refunds this year in early February. According to Variety files, more than 13,000 residents filed their returns between Feb. 3 and Feb. 10. Camacho did not say exactly how many residents filed their taxes between February and April this year.

    However, Camacho said that about 1,000 taxpayers filed their 2013 income tax returns yesterday, which was the deadline for individuals who filed for a six-month extension. The extension is for residents who needed more time to get their paperwork in order, Camacho said.

    So while the department was able to meet the deadline ordered by the District Court for timely income tax refund payments, it was also in the midst of processing hundreds of tax documents for those who filed late yesterday.

    Nothing new

    Camacho said late filers are nothing new and the department experiences this rush every year. “I see tax preparers come in with stacks of documents,” Camacho said.

    The director also recognized that with each passing day, the government must ensure that tax refunds filed after the April 15 deadline should be paid within the six-month requirement. Camacho said for example, if a tax return was filed on April 16, the government must pay the coinciding tax refund on Oct. 16.

    In 2013, a total of $133.5 million in tax refunds was paid to taxpayers.


Employers may still qualify for foreign worker exemption

Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ALTHOUGH the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released information that the nationwide cap of 66,000 foreign workers under the H-1B visa has been reached, employers on Guam and the CNMI still may qualify for the cap exemption, according to Marie Sebrechts, USCIS West Coast supervisory public affairs officer.

“In order to still qualify for this cap exemption, all form I-129 H-1B and H-2B petitions requesting employment in Guam must be received by USCIS by Dec. 31, 2014 and have an employment start date that is on or before Dec. 31, 2013,” Sebrechts said yesterday.

If the U.S. Congress does not extend the special cap exemption program, then at the end of this year the H visa employers in Guam and the CNMI will have to compete under the normal H-1B and H-2B visa annual caps with other employers throughout the U.S., according to Sebrechts.

Guam Memorial Hospital has six staff members working under the H-1B visa waivers. Four of them are currently working at GMH and two more are expected to arrive this year, said June Perez, GMH public information officer.

The four staffers on island are doctors, with one more doctor and a dietician expected to join the GMH staffing pattern soon.

The positions are critical to the hospital’s services. “If we don’t get the necessary extensions on these visa caps, the hospital will be severely impacted in all future recruitments of specialty hires like doctors and other clinicians,” Perez said.

Rely

Many other clinics rely on medical specialists and a lot of them come from foreign countries, Perez said. The health care professionals working under the H-1B visas are licensed to practice in the U.S. and licensed to practice in Guam but many are from foreign countries.

“They are not American citizens so they have to go through the visa process to work here,” Perez said.

Some professionals like engineers and architects are also working on Guam under the H-1B visas and will definitely be impacted if the island is not given an extension to the cap exemption, she said.

The USCIS reminded Guam and CNMI employers of the cap exemptions’ looming expiration in September. A statement from USCIS said the H-1B and H-2B petitions for foreign workers to work in Guam and the CNMI were not subject to the regular annual cap other states were subject to.

The exemption was a result of a provision in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which allowed H-1B or H-2B visas to nonimmigrant workers performing labor or services in Guam and the CNMI without competing with other employers in the states. The provision indicated Guam and the CNMI had five years, beginning in 2009, for the exemption.

H-1B visas are granted to specialty occupations for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher to perform labor or services that require higher education as a criterion.

GEDA announces speakers, agenda for symposium

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GEDA) – The Guam Economic Development Authority yesterday announced the speaker lineup and agenda for the upcoming Invest Guam Economic Symposium.

Notable speakers include: Joshua Cooper Ramo, vice chairman of Kissinger Associates Inc. (keynote speaker); Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior for Insular Affairs; Paul H. Vosti, senior advisor on Guam policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; Jay Saakvitne, head of the Municipal Credit Division of Barclays; and Frank Chin, chairman of the Public Finance Group of Citigroup.

This world-class conference will explore in detail three areas of the economy poised to grow: the visitor industry, utilities and infrastructure, and the defense industry.

Altogether it is estimated these three sectors will add an additional $12 billion to $15 billion in investment and income over the next seven to 10 years on Guam.

The three-day conference will not only bring regional and international business leaders to Guam, but also feature experts from the tourism, finance, defense and development sectors who will provide facts and discuss contracting opportunities and development plans for the island.

 

Parents protest at GACS

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/101514/gacs_200_200.jpgDURING last night's meeting at the Guahan Academy Charter School in Tiyan, parents sought answers from the GACS board and protested the decision to remove Dr. Donna Dwiggins, former principal of the school.

The stakeholders who spoke at the meeting all expressed support for the former charter school head who was relieved of her position earlier this month.

With the stakeholders wanting clarity over the issue, Roger Cooper, GACS board chairman, said Dwiggins was let go for several reasons.

"In doing our fiduciary duties for the school, the board came to a decision to relieve Dr. Dwiggins from her responsibility as principal, based on mismanagement of funds; poor decisions regarding school equipment and materials; disregard for the board direction on financial practices; and spending," he said, addressing the parents.

"I can't go into the exact details with you right now until we have presented the report to the government. Then, the government will determine where we go from there," he added.

Cooper said the board has been formulating the report for several weeks. The report will be made available to the parents and will become public record after submission to the government.

He also assured that the school is not in danger of closing and has enough funds until the end of the year.

In response to questions fielded by parents on who currently manages the school, Cooper assured they are currently looking for a replacement, but as of now, the board runs the school while Arlene Sayco continues to act as interim principal.

‘In the best interest’

According to Cooper, they had to go through two years worth of documents before making a decision.

"We are doing this in the best interest of the school, to protect our school, to protect the moneys that were given to the school to operate, and to assure that the school can continue to operate," Cooper assured the parents.

At first, tensions rose as parents spoke and expressed their support for Dwiggins.

Rita Arriola demanded why parents were not given a say in the decision-making and in determining the future of the charter school.

"This school gave my child a chance and I will fight for the school," she said.

According to one of the parents, school staffers have also submitted their concerns and also expressed their disagreement with Dwiggins' removal.

Some of the staffers also expressed concerns over personnel files which have been removed from the school.

Peggy Denney, a GACS board member, assured parents and teachers that it was part of the HR audit to ensure that "everything is in place that should be in the files."

"We have to go through the audit to make sure that everything is in order," she said.

Cooper said they will address issues in a separate meeting with staff this Friday.

With tensions rising throughout the meeting, one of the parents, Sandy Lucas, urged the parents and the board to set aside their differences and move forward.

Although she personally wanted to see Dr. Dwiggins back at the school, Lucas said she knew this was not going to happen. Thus, she urged both sides to rally and support the teachers and the school.

"This is Dr. Dwiggins dream ... even if she is not the CFO, or the principal. She did this for our children," she said.

Meanwhile, Cooper said, "We have to get this under our belt. We have had some rough decisions to make but we have to move forward."

DOL: Previous H-1, H-2 cap was ‘devastating’ to employers

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN 2007, Guam employers were subject to the limited number of H-1B and H-2B foreign workers allowed to work on the island and the cap placed on employers then was devastating for their projects, said Department of Labor’s Dorinda Meno, an employment development worker.

A federal law entitled Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 allowed employers in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to hire nonimmigrant workers under the H-1B and H-2B visas on an as-needed basis for five years, without a limit.

But at the end of this year, that exemption expires and employers here will be subject to the nationwide cap on the number of workers with H-1B and H-2B visas that are allowed into the United States.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there is an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas and 66,000 H-2B visas available each fiscal year for the entire nation.

Meno said this means if an orange farmer in California puts in a petition to the federal government that indicates that his farm needs 3,000 foreign workers before a Guam company puts in a petition for workers for a construction project on Guam, the workers will go to work in California.

A similar limitation was in place in 2007, Meno said. “The last time we were subject to it, it was very devastating for some employers that didn’t get the workers,” she said. “They lost the project. It had to be turned over to somebody else.”

Forced to subcontract

When employers have to wait for foreign workers, the work cannot be performed and contractors are forced to subcontract the project or lose the contract for the project completely.

Most of the foreign workers working under the H-2B program work for the construction industry and more than 90 percent of them come from the Philippines, Meno said.

Currently, there are about 1,300 H-2B workers on Guam and there are another 300 applications for workers that DOL has received for review before the end of the year.

Meno said many employers with projects in need of foreign workers have applied before Dec. 31 in light of the regulations changing at the end of the year. However, the department is being diligent with the applications and ensuring the employers have work lined up for the employees they plan to hire.

Any H-1B or H-2B worker petitions received by Dec. 31 will be exempt from the cap, USCIS stated online.

USCIS expects visas to be available for the H-2B program after Jan. 1, 2015 but they are subject to availability. However, there are no more H-1B visas available for fiscal year 2015. The citizenship agency said that the 66,000-visa cap has been reached and it will begin accepting H-1B petitions next April for foreign workers to work during fiscal year 2016.

Foreign workers under the H-1B visa program that wish to work on Guam this fiscal year may have to wait for next year. “(The cap) will affect the H-1 workers desperately,” said Manny Cruz, director of DOL. “Guam Memorial Hospital, they’re going to have issues because they partnered with (St. Luke’s Medical Center) and they’re going to be bringing back and forth as a partner, so that will affect them.”

St. Luke’s is based in the Philippines and signed a memorandum in August with GMH that will allow professionals from the Philippines to fly to Guam to help at the hospital.

Affect buildup

Cruz said the cap on workers under the H-2B visa program will likely affect the island in the future, when projects tied to the military buildup get underway. “They’re going to be asking for workers because of the construction of all these facilities because there’s not enough local workers,” Cruz said.

GMH administrators were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Kevin Kerrigan, Guam Regional Medical City’s communication director, said GRMC does not expect to be affected by the cap.

"In all, GRMC is hiring about 500 people. The vast majority are local hires. Of that number, we are hiring just over 50 physicians, 36 of whom are already on board. All of them are either stateside hires or already practicing on Guam," Kerrigan said.




Candidates come out swinging

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Gutierrez and Calvo trade barbs over various issues

ENERGY at the Hyatt Regency Guam was high as the gubernatorial candidates took the stage to a sold-out crowd at last night’s Election 2014 debate addressing health insurance, the Compact of Free Association and medical marijuana.

Last night’s debate was sponsored by the Guam Medical Association and hosted by Dr. Thomas Shieh and moderated by Dr. Nathaniel Berg. Berg said 700 tickets had been sold to the public who sat among members of the medical association.

Republicans were charged up before the debate began, chanting on their side of the Hyatt ballroom “Four more years” which was countered with Democrats’ chants of “No more years.”

At the start of the debate, Shieh informed the crowd and candidates of the format. The gubernatorial candidates had two rounds to debate each other and the second round would be done without the podium which allowed Gov. Eddie Calvo and former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez room to move about the stage.

Gutierrez and his running mate attorney Gary Gumataotao were introduced first and Gutierrez won the initial coin toss.

Calvo opened the debate with a subtle jab at Gutierrez, reminding the crowd that in the four years since his opponent “lost – uh, left office,” that more clinics have opened and health insurance rates have decreased. Gutierrez fired back and said Calvo wrote off $3.5 million worth of tax credits for Calvo family businesses.

Compact

The Compact of Free Association was brought up to the candidates.

Calvo said the solution to get fully reimbursed for COFA by the feds is to invest in the health facilities on Guam and “press” the federal government to make good on its promises. Gutierrez countered with the need for pounding on the door and networking with the feds to get full Compact-impact reimbursements.

Both candidates were asked if they supported mandated health care for the entire island population. Gutierrez said there is a proposal at the Department of Health and Human Services and that he would make sure Guam benefits from that proposal made in 2001. Calvo said Gutierrez was a “broken record” with promises of the past and said he was supportive of mandatory health insurance for the Guam population.

As far as medical marijuana is concerned, both candidates said medical professionals need to provide input on the current referendum but Calvo said input needs to be in place before legal medicinal use. Gutierrez suggested that medical professionals look at how legalized medical marijuana worked over five years and also said it is not a crime. Calvo said he did not support recreational marijuana.

The candidates had the opportunity to ask each other a question that was read by Berg. Gutierrez asked Calvo if he allowed businesses run by Calvo’s family to make away with $3 million in tax write-offs, a question which Gutierrez said Calvo dodged initially. After Gutierrez pressed him on the question, Calvo answered that the claim is false and he “did not authorize any write offs.”

Gutierrez then asked if Calvo would allow forensic audits of his family’s finances as well. Calvo publicly called for Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks to audit the finances of his family. Gutierrez said, however, that Brooks is not an independent auditor and Calvo “bullied” her into showing the GovGuam audit had a surplus instead of a deficit.

Calvo, in turn, asked Gutierrez if he would lay off thousands of employees at the start of the year if he is elected. Gutierrez reminded the people of the natural disasters that occurred during his term.

Final question

The final question of the first round allowed both candidates to ask each man’s strength and weakness. Calvo said Gutierrez was a charismatic man but he breaks the rules “in more ways than one.”

Gutierrez said he admires Calvo for loving his family so much that he allowed them to write off tax credits for his family business; however, Calvo “doesn’t tell the facts.”

Berg asked each candidate what they did during their respective terms to improve the health care systems on Guam, to which Calvo responded that under his watch, the island had not run out of medicine and that no one had been convicted of crimes in the health care industry.

Gutierrez said Calvo got rid of the Guam Memorial Hospital board that led the way for its accreditation and “put all his cronies in there” and has since “gone downhill.”

The night was charged with support for both candidates, making it difficult at times for Berg to moderate. Nonetheless, Berg was able to move the debate along even with interruptions from both sides of the room.

Calvo and Gutierrez also addressed shortfalls that they took responsibility for during their respective terms. Gutierrez said he wished he worked more with the legislature and said this time around, he would be less stubborn. "I'm not going to have a hard head anymore," he said. "It's softened over the years."

One regret that Calvo said he had during his term so far was his relationship with the late Democratic Sen. Ben Pangelinan. While he said he tries to work with other government leaders, he wished he had a better relationship with the late senator.

 

  • Mathew 19 minutes ago

    I don't begrudge the Governor for looking out for his own personal interests as that is what most, if not all, governors do to a certain extent. But to stand there and talk about health insurance "achievements" when 50% of the Guam non-military residents do not have any, according to a stat from DRT, and when the point man of Selectcare, spent a good piece of his time over the last 4 years helping to kill off the implementation of ACA on Guam, is too much of a negative stain on the Calvo team, no matter what the frills and fancies of the overall achievements are, such as borrowing money to pay off refunds. Without health insurance, you are pretty much up a creek, especially in the U.S., when the number one reason for personal bankruptcy is health-care related.



Guam's unemployment rate drops

Posted: Oct 13, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM
Guam - The unemployment rate on Guam has dropped again. According to two reports from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Guam decreased to 8.4 percent from September to December 2013 and 7.4 percent from December 2013 to March 2014. The drop is a result of an increase in the number of jobs and people employed. In March 5,350 people were unemployed which showed a decrease of 590 jobs from December last year. Meanwhile, the US unemployment rate in September this year was 5.9 percent - a decline of point 2 percentage points since August.


‘Guam wasn’t consulted in maritime boundary treaty’

Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SPEAKER Judith Won Pat has sent a letter to the federal government, asking it to pursue meaningful consultation with Guam over the recent execution of a treaty that appears to remove the deepest known point in the Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep, from Guam’s exclusive economic zone.


The “Treaty Between the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Government of the United States of America on the Delimitation of a Maritime Boundary” was executed between the U.S. government and the Federated States of Micronesia on Aug. 1 in Palau during the 45th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The treaty was negotiated to formally redefine overlapping maritime boundary lines between Guam and the outlying islands of the FSM, but Won Pat said at no point was Guam "meaningfully consulted" during discussions, negotiations and ultimately the execution of the treaty.

Won Pat said there is still confusion as to where Challenger Deep actually lies under the treaty and the potential adverse impacts the treaty would have on Guam’s rights over marine resources, including deep sea minerals possibly located in the area.

“This lack of engagement is especially problematic given the ambiguity surrounding the precise location of the deepest known point in the Mariana Trench, i.e. Challenger Deep. To be sure, many of us in Guam have long understood Challenger Deep as falling within Guam’s EEZ, i.e. on the Guam side of the line identified in the U.S.-FSM treaty,” Won Pat wrote in her letter.

In her correspondence with the federal government, she also attached a 2005 United States Geological Survey publication explicitly indicating that Challenger Deep falls on the Guam side, and not the FSM side, of the line.

"The United States should have been significantly more diligent in discharging its duties to the people of Guam as Guam’s administering power, and more specifically, it should have provided a mechanism for the meaningful consultation of the people of Guam prior to executing a treaty that potentially divests them of no insignificant part of their natural resources inventory,” Won Pat said.

Won Pat also attached a legal memorandum analyzing the international law issues surrounding the treaty.

Specifically, the memo discusses Guam’s right – as a nonself-governing territory – to be consulted on matters impacting its ability to pursue economic, social and cultural development and to have a say on issues affecting the island's natural resources.

“Guam had every right to be privy to information surrounding the execution of the U.S.-FSM treaty, particularly as it potentially significantly impacts the territory’s prospective economic development,” Won Pat said.

Copies of Won Pat's letter have been sent to President Barack Obama, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, the U.S. State Department deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the assistant secretary of Insular Affairs, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization chairman, President Emmanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia, the FSM Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the FSM consul general in Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo, all Guam legislators, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, an

Democrats: Adelup hindering road safety


Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • DEMOCRATIC senators in the Guam Legislature have passed a resolution claiming that the Calvo administration plans to stop all Route 4 safety enhancements relating to the solid waste Consent Decree for the opening of a new landfill at Layon.

    According to Rules Resolution 476-32, which was introduced by Sens. Tom Ada and Rory Respicio and co-sponsored by the Democratic majority, Adelup’s alleged efforts to halt this work “will cause unsafe consequences and disenfranchise our island’s southern residents.”

    The federal Consent Decree for the opening of a new landfill calls for specific improvements along Route 4 in order to address traffic safety issues related to the continuous use of Route 4 by heavy commercial trucks hauling solid waste to the new landfill.

    However, the Democrats charged that, at the direction of Gov. Eddie Calvo, the legal counsel for the government of Guam is seeking to amend the Consent Decree to delete the planned improvements to Route 4 in order to produce $6.4 million in savings, which the administration hopes to be able to have available to use for other government expenditures. 

    “The Calvo administration has proceeded to secure this deletion without any consultation with our island’s southern mayors and residents, who will be most negatively impacted by these changes currently being pursued in federal court by the Calvo administration,” the resolution states.

    According to the Democrats, the legal counsel for the government of Guam stated that the planned improvements to enhance traffic safety along Route 4 are not necessary because safe travel for solid waste trucks is being provided by a pilot vehicle escorting the trucks from the Talofofo Bay area to the Layon Landfill.

    ‘Oblivious’

    However, southern mayors, in a submission to the U.S. District Court, contend that the arguments put forth by the Calvo administration are "oblivious" to the transportation safety and quality of life of the residents most impacted.

    The rules resolution states the road segments between Talofofo Bay and the entrance to the landfill are not constructed to carry the weight of the solid waste trucks, which average about 10 tons more than what Guam law allows on local roadways.

    Without adequate reconstruction, the Democrats say the accelerated degradation of Route 4 will pose greater safety risks and greater vehicle maintenance costs to motorists who have to travel the roadway on a daily basis.

    A copy of the resolution has been transmitted to U.S. District Court Judge Francis Tydingco-Gatewood, the attorneys involved in the case, the federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the governor of Guam, the Office of the Attorney General, as well as the mayors of Inarajan, Talofofo, Merizo, Agat, Santa Rita, Umatac and Yoña.

d the executive director of the Commission on Decolonization.

GEPA gets over $3.1M from feds

Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding Guam more than $3.1 million for environmental protection work.

The funding will go to support the operations of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, including inspections, monitoring the safety of beaches and drinking water, permit writing, enforcement and other facets of their environmental protection programs.

According to Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, the funds will also help support GEPA’s efforts to protect Guam's natural resources.

“GEPA provides critical oversight to ensuring the safety of our drinking water and beaches, educating the community on environmentally-friendly best practices, and providing outreach to appropriately address pollution on Guam. I look forward to these funds supporting GEPA, and assisting them on their efforts to ensure that our island’s resources are maintained for future generations,” Bordallo said.

Specifically, the funding will enable GEPA to continue a host of ongoing environmental programs, including:

  • Reducing non-point source pollution in the Ugum watershed – a key drinking water source for southern Guam – through education and outreach, improved land management and construction practices, and afforestation of eroded areas;

  • Protection of the northern Guam lens – the island’s sole-source drinking water aquifer – through permitting and enforcement programs designed to prevent contamination, maintain water quality, and ensure potable drinking water for the residents of Guam;

  • Weekly monitoring of 44 recreational beaches around the island for microbiological contamination;

  • Improvements to automate, standardize, and provide real-time access for sharing environmental data through development of the Guam Facility Registry System and improvements to GEPA’s geographic information system;

  • Continued development of GEPA’s Brownfields program and selection of clean-up sites;

  • Pesticide management to educate farmers on proper application techniques and eliminate illegal importation and use of unregistered pesticides;

  • Islandwide inspections to help ensure safe underground and above ground fuel storage tanks; and

  • GEPA emergency response, hazardous waste, and clean air program management.

    Advance goals

    Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said EPA’s funding enables Guam to advance their goals in the pursuit of clean air, water and land.
    “The continued program work and improvements will greatly benefit the residents of Guam and their precious island resources,” he said.



Calvo, Gutierrez face off

Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez, left, stresses a point during yesterday’s gubernatorial debate hosted by the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa. At right, Gov. Eddie Calvo talks about his administration’s accomplishments during the debate. Photos by Matt Weiss / Variety

GUBERNATORIAL candidates Gov. Eddie Calvo and former Gov. Carl Gutierrez squared off in person for the first time this election season with each candidate highlighting his accomplishments during his term as governor.

Calvo and Gutierrez faced a packed Rotary Club of Tumon Bay luncheon yesterday at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa with supporters from both political camps filling The View meeting room to capacity. Directors of several government agencies sat among the crowd of Rotarians, a few senatorial hopefuls from both parties and yellow-shirted Gutierrez supporters.

Gutierrez started the forum energetically, calling on Calvo to disclose whether or not his family is benefiting inordinately from government contracts since he was elected into office and he addressed claims that he was the first governor to stop paying Earned Income Tax Credits.

“I hear my opponent’s claim to fame ... that I left him all this income tax that were unpaid and that he caught up with it,” Gutierrez said. “Let me say this to you that the Earned Income Tax Credit that I paid one year of my eight years was because there was an appropriation made in 1998 by ... Tony Blaz.”

Gutierrez said the legislature never made an appropriation to pay the income tax credits for seven out of the eight years he was in office, which is why he only paid EITC once during his tenure. Gutierrez also said Calvo had been the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee chairman in 1999 and 2000 and “never appropriated one penny for me to pay the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

Gutierrez also brought up the difference in debt between the two candidates, saying under his administration he had only borrowed $150 million over eight years, a stark contrast to Calvo’s $380 million in borrowed funds. “It is not sustainable,” Gutierrez said. “Right now, the first payment was $80 million this (past) Oct. 1 and it’s going to go up $110 million in 2017. You cannot mortgage the people of Guam, the children of Guam because things happen. ... You can have another type of disaster.”

Calvo

Calvo followed Gutierrez’s remarks with a focus on what he accomplished during his time as governor and said he would not entertain being the “arch nemesis” of Gutierrez. 

When addressing the increased debt service, Calvo said the 2017 debt payment would be about $82 million, not the $110 million figure that Gutierrez estimated.

Calvo said under his administration, he restructured the debt to be paid over 30 years with a lower interest rate. It was Gutierrez who authored a bill for a bond to pay tax refunds and it was Gutierrez who “made a wanton decision not to pay tax refunds,” Calvo said.

Both candidates touted their improvements to the island’s infrastructure, with Calvo highlighting the improved road structures and Gutierrez recalling the fixed sewer and water lines following damage from an earthquake.

Both Calvo and Gutierrez expressed support for expanding business relations to improve the economy and discouraged a Rotarian’s suggestion to privatize the Guam Power Authority.

At one point during the forum, the candidates were asked how they would improve customer service in the government agencies. Gutierrez spoke first and said education and working with the business community is the way to improve customer service.

Calvo responded, saying he had government workers trained by bringing in trainers. Calvo also said Gutierrez was the governor who signed the merit bonus legislation into law and never paid the government workers. Afterward, Gutierrez spoke up again out of turn, prompting many in the Rotarian crowd to heckle the former governor, telling him to sit down. Gutierrez responded to the audible objections with, “Why? You don’t want to hear the truth? You don’t want to hear the truth?”

Gutierrez said the merit bonus law was passed in 1992 and took effect in 1995 but had to be appropriated by the legislature. Gutierrez accused Calvo of buying votes and paying merit bonuses for 20 years when the law states the bonuses should be limited to three or four years of back pay.

Calvo countered Gutierrez’s statement, telling attendees that as a leader, Gutierrez could not abide by simple debate rules, so how could he abide by the law as a government leader.

Gutierrez also had documents passed out to the crowd to compare his administration with Calvo’s. “I passed out some of that information to show you that this man will just say anything because he thinks it will be printed the way he says it. But look at the facts,” Gutierrez said. “Thank God we have those audited documents to show that what he says out there is completely untrue.”

  • Yigo76

    Someone start digging up the old PDNs because history is being re-written. Why didn't anyone bring up the

    USDA approves loan for UOG, GCC facility improvements

    Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    Guam Community College President Mary Okada said the projects that will be funded by the loan will further enhance the GCC criminal justice program by providing a more conducive learning environment to give GCC graduates the necessary skills to fill the demand for law enforcement and forensic science careers on Guam and in the region.

    THE U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved loans for facility improvements to the University of Guam and Guam Community College.

    The loans will be used for the construction of the UOG Student Services Center and the annex building for the UOG School of Engineering as well as the extension of the GCC Gregorio G. Perez Crime Lab building and the renovation of GCC buildings 100 and 200.

    Speaker Judith Won Pat, chairwoman of the Guam Legislature's education committee, lauded the approval of the loans, saying she remains committed to working with UOG and GCC to improve the island’s educational facilities through feasible financing options.

    "These loans will contribute to the advancement of education, and ultimately our future,” Won Pat said.

    The $5 million loan to GCC will enable students to gain a better understanding of police forensics and help Guam Police Department specialists who will now have better tools to help put criminals behind bars.

    Gov. Eddie Calvo, GCC President Mary Okada and Joe Diego, USDA Guam area manager, gathered with other officials yesterday at the GCC Multipurpose Auditorium to announce the USDA’s $5 million loan to GCC for the renovation/expansion of Building 100 and the construction of a classroom and DNA laboratory addition to the nearby Gregorio D. Perez GPD Crime Lab.

    The renovated Building 100 will house the GCC criminal justice program and cosmetology classes, while the crime lab extension will provide classrooms and a DNA forensic lab.

    Greatly benefit

    “This $5 million loan is the result of what can happen when we collaborate, through entities like GCC, with federal agencies such as USDA to press for improvements on our island,” Calvo stated in a news release. “This project will greatly benefit the students at GCC, the officers of the Guam Police Department, and the law-abiding citizens of Guam.”

    Okada, who sought leveraged financing with USDA for the projects, said that these two projects will further enhance the GCC criminal justice program by providing a more conducive learning environment to give GCC graduates the necessary skills to fill the demand for law enforcement and forensic science careers on Guam and in the region.

    Diego said the awarding of the loan illustrates the Obama administration’s continued commitment to help rural residents gain access to up-to-date education and community services necessary to improve their quality of life.

    "We are pleased to play a role in continuing the impressive growth at Guam Community College,” Diego said.

    indictments of many of Gutierrez's top lieutenants?


Apple Tumon store to open by next month in Comete building


Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • THE Apple Store has confirmed it is coming to Guam soon to offer tourists and residents its wide range of product offerings.

    Erik Pedersen, the director of the Comete Building, told Variety yesterday that Apple has signed a five-year lease agreement with the company for the venue of its first store on Guam.

    He said Apple will be renting a 1,200-square foot space on the Comete Building ground floor for its newest investment. The building also houses UnderWater World Guam and the Sea Grill restaurant.

    Pedersen said the store is scheduled to open on or before Nov. 1, in time for the holidays.

    “This is a multimillion-dollar commitment to Guam and we’re very excited about it. It’s a great addition to Comete and a great addition to Tumon,” he said.

    Based on the preliminary planning and design, Pedersen said the reseller shop, which is estimated to be manned by about 15 personnel, will look exactly like Apple’s shops in various countries.

    “The plan I saw is very reminiscent of what they have in Dallas, Texas and like their other shops in many places in the states and other countries,” Pederson said.

    He said Apple’s decision to open a business on Guam is in line with the company’s goal of reaching out to more Asian patrons, considering that Guam is a favorite destination of tourists from Asian countries.

    This is also in line with Apple’s expansion goals as it has now nine shops in the Philippines.

    “By putting the store in Guam, this would allow folks and tourists on island to have the same Apple experience like customers in the U.S.,” Pedersen said. He added he believes prices for products offered on Guam will be within the range offered at stores elsewhere.

    Demand

    Pederson said the Apple Store is also convinced there’s a demand for its service and products on Guam.

    The Apple Store is a chain of retail stores owned and operated by Apple Inc., dealing with computers and consumer electronics.

    All stores offer a Genius Bar for technical support and repairs, as well as free workshops for the public, while some high-profile stores feature a theater for presentations and workshops, and a studio for training with Apple products, according to the company’s website.

    With global sales of $16 billion in merchandise in 2011, Apple leads the United States retail market in terms of sales per unit area. As of August, Apple has 435 retail stores in 16 countries and an online store available in 43 countries.




WestCare to help Guam veterans at risk of homelessness


Monday, 06 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WESTCARE Pacific has received a federal grant which will be used to assist veterans on Guam who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, according to Sarah Thomas-Nededog, VP of WestCare Pacific Islands.


Thomas-Nededog said with this funding the nonprofit organization will be able to provide transportation to appointments, assistance in accessing legal services, child care, case management and counseling to qualified veterans.

The grant, which was announced Oct. 1, will also be used to make third-party payments for veterans who may be at risk of losing their homes. WestCare will be able to help with housing rental payments, security deposits or moving expenses, Thomas-Nededog said. 

The organization aims to serve 150 veteran families in the coming year.

Thomas-Nededog said the grant is one of the first substantial grants from the U.S. Department of Veteran Benefits Administration given to a nonprofit community-based organization on Guam. WestCare Pacific will receive $700,000 this year to serve homeless veterans and WestCare will have the chance to reapply in another grant cycle.

“The (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families) grant for Guam is a message that we are part of the U.S. and that our veterans here are perceived by the (U.S. Department of Veterans Benefits Administration) as in need of greater support,” Thomas-Nededog said.

WestCare expects to collaborate with the veteran communities, social service agencies and the local homeless coalition to help implement the project, Thomas-Nededog said.

In 2012, there were about 31 homeless veterans on Guam, according to a 2013 research report on homelessness from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Overall about 1,301 people were considered homeless in 2012 a decrease from 2011, during which the Guam homeless population was about 1,745.

Guam is one of many other states that received the federal grant, called the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families grant. More than $500 million has been designated by the federal government to assist with veteran homelessness, according to Thomas-Nededog.

The grant will be put to use soon as WestCare Pacific Islands prepares to implement the program.

WestCare also services persons with mental illness, youth at risk and people who have or may have HIV/AIDS.

For more information about WestCare Pacific or the assistance available for veterans through WestCare, call 472-0218.



$500K earmarked for Paseo project


Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


 (ADELUP) – The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded a grant requested by Gov. Eddie Calvo for $500,000 to complete the Department of Parks and Recreation’s repair of Paseo Park and Recreation Area.


This money will renovate the recreation center and will also fund reconstruction of a new concrete roof, to replace the old steel roofing.

“We’re using this money to provide a safe and fun environment for the people and families of Guam,” Calvo said.

The renovation to the Paseo park and recreation area will give the families of Guam another place to enjoy family time safely, while enhancing their health and wellness.

Police Chief Fred Bordallo also confirms the additional police hires give GPD the resources to increase patrols. Police presence will increase at the Paseo de Susana to keep people safe there



Government map website a 'frustrating' experience


Monday, 06 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE government of Guam’s map website used to be a vital tool for realtor Christopher Felix, but in recent months it’s been shut down and restored with fewer features, rendering it nearly useless.


The government map website, found at www.maps.guam.gov, was used by realtors to find land through lot numbers so it could be valued accurately for potential buyers or sellers. Felix said the website had a feature which would allow realtors to view land with corresponding lot numbers from the Department of Land Management.

Felix said he deals with hundreds of lots a month and the online map tool made it easier to access photos of the land, and the government website also allowed him to give buyers or sellers credible information with ease. “I was able to copy the information online and show them to homeowners and developers and say, ‘It’s not just me. This is what the government is saying’ as well,” he said.

About six months ago, the government map website was shut down and about two months ago it was restored, according to Felix.

However, now the website lacks the feature to view lot numbers associated with areas of land. Felix said the information available through the government website is the same information available on Google Earth and said the government website was of no use to him.

Felix said it’s been a frustrating experience.

“Most of us realtors ... developers and contractors, we were using this system to help us on budgeting and valuations and getting costs,” Felix said. “With these overlays it could really help. It was good for all the people of Guam. And even homeowners can go in there and look at it; it was open to the public.”

The government website is maintained by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans. A disclaimer posted on the website notes that users should verify the information contained on the map with primary government agency sources and is not a substitute for land survey data.

Officials from the bureau were not available for comment Friday or yesterday.

Felix said when he noticed the lot numbers were not available online, he inquired about the change in features at the Department of Land Management. “They said ... it’s there but (DLM) no longer lets the public see it,” he said. “And that really upset me because who pays for this? We, the public pay for this and they have this data and information. Why not make it available to the public?”

Felix said he has been in contact with Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio to help restore the website to how it was before the changes and while Tenorio has been helpful, the website still is not.

The realtor questioned why the lot numbers are not available online now as it was before. “It seems, if it’s available, why not do it? Why not allow the public to take a look at it? I understand now that all it takes is to flip a switch, just push a button and that’ll allow public access to that part of the system,” he said.

He said he is able to view lot numbers at DLM offices and ask for copies of the information but that is time-consuming and inconvenient as he is dealing with hundreds of lots a month.

Further, with the lot number overlay feature online, buyers who choose not to use a realtor could see if they are getting what they paid for in terms of size and the area. Felix said sometimes there are “sliver lots” that could alter the value of an area and the overlay feature would be able to show the buyer the sliver lots.

“Sometimes when you get buyers and sellers meeting directly, the poor buyer can get burned so easily,” he said.

IslandLife 6 hours ago

We, the tax paying public, also used to be able to pay our GRTs online (pay.guam.gov), which has been offline for 2 (?) years now, we used to be able to pay for and renew our vehicle registrations online, we used to be able to pay our payroll withholding taxes at any bank on island, etc. Now, we, the tax paying public, have to go and physically stand in line at one of the few, crowded GovGuam Treasurer location, to be treated "not very courteously" by disgruntled employees. I think that the only solution is to privatize the entire collections process with audited oversight and open bidding for 5 year contrac



Airport defends United's lease of closed commuter terminal

Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GIAA decision on Star Marianas application remains pending

THE Guam International Airport Authority has defended the lease it approved for United Airlines of the now-closed commuter terminal after Star Marianas Inc. raised its concern on the issue.

Star Marianas is applying to service the Guam-NMI routes. No decision, however, has yet been made by the airport authority which prompted Star Marianas to file a complaint with GIAA and the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the second time the carrier has applied for the same service. The first was two years ago, but it did not come to fruition.

Rolenda Faasuamalie, GIAA marketing administrator and spokeswoman, told Variety yesterday that communication is constant between the FAA and GIAA on the Star Marianas complaint.

"The FAA is fully aware about the issue (with Star Marianas) and we're in communication with them," she said, adding that GIAA's concerns about the issue have been aired to the federal agency.

Variety learned that Robert Christian, chairman of Star Marianas, on Sept. 2 submitted to GIAA a complaint-letter regarding the delayed response on its application. The airline also raised questions about the lease provided by the GIAA to United despite the space being closed down.

In response to Christian's letter, GIAA Executive Manager Charles Ada defended the authority's decision.

"I was quite surprised and disappointed that you raised the commuter terminal again in your letter which we discussed thoroughly and had documented during our Aug. 19 meeting," Ada told Christian in a letter dated Sept. 22.

Security reasons

The commuter terminal was closed more than 10 years ago for security reasons by both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency.

"The identification (of the area as "commuter terminal") on our Airport Layout Plan was for familiarization only and is currently being updated to alleviate any future confusion," Ada said.

He said the current United lease of a space within the closed commuter terminal was made since it was available and needed to support the airline's hub operation.

Additionally, Ada said, GIAA has decided not to revert the space back to commuter operations since no aircraft could be parked on its adjoining apron because safety clearances could not be met after GIAA constructed the parallel taxiway.

According to Ada, GIAA recognized the demand for a permanent facility for commuter operations. This is why, he said, the authority established an Interisland Passenger Facility project to be funded under the 2013 revenue bonds.

However, Ada said to realize this project, it would take 18 months for GIAA to plan, design and construct the facility.

According to Ada, because it would take some time to realize the Interisland Passenger Facility, GIAA has opted to open an interim facility.

"We are committed to look at the options for an interim facility to meet the specific requirements of your aircraft's passenger capacity; to provide more operator self-access and improve passenger service to the residents and visitors of the Marianas," Ada told Christian in the Sept. 22 correspondence.

Target structure

GIAA has identified the Yellow Cargo Building as the target structure for the interim facility.

Ada noted that the Yellow Cargo Building is just an identifier as it is a multipurpose building.

"Although there are no federal inspection requirements, we have been working with Guam Customs and Quarantine on their criteria and to designate the (Yellow Cargo Building) as an inspection facility under their mandate," said Ada.

He said that GIAA is "getting closer to a workable layout" for the interim facility which will be made available to Star Marianas for its review.

Once built, the space will also be available for other interested carriers utilizing specific aircraft types and will become a common use facility.

Under a Star Marianas proposal, daily operation will commence primarily for Guam-Rota service and Guam-Saipan service. The company will utilize a Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft with eight-seat capacity. At present, Star Marianas' operation on Guam is for cargo service only.

Star Marianas Air Inc. was incorporated in August 2006 under the name Star Aviation Inc. In 2008, the name was changed to Star Marianas Air Inc. Based on the company's website, its current fleet is comprised of seven Piper Cherokee Six aircraft and four Navajo Chieftain aircraft.

Adios Senådot Ben

Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MICHAEL BEVACQUA

IN JULY of this year, the Marianas said goodbye to Senådot Ben Pangelinan, a longtime champion of the Chamorro people, their language and their rights. In the context of Chamorro struggles today, Senådot Ben was taiachaigua especially in terms of our elected leaders.

Senådot Ben was known for being an outspoken and highly principled person. One of the ways in which this manifested was through his and his office’s support for the decolonization of Guam and his work to help make possible a political status plebiscite. Senådot Ben was born in Saipan and traced his Chamorro lineage to Saipan. This made him ineligible to vote on a political status for Guam. This did not deter him from seeing decolonization as a critical issue and one he should take seriously in his life, as a matter of justice worth supporting and fighting for. Because of the efforts of his office, thousands of people were added to the decolonization registry, pushing it closer than it ever had been before to meeting the 70 percent registered threshold needed prior to the holding of a plebiscite.

Senådot Ben was one the few amongst Guam’s elected leaders today who could fluently speak the Chamorro language and would use it in his campaigning and in his speeches on the floor of the Legislature. He was well known for his passionate use of Chamorro while in session, reminding others, both Chamorro and non-Chamorro of the importance of Guam’s native language, especially when fewer and fewer people are using it. A’gang i bos-ña Si Senådot Ben, ya på’go mas suabi i bos Chamorro gi halom i leyeslatura.

I remember his presentation for the 2nd Marianas History Conference in 2013 held at the University of Guam. Titled “Galvanizing Past and Present Threats to Chamorro Homelands,” he covered the importance of the Chamorro Land Trust, a GovGuam agency created through a mixture of government reform, grassroots activism and attempts at restorative justice. He presented the struggles to get the Land Trust implemented, but also the need to be vigilant in terms of keeping Guam’s land, the most sacred heritage of any native people safe. As he noted in his presentation, “Manteni I Tano’ ya ta susteni I taotao,” hold onto the land and we will sustain the people. A simple, but profound truth. Senådot Ben, a fine orator filled his articles and his speeches with many such powerful points. For his memorial service, his staff and friends gathered together portions of his writings and statements over the years and provided copies for those gathered.  His power and passion is still evident in these words. Some of them I’ve gathered below:

“My prayer and wish for you today is that you will not let present day conventions and institutions mute your voices, clip your wings or keep you from flight. That when the walls of today’s institutions confine and obstruct your vision, that your imagination leads you to add new things to these institutions and when that is not enough, you find the courage and tenacity to raise them and build new ones. Don’t just think outside the box, dismantle the box and you will have real freedom in your revolution.”

“Today, in a time full of cynicism, political sound bites and press releases, we must remember who we are as a people. We once mastered the navigation of the seas; surely we can determine our political future. We survived a world at war; surely we can build an economy which leaves no hardworking families behind. We are the inheritors of an ancient land; surely we can leave this place better than we found it.”

“Despite hundreds of years of influence and suppression, the fundamental principles that make our people unique remain intact. The values of inagofli’e’, inarespeta, inaguaiya, ika and chenchule’ teach us a respect for oneself and for another – that we take care of one another, especially in times of need. Our values teach us that giving back is as important as standing up for truth and justice – that our actions are a reflection of the people who raised us, and the respect we pay them extends beyond their lives on earth.”

“We are no longer a generation rooted in the gratefulness of a liberation. We are a generation whose hearts have been hardened by unkept promises and transgressions unresolved. Knowing this, you have no reason to be surprised as you are met with arms raised in opposition, rather than arms open to accept your plans to take our lands again, change our way of life forever, to once again suit your needs.”


The last time I saw Senådot Ben was at the movie theater a few weeks before he passed. I was taking my kids to watch “Edge of Tomorrow” and we bumped into him in the concession area. I had my kids fanginige’ him and we talked for a bit. My daughter Sumåhi had gotten a hot dog and in Chamorro, taking our cue from a pre-war joke, we call it “maipen ga’lågu” which means literally a hot dog (as in the animal). As we added ketchup to it, he overheard me refer to it as “maipen ga’lågu.” He started laughing and congratulated us for keeping the language alive. In my last image of him, he was walking away to watch “The Fault in Our Stars” with that “maipen ga’lågu” smile still on his face.

Adios Senadot Ben.



Ordot lawsuit bill disputed


Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • BILL 281 was taken off the Guam Legislature session floor yesterday and sent back to committee following a motion by Sen. Michael San Nicolas.

    The measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Duenas, would authorize the government of Guam to assert a claim against the federal government for compensation to help defray the cost of closing the Ordot Dump.

    It would also appropriate $350,000 to retain legal services to establish if there are justifiable claims for a government of Guam lawsuit against the federal government.

    Duenas said the funds would also be used to hire environmental experts who would determine whether there is a viable claim against the U.S. government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund.

    But San Nicolas said the bill would have allowed the spending of government money in addition to the 30 percent in contingency legal fees to which a law firm would likely be entitled.

    “Bill 281 would have spent $350,000 of the people's money to do all the legal legwork, only to have the work handed over to a private law firm of the administration’s choosing to pocket $30 million to $60 million of the settlement,” San Nicolas said.

    Moreover, San Nicolas said the source of the $350,000 was not identified in the bill. San Nicolas said the bill merely says that the Department of Administration would be directed to identify the funding source.

    "Therefore, this is another unfunded mandate. When funding sources aren't identified, that means that $350,000 could come out of the funding for education, health, public safety and other priorities. If this case is strong, we should have it move forward on a contingency basis without spending public funds to do all the legwork for a private firm,” San Nicolas said.

    ‘Penny-wise and pound-foolish’

    After the San Nicolas motion to remove the bill from the session floor, the Republican Party of Guam issued a statement pointing out that the Democrats had voted down party lines to send Bill 281 back to committee.

    Duenas said the motion proffered by San Nicolas was “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” and was “consistent with his past positions on blocking all initiatives coming from the Calvo administration.”

    According to the GOP statement, the initiative was supported by the governor in his State of the Island Address, the Guam Solid Waste Authority board of directors, and a fiscal note and funding source for the bill was provided by the Governor’s Office.

    “Because of party politics, we lost an opportunity today to possibly reclaim hundreds and millions of dollars in federal reimbursements,” Duenas said.

    Duenas said his bill was introduced to recover a portion of the $360 million it will cost Guam’s taxpayers to close the Ordot Dump and open a new landfill.

    “This is an unfunded mandate imposed upon the people of Guam, and we would be foolish not to pursue any potential reimbursements available to us by federal law,” he said.

    Duenas also noted the Ordot Dump was built, owned and operated by the military for the disposal of military waste prior to World War II and again after the war, until about 1950 before it was transferred to a federally appointed administration until 1970.

    “Under federal law, the cleanup of sites such as Ordot, falls on responsible parties to include the federal government. The bill allows us to move forward in pursuing reimbursement for a portion of the cleanup costs, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Republican senator said.

    Duenas said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already stated that the U.S. Navy is a potential responsible party with respect to environmental contamination of the dump and CERCLA requires that responsible parties pay their share.


·         "Live Life Alive" formed to educate public about medicinal marijuana


  • Posted: Sep 30, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - It was just last week when a federal lawsuit was filed to prevent the Guam Election Commission from putting the question of medicinal marijuana on the ballot. But while that waits to be heard, a group has formed to not only educate the community on the matter but to teach them to "Live Life Alive."

    Senator Tina Muna Barnes says the petition by Attorney Howard Trapp for a writ of prohibition with the District Court of Guam is just another hurdle to leap over. "I just hope that the people will be given the opportunity to vote on an issue of great importance and know that there will be an alternative to those that are suffering from debilitating health issues," she told KUAM News.

    It was last week Friday we first reported that Trapp filed the lawsuit asking the federal court to prohibit the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 from being placed on the general election ballot. For Joaquin Concepcion, the father of "KC", he, like Barnes, expressed his disappointment, saying, "And to me I think it's a total disrespect to our own Supreme Court, we have three excellent justices that decided and issued their order and their decision saying it's totally legal what the Guam legislature did I am not surprised he did this, but I'm very disappointed he did."

    Aside from the lawsuit, Concepcion says he and his family, friends and supporters are still moving forward in the hope of seeing medicinal marijuana allowed on Guam. "This is something that needs to be done," he said.

    In fact, a non-profit organization was recently formed modeled after the mantra KC lived up to every day despite his fight against cancer. "Don't just survive, live when you're alive and it makes a lot of sense here as far as that's concerned, hence we named it Live Life Alive Inc. and we're pursuing to better educate our people before the election as to the medicinal value of cannabis," said Concepcion.

    Documents were filed with rev and tax last week to form the non-profit. He adds along with education, the group hopes to print informational materials and signs to bring awareness to the cause. Concepcion said, "It will eventually morph into a Live Life Alive foundation further down the road in which one of his dreams was to console and take care of children whose parents are suffering from any type of terminal or debilitating disease he wanted to go and take care of these kids and what to expect."

    Along with allowing for medicinal marijuana on Guam, he says the live life alive group was a dream of KC's before his passing. A wave meanwhile is being held Friday October 3 at the Micronesia Mall intersection starting at 430pm. For more information visit the group's Facebook page or email at livelifealive215@gmail.com.

    GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan in the meantime says she is proceeding forward with the election process as the mass production of the ballots containing the medicinal marijuana question began on Monday and continues today.

  •  

    Guam company gets $6 million for missile facility

  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

  • BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  •  

  • THE Department of Defense announced yesterday that it has awarded a $6.18 million contract to AIC International Inc. for the construction of a new 710-square-meter tactical missile maintenance facility at Andersen Air Force Base.

    The facility is to accommodate the maintenance operations, including assembly, disassembly, inspection, testing, and repair of precision guided munitions, according to the award notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website. 

    The project is a fiscal year 2014 military construction project set aside for a Historically Underutilized Business Zone business. The request for proposal was originally posted on Dec. 24, 2013. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is the contracting unit.

    AIC was established more than 30 years ago and has offices in Agat, Saipan and Seattle and a staff of more than 150.

    Guam Power Authority signs record-low interest bonds

  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

  • BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Power Authority yesterday held a ceremony to mark the signing of closing documents for $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds, and reported that the latest bond issuance was closed at a record-setting low interest rate of 4.37 percent per annum.

    The 2014 bonds will support the power authority's plans to procure a new energy storage system, implement system improvements, and provide initial funding of GPA’s proposed energy conversion blueprint.

    Joaquin Flores, GPA general manager, said the 2014 revenue bonds beat the power authority’s 2012 bond sale which had a then-record low interest rate.

    “It was nine times oversubscribed in about 45 minutes when we finally opened the marketing desk. It was exciting to see new investors who are interested in Guam, who value our credit, and to see that we are doing things right, for many different reasons – for reliability, for customer satisfaction, for efficiency, and affordable rates,” Flores said.

    He said GPA’s debt service costs would be about $5 million per annum.

    But with financing levelized and spread out over a longer timeframe, Flores said they expect to mitigate consumer power rate increases for the next four or five years.

    “That is the best thing. We have found an innovative way of financing that we don’t automatically ask ratepayers to fund our improvements. We found ways to levelize this through many years and achieve no rate increases within the next four or five years,” he said.

    Sean Keatts, bond underwriter with Barclays Capital, said he expects the transaction to close by today. Keatts affirmed that the 4.37 percent interest represents all-in true interest costs.

    “That is your effective borrowing rate for 30 years,” he said.

    Overwhelming demand

    He said the demand from investors was overwhelming, which enabled bond-financing underwriters to lower borrowing costs.

    According to Flores, GPA was able to take advantage of favorable market conditions and low interest rates to secure financing for the projects and leverage strong demand for the bonds, resulting in reducing the repayment of the bonds by nearly $1 million.About $3 million will be allocated from the 2014 bond money to fund the power authority’s new generation plan, as well as ongoing efforts to shift to liquefied natural gas, according to Flores

    But about $35 million has been reserved for energy-storage and renewable-energy mitigation projects.

    Flores said the new investment would allow for reliability and higher penetration of renewable energy in the grid.

    The Consolidated Commission on Utilities has already approved a resolution authorizing the power authority to seek Public Utilities Commission approval for use of the revenue bonds to develop specifications for procuring and commissioning the energy storage system as well as to contract technical support for the procurement.

    Aside from the energy storage system, Flores said the funds will also be used to support deferred maintenance projects, transmission improvement projects, distribution improvement projects and cybersecurity upgrades.

    Retirement

    Yesterday also marked Flores’ final day at the helm of the power authority. “One thing that is constant in life is change. GPA is undergoing tremendous change. Kin Flores has been part of that change,” said Simon Sanchez, CCU chairman, who described the signing ceremony as bittersweet. “I’ll miss his professionalism, his intelligence and his energy. Managers are not perfect but overall, his years at GPA have been ones of progress, growth, professionalizing, modernizing and restoring credibility at GPA.”

    Sanchez added: “It is time for him to do something different. I am sure he will do very, very well. I suspect that he will be involved in doing energy solutions in the future. He will just be doing it from the private sector.”

    Art Perez, GPA communications manager, said the retiring GM has been at the cusp of a lot of things.

    Perez recalls working with Flores starting in the 1990s on various projects, from Cabras 3 and 4 first coming on line to the development of the Integrated Resource Plan, the inclusion of renewables, and now, the new battery project.

    “It has been a good learning experience to work alongside the professionals at GPA. Kin has been always a professional throughout his entire career,” Perez said.

    After his 35-year stint at GPA, Flores said he still sees the possibility of getting involved in the energy industry in the future. “I don’t want to dismiss anything at this time. I will weigh all options. I just want to keep everything positive, open, and see how it goes,” he said.




Russian university planning to open language centers on Guam and Fiji

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SERGEI Ivanets, president of Far Eastern Federal University, said the university wants to open Russian language learning centers on Guam and Fiji, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

RIA Novosti is considered one of the country’s major news organizations, according to the BBC News country profile.

RIA Novosti reported that Ivanets announced the introduction of the learning centers last week Thursday at the 3rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education.

Ivanets said the university “is set to open Russian language learning centers for the local population of Guam and Fiji,” RIA Novosti reported. Local authorities in Guam and Fiji are negotiating the terms of the project with Far Eastern Federal University officials and both sides expect to come to an agreement this year.

FEFU is located in Vladivostok. Before direct charter flights operated by Oren Air had ceased last month, Vladivostok was one of the major cities that had been part of weekly direct flights between Russia and Guam.

China is home to centers similar to those proposed for Guam and Fiji and the students that attend the centers gravitate toward FEFU for further study, according to the RIA Novosti article.

Ivanets is quoted as saying he hopes that foreign student enrollment will continue to increase, based on current trends. He said the number of foreign students doubled this year, from 600 to 1,200 and hopefully by 2019, the foreign student population will increase to 7,500.

Guam holds reception, thanks Japan for 25M visitors

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GVB) – A Guam delegation attending a travel trade show in Japan recently held an appreciation reception for over 200 travel trade partners that helped to bring millions of visitors to the island since 1967, the year when the first international flight to Guam landed.

“Tourism is a people industry and it’s because of people like you that we have achieved 25 million visitors from Japan,” said GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan. “On behalf of all the staff and management, the board of directors, and most especially our governor and lieutenant governor, we’d like to say si Yu’os ma’åse, thank you very much and domo arigato gozaimasu.”

The reception also featured Chamorro food and dynamic performances from the Mt. Carmel Phoenix Stage Band, Jesse and Ruby and Pa’a Taotao Tano. A Tourism Ambassador award was also given to Shoei, a famous Japanese actor who constantly visits Guam with his family.

JATA

With more than the entire population of Guam attending the JATA Tourism EXPO, Team Guam continues to display the very best that the island has to offer to the travel industry and consumers in Tokyo.

The Guam booth stood out as cultural performances and activities captured the attention of thousands of consumers. The Google Street View Trekker that was used for newly launched Google Street View Guam imagery was also on display.

Additionally, Guam performed on stage at the Discover America Pavilion. A fashion show was also held at the Guam booth featuring the new San-ai Swimwear Collection. After the show was completed, Guam honored San-ai 2014 Campaign Girl Ikumi Hisamatsu for her contributions to the island.

The JATA Tourism EXPO concluded with the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy performing on both the Guam stage and the JATA Tourism EXPO Japan main stage.

GPA to sign revenue bond documents

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Power Authority will be hosting a signing ceremony today to commemorate the closing of $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds that will support the power authority's plans to procure a new energy storage system, implement system improvements and provide initial funding of GPA’s proposed energy conversion blueprint.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. in the GPA board conference room at the GPA main office in Harmon.

“The authority’s accomplishments over the past decade have improved services to our customers, particularly on improving the reliability of our existing generators and with renewable energy projects being planned,” according to Joaquin Flores, outgoing GPA general manager who announced yesterday that he is retiring. “GPA continues to take important steps towards a renewable energy for our island in a manner that can be made available to all our customers."

About $35 million from the 2014 GPA revenue bonds has been reserved for energy-storage and renewable-energy mitigation projects.

GPA studies have determined the need for the use of the energy storage system “to stabilize GPA’s grid, reduce 77 percent of GPA’s under-frequency load shedding outages as well as optimize GPA’s unit commitment, spinning reserve management, and economic dispatch to reduce fuel requirements and expenses,” according to GPA's newly completed energy storage feasibility study.

During the last Consolidated Commission on Utilities meeting, the body approved a resolution authorizing the power authority to seek PUC approval for use of the revenue bonds to develop specifications for procuring and commissioning the energy storage system as well as to contract technical support for the procurement.

Bill helps job seekers with training

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A BILL introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita seeks to allocate unappropriated fiscal year 2014 Tourist Attraction Fund money for the expansion of the WorkKeys assessment program under the purview of Guam Community College.

According to the senator's office, the bill was introduced to help increase community access to the program. WorkKeys is currently being provided to residents of Inarajan, Sinajaña, Tamuning, and Talofofo through the Community Access Point program.

The WorkKeys assessments measure "real world" workplace skills critical to job success. The senator said these skills are valuable for any occupation – skilled or professional – at any level of education, and in any industry.

WorkKeys has been used as part of the field assessment and as part of the hiring process, not only in the private sector but also in government of Guam agencies.

According to the senator's office, within the last two years, GCC, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, and several of Guam’s mayors established partnerships aimed at helping village residents prepare themselves for various occupations in tourism and other industries on island.

These partnerships have helped to fund several computer workstations at each of the four village community centers.  The computers are available to residents who wish to study for and eventually complete the Work Keys assessment program.

"Bill 403 recognizes a serious need to support workforce training and assessment programs such as WorkKeys – especially in today’s highly competitive job market,” Yamashita said. “This legislation builds upon the good work GCC, our mayors, and the Guam Chamber of Commerce have done to help residents earn a decent wage to support themselves and their families.”

Last July, the Guam Visitors Bureau reported an anticipated surplus of more than $1.3 million of TAF funds for FY2014, and said it expected revenues to hit $30 million.

In FY2012, TAF ended the fiscal year with a $1.3 million increase in fund balance.

Flores retires as general manager of Guam Power Authority

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TODAY marks the last day that Guam Power Authority General Manager Joaquin Flores will be heading the power agency. In a surprising announcement disseminated yesterday, Flores – who has been with GPA for the last 32 years, nine of them as GM – said he will be retiring at the end of the month.

A memorandum dated Sept. 26 was given out to employees, in which Flores expressed his gratitude for allowing him to serve the public for the last 32 years.

"Over the past three decades, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve our island, first as an engineer, as a mid-level manager and finally, for the past nine years, as general manager by CCU appointment," he said.

Following the Sept. 26 memo, Simon Sanchez, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman, also sent a follow-up letter addressed to employees and ratepayers announcing that John Benavente, Consolidated Utility Services general manager, has been appointed interim GPA general manager beginning Oct. 1.

Sanchez also mentioned the accomplishments and challenges experienced by Flores during his stay at the power authority, first as an employee and then as general manager.

"During these 32 years, GPA has gone from load shedding, inefficient operations and bond defaults to a system that is much more reliable, provides improved service and is again financially respected. As GM, Kin worked effectively with many stakeholders to help bring about these improvements," Sanchez said.

Invest

Sanchez went on to say that GPA will soon invest in new plants that use much less fuel, and fuels that are cleaner and more affordable.

“Combining with over 100 (megawatts) of renewable energy, smart grid and more energy conservation, Guam will need less energy and use much less fuel than we do now, lowering power bills for everyone by the end of this decade,” Sanchez said. "Kin has left behind a strong foundation of professional public servants at GPA who will bring about these major changes. He also helped raise our standards and expectations from ratepayers."

According to GPA, Flores's utility management experience spans more than two decades with emphasis on planning and performance for the operations division of the power authority in the areas of engineering, generation, transmission and distribution, and power system control.

While with GPA, Flores participated in the development of the integrated resource study, submitted testimony to the Public Utilities Commission for all of GPA’s major capital improvement projects and assisted with rate petitions.

In addition, Flores assisted in the refinancing of $350 million in revenue bonds, which saved GPA $13 million in the late 1990s.  In June 2010, Flores also assisted with the sale of $250 million in bonds to fund projects like the Smart Grid, additional underground lines and further improvements to generation assets, and other transmission and distribution upgrades.

Earlier this month, GPA sold $76.4 million in revenue bonds that will be used to fund energy storage systems and the initial phase of GPA's proposed energy conversion plan.

Arguments for and against marijuana initiative approved

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GEC on track for Oct. 6 deadline to mail pamphlets to voters

THE Guam Election Commission has approved arguments to be placed on the pamphlets to educate voters about the controversial medical marijuana initiative which is subject to voters’ ratification in the Nov. 4 general election.

Maria Pangelinan, GEC executive director, told Variety yesterday that both the arguments and analysis on the submitted legislative referendum from Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes (in favor) and Dennis Rodriguez (in opposition) will be on the pamphlets after the commission unanimously adopted the submissions during its meeting Thursday night.

The commission had received six arguments – two in favor of the referendum and four opposed to it.

The election commission is to produce 52,000 educational pamphlets for the initiative. Once produced, they will be sent through the U.S. Postal Service to all registered voters. As of last week, GEC had approximately 49,400 registered voters.

According to Pangelinan, the pamphlets will be printed by Graphic Center.

As of yesterday, the commission was waiting for the signatures from both authors of the chosen arguments which will be incorporated into the layout for the pamphlets.

GEC, Pangelinan said, needs to send out the pamphlets by Oct. 6. The director said the commission remains on track with this deadline.

Based on the invitation to submit price quotations to printing companies, the vendor is expected to “clean up” the database of up to 50,000 names and addresses, and verify the data through the National Change of Address System.

Argument in favor

The GEC, after its review of the arguments it received, opted to use the one submitted by the author of the legislative referendum, Muña-Barnes. This presents the argument in favor of the proposal.

"Thousands suffer from diseases that make undesirable. To eat, to sleep, to think, to smile, to remember all become unbearable when dealing with chronic pain. The Joaquin 'KC' Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 should be approved because it would allow our people to use cannabis for the treatment of certain medical conditions. Not for recreational use, medicinal marijuana will allow for life to be tolerable for those severely suffering.

"Many family members have testified that medicinal marijuana has allowed their family member to die with dignity.

"This act will also allow patients to discuss with their doctor whether or not cannabis use will be beneficial. Written certification from a doctor will be required before a patient can obtain a registry identification card to use of cannabis. Patients must be licensed to use cannabis for the treatment of their medical conditions.

"The proposed list of medical conditions consists of: 1) cancer; 2) glaucoma; 3) multiple sclerosis; 4) damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; 5) epilepsy; 6) positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; 7) admission into hospice care; 8) post-traumatic stress disorder; 9) rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders; or 10) any other medical condition, medical treatment or disease as approved by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

"Patients who are minors will be allowed to use medical cannabis but only under strict conditions. The patient’s doctor must discuss the benefits and risks associated with cannabis use with the minor’s parents or legal guardian, who would have to formally consent in writing and act as the minor’s primary caregiver.

"Private cultivation of cannabis will not be allowed. The Department of Public Health and Social Services will develop rules and regulations for the use, licensure and dispensing of cannabis. There will be public hearings to provide input on the proposed rules and regulations.

"An advisory board – made up of medical professionals, a representative from the Department of Public Health and Social Services, and of Agriculture, the Guam Legislature, the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, and the public – will assist DPHSS in developing the rules and regulations.

"Funding will be provided to DPHSS to start the program and the continued funding will come from the fees generated by licenses issued under this act.

"The Office of the U.S. Attorney General has stated that the federal government will respect states’ right to make this policy call, and that it is already addressing FCIC concerns about funds attached to cannabis dispensaries.

"Families in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with 15 more states now going through this process, have a natural alternative for the treatment of painful medical conditions."

The opposition argument

GEC chose Sen. Dennis Rodriguez’s analysis and comments to represent the arguments against the proposal.

The following text will be placed in the pamphlet:

"We are being asked to legalize marijuana for medicinal use despite disagreement in the medical profession and concerns of the law enforcement community. At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule II Substance (with cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamine) which means that it is considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense.

"In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice reserved the right to challenge any state and local law legalizing marijuana. According to the USDOJ, no 'state or local law provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law, including any civil or criminal violation of the Controlled Substance Act.' Creating a law that legalizes marijuana does so without the full protection of the federal government additionally putting doctors, patients, caregivers, and law enforcement officers at risk for federal prosecution. Local efforts to authorize marijuana production, distribution, and possession further threatens federal efforts to curb drug-related crimes. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the ability of local agencies to comply with the USDOJ’s expectations, and thus, strongly advise against the legalization of marijuana.

"Because the chemicals found in marijuana can travel through the body at rapid rates via the lungs, it is mostly commonly smoked. Smoking marijuana releases toxins into the body of the user and creates intoxicating second-hand smoke that can be breathed in by others. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana has a wide range of effects on the cardiopulmonary and mental health of users, and although marijuana has been used to treat conditions related to serious diseases, clinical evidence has not shown that the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant outweigh its health risks.

"The proposal allows an advisory board of as few as five persons to set regulations for production, distribution and use of marijuana. With less than half of its members being medical practitioners, this board will be empowered to recommend eligibility as well as determine additional qualifying medical conditions.

"DPHSS will be required to use $100,000 of their budget to pay for the implementation of this measure. Additional costs to other government agencies (including additional resources needed to implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement system as required by the USDOJ) are not accounted for in the law.

"This referendum contains significant flaws:

"1. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug because it has strong addictive properties, a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. USDOJ has reaffirmed its policies on production, distribution and sale of marijuana as grounds for federal prosecution.

"2. The proposal gives advisory board, Public Health and other agencies little to  no resources to effectively implement a strong regulatory and enforcement system necessary to deal with the unknown medical, legal, economic, and social consequences that may result in its passage."

Guam Pacific International wins Navy project

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

  •  (DoD) – The Department of Defense announced Friday that it has awarded Guam Pacific International LLC a $9.24 million task order under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract to repair 18 high explosive magazines at Naval Magazine on Naval Base Guam.

    Repairs are intended to restore the magazines to fully functional efficient status, requiring no further repair and minimal maintenance. In addition, the scope of work includes, but is not limited to site work; structural and related repair; replacement of ventilation system, doors, and frames; and grounding and lightning protection repair by replacement.

    Work is expected to be completed by December 2015.

    The task order was awarded under a small business MACC awarded to six contractors in March 2010. The five-year contract has a maximum value of $500 million.

    Four proposals were received for this task order.

    Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas is the contracting unit.



GVB: Chamorro culture makes impact at JATA


Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


Close to 100 dancers from Japan learn the art of Chamorro Dance

(GVB) – Team Guam continues to make a great impression at the JATA Tourism EXPO Japan with a plethora of activities lined up for the final day of this four-day event.


Led by Master Frank Rabon, nearly 100 Japanese dancers from the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy performed to thousands of consumers on the Guam stage, as well as on JATA’s main stage. GCDA is a program that was started by the Guam Visitors Bureau in 2009 to teach interested Japanese people the art of traditional Chamorro dance. Since the program began, Rabon has taught more than 1,500 students in over six cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Nagoya. The program has also expanded to the U.S. mainland this year.

“They’ve enjoyed it. Every time I come over here, there’s always an addition to the numbers that are coming in to learn. It amazes me because they really don't have to learn our culture. They have their own culture. They’re Japanese. But they really want to learn,” said Master Frank Rabon. “A lot of them travel to Guam after getting a little bit of the practices. They get the interest to travel to Guam and they stay a little longer. They take in not just the beaches and the sights and the hospitality of the island, but they also take in the culture, which is something that is unique to us.”

The island’s 4,000 year old Chamorro culture separated the Guam booth from the rest of the 150 countries and regions that are part of Japan’s largest tourism expo.

“We want to thank Japan for welcoming us and embracing the Hafa Adai spirit, especially through the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy,” said GVB Deputy General Manager Nate Denight. “Team Guam has worked hard these last few weeks to share our island’s story with the international community. It’s definitely important for us to continue placing our Chamorro culture, I Kottura-ta, at the forefront of JATA because it has drawn millions of people for over 20 years to visit and learn more about Guam.”

To add to the island’s unique appeal at JATA, the Guam booth also featured the Hafa Adai Chamorro Dance Show, a Chamorro Craft School, a Miss Guam photo session and presentations by several island businesses that are part of Team Guam.

The JATA Tourism EXPO Japan concluded today, but Team Guam’s efforts continue with the mission to make the island a better place to live, work and visit.



Most archdiocesan assets excluded from Deloitte accounting review


Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


DELOITTE & Touche LLP's accounting review of the Archdiocese of Agana’s financial statements covers only a fraction of the archdiocese’s total assets, according to the recently published letter from Deloitte & Touche.


Land and property, plant and equipment assets were excluded from the scope of work so Deloitte & Touche accountants did not review land, property, plant and equipment which make up 92 percent of the archdiocese’s total assets.

According to the archdiocese’s Statement of Financial Position dated June 30, 2012, property, plant and equipment were valued at $66.7 million. Property, plant and equipment are one of the archdiocese’s largest category of assets, second only to land.

The Statement of Financial Position indicated land assets were valued at $97.8 million.

“Due to the exclusion of land and property, plant and equipment from the scope of our engagement, we did not perform review procedures on land and property, plant and equipment, which constitute 92 percent of the organization’s total assets,” Deloitte & Touche accountants wrote.

The review was originally dated Oct. 31, 2013 but published online on Friday. The financial statements were posted online almost two months after Archbishop Anthony Apuron stated that the church’s finances would be disclosed to the community, following a string of contrasting statements between the archdiocese and “concerned Catholics.”

The independent accountants’ review report of the Archdiocese of Agana focused on applying analytical procedures to the church’s financial data and inquiring about the archdiocese’s management, the letter stated. An independent opinion of the church’s finances is not released in an independent accountants’ review since a review is not an audit. “A review is substantially less in scope than an audit,” the report said.

In addition to the exclusion of land and plant and equipment, a statement of cash flow was not presented to Deloitte & Touche accountants, which is “required by accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”

The report also stated that the accountants were unsatisfied with the lack of details on beginning balances and as a result, the impact of beginning balances on the statement of activities remains unknown.

As for the statement of activities, the Archdiocese of Agana, which is comprised of 26 parishes, nine catholic schools and the chancery office, recorded total revenues of about $26.2 million at the end of June 30, 2012, the report stated. Losses and expenses were reported to be $26.5 million ending the same year.

More than half of the revenue the church received was from tuition and fees, which accounted for about $15.8 million of the total $26.2 million revenue.

The largest expense for the Archdiocese of Agana was salaries and wages, which were listed as $10.7 million.

Except for excluding cash flow statement and land, property, plant and equipment assets, the accountants reported that they were not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements.

The archdiocese also indicated in a statement on Friday that the review reports of the Catholic Cemeteries of Guam, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary and the Catholic Social Services organizations would be available on their respective websites. As of yesterday, the reports had not been published online.


Survey: 95 percent of UOG graduates employed


Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A UNIVERSITY of Guam alumni survey revealed that 95 percent of its university graduates are employed and that 56 percent earn more than $40,000 annually.


The UOG Office of Development and Alumni Affairs and the Office of Academic Assessment and Institutional Research released the results of the survey, which was conducted in the 2014 Spring Semester.

The purpose of the survey was to identify the employment status and work placement of graduates, and the perceived usefulness of the degree and UOG university education.

According to UOG, several samples of alumni surveys from other institutions were reviewed and used as a base template for designing the survey instrument.

Moreover, the design of the survey was made in consultation with faculty, deans, and senior management of the university.

Numbers

The survey gathered 391 responses from respondents who graduated from the 1960s up to the 2000s. A majority of the respondents, or 71.4 percent, were graduates from the 2000s.

A total of 87 percent of the respondents earned their bachelor’s degree; 27 percent their master’s degree, and; 1 percent their associate’s degree from UOG.

Meanwhile, 41 percent earned their degree from the School of Business and Public Administration; 25 percent from the School of Education; 18 percent from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; 9 percent from the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, and;   6 percent from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Significant findings

The survey also revealed that 80 percent of UOG alumni claim their University education was either very useful (36 percent) or useful (44 percent) in preparing them for their jobs.

A majority of the respondents who received their bachelor’s degree from UOG are employed in their major field of study, and felt that their UOG education prepared them for their job.

Almost all UOG graduates, 95 percent  of respondents are currently employed while 56 percent of survey respondents reported that they earned $41,000 to $81,000 and above per annum and 77 percent reported that they were working while attending university. Meanwhile, 31 percent said their employment was the result of a practicum, internship, or cooperative learning activity. Academic Advising (42 percent) and Faculty Mentoring (32 percent) were University services or resources that benefited graduates the most.

According to UOG, as a result of the graduates’ responses through this project, they “are prompted to revisit and further review UOG services, events and resources in order to identify opportunities to better serve current students and alumni.”


GPA expecting 3 percent revenue increase in FY2015


Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


FY2015 budget approved by CCU

WITH just a few days to go until the end of the current fiscal year, the Guam Power Authority has presented its final budget for fiscal 2015 totaling around $489 million.


The final budget, which was submitted to the Consolidated Commission on Utilities this week, forecasts a 3 percent potential revenue increase due to recently opened and anticipated commercial and housing developments all over the island.

The CCU approved GPA’s FY2015 budget during its regular meeting last Thursday night.

GPA noted that the FY2015 budget is based on a non-fuel budget of around $167 million and also a fuel budget of $321 million.

According to GPA communications manager Art Perez, there are significant projects that reflect the projected 3 percent revenue increase – from the opening of the new Dusit Thani Hotel and the expansion of Hotel Nikko to the expected opening of the new mall in Tumon.

The announcement of the opening of the Guam museum and the American Medical Center also contribute to the projected revenue increase in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Perez.

Sales drop


In their presentation, GPA noted that although the authority experiences continuing degradation of sales due to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, this will be mitigated by these commercial and housing developments.

Dusit Thani hotel, in particular, is slated to come online in FY2015.

Moreover, residential housing projects such as Summer Ville and Summer Green as well as projects which are anticipated to expand during the fiscal year such as Talo Verde and Paradise Meadow are also expected to add to the revenues of the power authority in FY2015.

Reserve

The CCU approved the final budget at its regular meeting after noting that a provision setting a reserve on the authority’s non-fuel revenues should be included.

Although the commissioners approved a $167 million non-fuel revenue budget, they challenged the GPA management to work within the FY2014 level, which is $165 million.

Perez said GPA will hold back $2.3 million in reserve, which could be utilized for other expenditures at the end of the fiscal year.

CIPs

The FY2015 budget also includes funding for capital improvement projects totaling about $15.43 million.

Perez said these CIPs will be purely revenue supported. GPA will not tap into its current bonds to support these projects, which include various investments from power refurbishments, replacements and upgrades to Cabras 1, 2, 3, 4, and IT services and software upgrades.

The CCU has been authorized under GCA Section 8117, Chapter 8, Title 12 to adopt an annual budget for the authority.

Prior to the approval of the final budget, the commissioners held a working session to review line items with GPA management and staff.

According to the resolution submitted to the CCU, GPA management carefully scrutinized each line item of the budget and made substantial and significant reductions to the budget document as a whole to ensure that all expenditures are consistent with the strategic goals of the authority.


More tax refunds coming Monday


Posted: Sep 26, 2014  by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

Guam - Apparently more tax refund will be placed in the mail. According to a post on Governor Eddie Calvo's facebook page, he has received word from the Department of Revenue and Taxation and the Department of Administration that another $5 million in refunds will go out on Monday. That payment will cover 26-hundred Status A refunds filed up to April 10th. The Governor added that the following week another $5 million will be released to over 37-hundred additional Status A refunds up to April 15th.


Three infected with leptospirosis

Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

70 more cases suspected

NAVAL Hospital Guam officials recently confirmed three cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease commonly contracted through drinking or contact with water or soil contaminated by animal urine or animal body fluids.

Jennifer Zingalie, public affairs officer for the hospital, said three cases have been confirmed but there are 70 other people who are also suspected of contracting the disease. Those cases are still under investigation. “No one has been hospitalized,” Zingalie said. “Confirmed cases are being treated with antibiotics.”

Zingalie did not confirm if the three people who are being treated for leptospirosis were part of the group of “hash runners” recently rescued from a hike the group took to Mount Schroeder in Merizo on Sept. 14.

Symptoms of a leptospirosis infection can develop within two days to four weeks after exposure to the bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin rash and red eyes.

According to Guam Epidemiology Newsletter, a 15-year-old male Navy dependent contracted leptospirosis in 2012. The report said the patient hiked to Tarzan Falls on the Ylig River in Yoña and Guam health officials confirmed he had leptospirosis on April 30, 2012.

Other hikers also contracted leptospirosis after hiking in the same area in Yoña in 2008, 2007 and 2004, according to the report. According to study published in Pacific Health Dialog in 2002, five other cases of leptospirosis were reported between 1980 and 1999.

The Pacific Health Dialog study also highlighted a serological survey of stray dogs on Guam which revealed 3 of 180 surveyed were infected with the bacteria that causes leptospirosis, as opposed to the 34 cattle and 52 pigs that were surveyed, which were not infected with the bacteria.

Pets, farm animals and wild animals are all capable of spreading the disease through their infected urine or other body fluids, the CDC stated.

Hikers should be aware of possibly getting contaminated water in their mouth, nose, eyes or in cuts or abrasions on their skin, health officials warned in the epidemiological report.

Leptospirosis could lead to fatal infections of the kidney, liver, lung or heart, the CDC said in its fact sheet online.

People can prevent infection by vaccinating pets, avoiding contact with animal urine and body fluids especially if a person has a cut or abrasion, avoiding water that may contain animal urine and wearing protective clothing or footwear near soil or water that may be contaminated.

Guam, Saipan linked to federal fraud case

Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM and Saipan are mentioned prominently in an indictment filed last Thursday against Jeffrey Nelly, the former General Services Administration (GSA) Pacific Rim Region commissioner who is facing fraud cases in federal court.

According to an indictment handed down by the U.S. District Court of Northern California San Francisco Division, Neely, 59, allegedly used false documents to claim roundtrip airfare for travel between Guam and Saipan in February 2012.

Count five of the indictment states that a false E2 Travel Voucher was submitted by Neely to the GSA on Feb. 12, 2012, according to J. Douglas Wilson, Criminal Division chief.

Neely was investigated by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill two years ago due to the federal agency’s lavish spending at an employee conference in Las Vegas where 300 people spent about $823,000 including thousands of dollars spent on a commemorative coin, a comedian and a clown.

Neely was forced out of his job in 2012 and the San Francisco grand jury indicted him on Thursday, specifically charging him with submitting false charges for government reimbursement for several trips.

Under the Pacific Rim Region, Region 9, Neely oversaw all federal buildings in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, including the federal buildings in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

Neely and his wife Deborah moved from their Bay Area residence to Nevada after they became the subject of investigators who looked into reports of the couple’s trips to Las Vegas, Napa and the South Pacific using taxpayer funds.

A federal audit reported that the Neely couple went on a 17-day trip to Hawaii and Guam to celebrate her birthday, also with GSA funds. Neely boasted in a November 2011 email that the trip to Guam was a “birthday” gift and his wife responded positively to the gesture.

“It’s yo birfday. ... We gonna pawty like iz yo birfday!” she emailed to Neely. “All sounds good. Need to check date line. ... Do we gain or lose a day going to Guam? If so we will have to adjust sked,” the couple was quoted in their email exchange.

Neely is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 20 at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Elizabeth Laporte.

GPA eyes new battery system

Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

To mitigate power outages, fluctuations

THE Guam Power Authority is planning to install a new energy storage system to help with renewable energy grid penetration issues as well as to mitigate future outages and fluctuations in the island's power grid.

About $35 million from the 2014 GPA revenue bonds has been reserved for the energy-storage and renewable energy-mitigation projects.

GPA studies have determined the need for the use of the energy storage system “to stabilize GPA’s grid, reduce 77 percent of GPA’s under-frequency load shedding outages as well as optimize GPA’s unit commitment, spinning reserve management, and economic dispatch to reduce fuel requirements and expenses.”

The battery storage system is a major capital improvement investment, according to GPA communication manager Art Perez. The battery system will bridge the gap during power outages between the time a unit goes offline and the time backup generators are activated.

“However, It is not meant to replace the generator, it is only meant to bridge the power interruption that occurs between a unit going offline and a unit going online,” Perez said. “A lot of customers have voiced their concerns with these intermittent outages that are happening in different parts of the island. So with the battery storage systems placed in different circuits, we hope to mitigate that significantly.”

As an initial step, GPA has submitted a resolution to the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, authorizing the power authority to secure the approval of the Public Utilities Commission for use of the revenue bonds to develop specifications for procuring and commissioning the energy storage system as well as to contract technical support for the procurement.

Part of the contracted services involve the development of a new standard for renewable energy system interconnection and integration to the GPA power grid.

The CCU approved the resolution which allocated $527,946 for the services.

GPA General Manager Joaquin Flores said TG Engineers, a Guam-based firm, will help the power authority prepare the procurement specification documents for the energy storage system and also with the development of the interconnection standards.

According to the resolution, the power authority had previously contracted TG Engineers and its subcontractor Electric Power Systems to develop an operational study and an energy storage feasibility study.

Flores said feasibility studies and engineering studies had highly recommended developing a set of interconnection standards customized for Guam to achieve the benefits of the energy-storage system.

Chamorro cultural art project named after Angel Santos

Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Department of Education is launching a Chamorro cultural art project named in memory of the late former Sen. Angel Leon Guerrero Santos, a Chamorro rights advocate who fought for indigenous rights and the right to self-determination.

Entitled “HITA: Hinanao-ñiha I Taotao-ta Antes” ("Our way of life long ago"), the project is being spearheaded by GDOE's Chamorro Studies & Special Project Division, according to a release from GDOE.

According to GDOE, HITA is a historic and unique new project that blends Chamorro culture, language, art, animation and student participation through the creation of both a short animated film version of a classic Chamorro legend and an educational graphic novel based on the animated film.

The production will be headed by Twiddle Productions Inc., based in Honolulu, Hawaii, an animation, game and multimedia studio whose work has been featured on television, in schools and film festivals around the world. Twiddle has a diverse, multi-faceted, multi-cultural workforce whose experience in animation and game production spans 25 years of experience.

Among the projects Twiddle crews have worked on, the most notable are “Ola N? Iwi: “H? loa” a Hawaiian language-based animated short film focusing on the story of how the first Hawaiian came to be; “E Ho’o mau!” a Hawaiian cultural film and science curriculum project featuring three animated short films; nine science books and three graphic novels whose animated film “Why M?ui Snared the Sun” won best animation during the Guam International Film Festival’s inaugural year in 2011.

Chamorro student participation

Under the Chamorro cultural art project, selected Chamorro students will participate in both the voice-over and creation of key art for the production. Student participation will be structured into two phases, with the first phase, starting in October 2014, focusing on voice-overs with Chamorro-speaking student auditions and a studio record session of the Chamorro language script at Stel-Star Productions during Twiddle’s first production trip to Guam.

Phase two will take place in March of 2015 during Guam's Chamorro cultural heritage month. Twiddle crew members, alongside animation industry professionals, will work side by side with students to train them in the creation of culturally rich animation art to be included in the film, according to the GDOE release.

In addition to the real world experience of working with industry professionals, GDOE said students who participate in the production process will also receive their first professional screen credit in the film and graphic novel.

The Twiddle Production team will also be reaching out to local artists and filmmakers to participate in various areas of production for the film.

Guam from the perspective of a Turkish traveller

Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM’S local tourism industry has yet to capture the interest of other markets outside the Asia-Pacific region. But just recently, the industry has expanded its reach to Far East Russia, which encompasses part of the northernmost region of Eurasia between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberian and the Pacific Ocean.

Turkey, which straddles Southeastern Europe and Western Asia, has not been a traditional source of tourists for Guam. However, a member of a travel group visited the island to briefly experience local culture and sights and saw its potential as a destination for Turkish tourists.

The 11,070-kilometer (6.8-mile) distance between Istanbul to Guam did not stop Dr. Kural from visiting the island.

In fact, the intrepid traveller said Guam has been his 228th destination to date, proudly noting that he currently holds the Turkish record for visiting the most number of countries and island nations.

While here, Dr. Kural visited some of Guam's cultural sites, traveling by car along the island's scenic routes and stopping by at certain points to interact with locals.

He also spoke with some of the island's school children to present his advocacies, which he said, includes animal rights and anti-smoking and addiction.

Aside from heading a travel organization in Turkey, Dr. Kural also heads the Mining Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University. As an academic, he has been lecturing on “Engineering Ethics,” “Environment and Society ” and “Statistics.”

According to Dr. Kural, he was also appointed as Honorary Consul of Benin in Istanbul in 2003 and as Vice Honorary Consul of Vanuatu in Istanbul in 2013.

But setting aside these different hats, Dr. Kural said travel has been his number one passion, which peaked when he was a young man in the '60s.

Seeing the island up close for three days has inspired him to do a travel guide, so his community back in Turkey could have a glimpse of what Guam has to offer.


Axed charter flights leaves Russians with bad impression

Friday, 26 Sep 2014 09:45am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Bart Jackson


RUSSIAN travelers were left with a “negative feeling” after Oren Air’s direct flights to Guam were terminated last month, said Bart Jackson, the Guam Visitors Bureau’s chairman of the Committee on Russia and New Markets Development.


Jackson was the Rotary Club of Guam’s guest speaker yesterday at the organization’s weekly meeting at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa. He said the recent termination of direct flights between Russia and Guam was due in part to increased hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. Jackson also said that because of the abrupt end to flight services, many Russians who booked trips to Guam after August had to pay cancellation fees for hotel rooms and some may not get refunds for expenses they paid in advance.

“So there’s a bit of a negative feeling,” Jackson said. “Not about Guam, specifically, but about the whole idea of flying charters to Guam because so many folks have gotten burned.”

Oren Air, which was contracted through Avia Charter, stopped its weekly direct flights between Russia and Guam last month. Jackson said Avia Charter paid Oren Air through an intermediary company and because of increased conflict in western Russia with Ukraine, the intermediary company shut down and payments between Avia Charter and Oren Air ceased.

“There’s a lot of pressure on Russian tour agencies that were doing business in Europe. U.S. sanctions aside, Europe imposed a number of different sanctions on travel and they began to run into some financial difficulties on the European side,” Jackson said.

Went bust

As a result, the intermediary company handling payments between Oren Air and Avia Charter “went bust,” Jackson said. Oren Air sought payment from Avia, but the charter company maintained that they did not owe anything to Oren Air and in August direct flights between Russia and Guam on Oren Air aircraft were terminated likely through the end of the year.

Jackson said there is no indication that flights will begin again in November, but he said GVB is optimistic that something will be worked out sometime next year.

In the meantime, Russian travelers still have the option of flying to Guam through a connecting flight from Incheon Korea and next month they can connect through Seoul through United Airlines. Jackson said he is hoping for better connection opportunities because of United’s partnership with Russian airline S7, which is not a charter airline company.

“Giving (travelers) the opportunity to connect easily is important,” he said. “The only way to really secure the market is to generate direct seats and we’re just not there yet.”

There are discussions to secure direct flights, Jackson noted, but it will take Russian travelers some time to get over Oren Air’s flight cancellation.

Jackson said GVB is weary of supporting charter airlines unless they are well structured.

So far this year, more than 14,000 Russians have traveled to Guam. The market is small and Jackson believes it will remain small, compared to other source markets. At its peak, he estimates 40,000 to 50,000 visitors from eastern Russia will travel to Guam. On average, the Russian visitor stays 15 days and pays for travel expenses in advance.

Aside from lodging, Russian visitors usually spend about $1,600 on Guam and about 80 percent come with their families. Most are considered middle-class and now that the charter flights have stopped, Jackson said Guam will likely see less of the lower-end middle-class visitors. Russians who will fly through Korea are those from the higher end of that income bracket and typically stay in the larger hotels like Hilton Guam Resort & Spa and the Westin Resort Guam.

As for the Russian citizen in western Russia, Jackson said between that area and Guam, there are more desirable vacation spots to choose from like Thailand and Bali. Nonetheless, the eastern area of Russia is populated with almost 10 million people and he said many of the visitors like Guam because unlike Bali and Thailand, visitors are not badgered to buy services while they lay out on the beach.



Democratic Party adopts Vision 2025 plan of action platform


Friday, 26 Sep 2014 09:45am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Democratic Party of Guam’s first party platform since the 1970s supports public safety, the military buildup and establishes Vision 2025, an economic initiative for the next decade.


The platform was unveiled at a central executive committee meeting on Wednesday, with Democratic National Committeeman Arrington Dixon present. The platform tackles issues that include tax incentives for small businesses to create jobs, support for teachers and school repairs, a rapid response team for village infrastructure issues, a one-stop veterans center, support for the military buildup and action to combat invasive species.

The party also committed to fighting for war reparations.

“I think if you separate all the issues, the underlying difference (between parties) is that voters can better connect with the Democratic Party of Guam,” said Sen. Rory Respicio, party chairman. That connection is attributed to the Democratic candidates and how the platform was adopted.

Respicio said the platform represents leadership for all, “not just for a select few.”

The platform was a product of a grassroots movement with issues brought forward by the people, Respicio said. “It’s a people’s platform that is meant for Democrats, Republicans and Independents.”

The Democrats also proposed the introduction of two councils, according to the 56-page platform released by the political party. One council is the Governor’s Business Advisory Council, which would be made up of government, community and private sector representatives.

Another proposed council is the Governor’s Social and Humanitarian Issues Council that would advocate for the interests of the minorities, the disadvantaged, and the human rights and dignity of other citizens to find ways to reduce or eliminate poverty.

Additionally, the party proposes to open recruitment for executive branch senior unclassified positions to the public.

Respicio said the Democrats went through a “grassroots process” in order to select a gubernatorial team alongside Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and a “full slate of 15 dynamic Democratic senatorial candidates for the legislature.”

The platform can be viewed online at the party’s Facebook page.


DeSoto to spend life in jail


Friday, 26 Sep 2014 09:45am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


OAG labels judge’s order ‘fair and just’ punishment

THE defendant in the tragic death of three Japanese tourists and the attempted murder of 11 other victims in the Feb. 12, 2013 killing rampage in Tumon will spend his natural life in jail after he received the maximum sentence thrice yesterday.


Superior Court of Guam Judge Anita Sukola yesterday imposed the maximum punishment on 22-year-old Chad DeSoto who was found guilty of all charges against him. Besides life sentences, he also received 25- and 15-year imprisonment terms without any possibility of parole for other charges. He is to serve the sentences concurrently.

As she handed down the sentences, Sukola said DeSoto had appeared unremorseful for the crimes he committed.

“You didn’t seem very remorseful when you had the opportunity to discuss your concerns with the probation officer. The court also notes that in your own statements, your remorsefulness didn’t come out and concentrated on your mental illness and your family,” said the judge.

DeSoto, prior to receiving his sentence, took 13 minutes to read a prepared speech in which he discussed the suffering he has endured because of his mental illness. At some point, he put blame on his family, society and the medical sector for depriving him of the “professional mental service” that he needs.

Aggravating factors

Sukola said there are aggravating factors she found in DeSoto’s case and emphasized the need to impose imprisonment on the defendant for the public’s protection. She said one can have mental health issues and mental illness but still will be held accountable for their actions.

Sukola said DeSoto committed offenses against very vulnerable victims and used weapons to carry out what she described as extremely violent.

In August, DeSoto was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder and 11 counts of attempted aggravated murder for killing three tourists and injuring 11 other people. The incident happened in front of the ABC Store in the Pleasure Island area of Tumon.

The sentence

For the first charge of aggravated murder as a first-degree felony count one, two and three, DeSoto was sentenced to life imprisonment for each count without any possibility of parole, no education and basically “nothing at all.”

For the special allegation of the possession and use of deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, DeSoto was given the maximum sentence of 25 years each for counts one, two and three.

For the second charge of attempted aggravated murder, Sukola imposed a 15-year term of imprisonment each for counts one through eight.

For the special allegation of the possession and use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, he was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment each for counts one through eight.

“I recognize that you only have one life to live like all of us do. So the court is going to note that charge two of the attempted aggravated murder counts one through count eight and the special allegation for possession and use of a deadly weapon for count one, count two, and count eight would run concurrent with charge one for aggravated murder counts one through count three,” said Sukola.

For the special allegation of possession and use of deadly weapon counts one through three, the sentence was 25 years each.

Sukola also increased from eight counts to 11 counts the sentence for the second charge of attempted aggravated murder, which each carries 15 years' imprisonment.

For special allegations in attempted aggravated murder, 25 years in prison was imposed for each of 11 counts which will run concurrent with the other sentences.

A restitution hearing will be set by the judge at a later date.

Upon his return to the Department of Correction, DeSoto was ordered to be put in a place where he will not be harmed by anybody in the facility. The judge allowed DeSoto to continue taking his medication, and an assessment will continue by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Phillip Tydingco said that his office is satisfied with the sentence imposed on DeSoto and described it as “fair and just punishment.”

Prior to the sentencing, the prosecutor read seven letters as supplemental testimony from victims and families of the tragedy. Additionally, two other victims – both emotional – took the witness stand.

Tydingco said it took a lot of courage for the victims and families to be at the proceedings yesterday.

“The bottom line is Mr. DeSoto will be spending the rest of his natural life in jail,” he said.

Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas said DeSoto’s sentence is considered one of the largest recorded in Guam in this century.

Tydingco said yesterday’s sentence sends a strong message that when somebody commits a crime and tries to hide behind mental illness, the people of Guam will hold them accountable.

“The issue in this trial is whether he was legally insane and that compromised his ability to know right from wrong,” he said, pointing out that based on examinations conducted on DeSoto in March, July and November, there were neither signs of mental illness nor psychotic symptoms noted by experts.

Yesterday’s sentencing lasted for more than two hours, starting at 9 a.m. The courtroom was packed with attendees including a handful of media representatives from off-island.


Angel Santos Memorial Park undergoing renovations

Posted: Sep 25, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - Island residents can expect a full restoration of the Senator Angel L.G. Santos Memorial Latte Stone Park in Hagatna. Late this afternoon, a groundbreaking ceremony was held before island leaders and cultural groups. The restoration is funded by the Guam Economic Development Authority's HOT bond projects. The scope of work includes repairing and refurbishing existing lighting along with improving overall landscaping of the park. The project will also entail installing a statue of the late senator with a commemorative plaque. The contract for the project is worth $160,000 and was awarded to Reliable Builders.

 

Direct charters from Russia cease

Posted: Sep 25, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - They're the largest country in the world and no doubt the fastest growing market in Guam's tourism industry. But recent challenges within the country have ceased direct charters possibly for the rest of the year.

Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association chairman and Hotel Santa Fe Guam president Bart Jackson says Russian visitors love Guam, noting, "They love a visa waiver, they love being able to come to the United States without a visa, but when I talk to them about their experience, what they really love about Guam is that it's such a safe easy vacation."

Jackson, who happens to be married to a Russian, was the guest speaker at today's Rotary Club of Guam where he spoke on Russian tourism over the last several years. He says in 2011, Guam had 632 arrivals from Russia. Once Homeland Security granted parole authority for Russian visitors in early 2012, the number increased to 4,000. The following year the number increased even more. "So we went from 4,000 to 8,000 doubling our numbers this year, we're going to do 15,000 arrivals from Russia," he said.

Part of the spike last year was a result of direct charter flights through Avia Charter and Orenair from Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. Those direct flights however have ceased most recently. Guam International Airport Authority marketing administrator Rolenda Faasuamalie says the direct flights have not been suspended but rather Orenair has not submitted a schedule for September or October. She said, "Because it was a charter on-demand operation, obviously they didn't sell tickets or perhaps there were issues they had to attend to however, the issues are not on our side but they maintain their license and their federal authorities to operate to Guam so they're free to come back, return and resume operations at any time."

She says staff continues to see Russian visitors come to Guam through entry points of either Korea or Japan instead. Jackson on the other hand, says some of the challenges possibly stem at how Europe imposed a number of sanctions on travel where the charters began to run into some financial difficulties. He says Avia Charter for whatever reason never paid Orenair directly, but instead through an intermediary.

"And then the intermediary went bust as a result of problems they had, or so they say, problems they had on the European side so Orenair said to Avia Charter, I don't have any money, Avia Charter said, I don't owe you any money and there in line the challenge so all flights were cancelled, all charter flights, all direct flights from Russian to Guam cancelled in August," he explained.

Jackson adds his sources indicate that flights aren't expected through the remainder of the year. He says another part of the challenge is many visitors from Russia tend to book and pay for their rooms in advance and because of recent issues with the charter flights, it's left a not-so positive impression. "And so there's a bit of a negative feeling, not about Guam specifically but about the whole idea of flying charters to Guam because so many folks have gotten burned," he said.

The bottom line, Jackson says, Russians are fond of Guam and will keep coming, but it will take time to return to the direct charters. 


Russian visitors in the meantime on the average stay 15-days on Guam compared to the average of Japanese, Taiwanese or Korean visitors who stay between 3 to 4 days. He adds they also spend on average $1,600 not including hotel stay.







Chad DeSoto sentenced to three life sentences

Posted: Sep 25, 2014 by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

Guam - Chad Desoto was sentenced to three life sentences. He appeared before Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola this morning. Desoto was convicted in August for the tragedy in Tumon that occurred in February of last year. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness. In February 2013 Desoto drove a car down a crowded sidewalk in Tumon. He crashed into the ABC store underneath the Outrigger Resort, jumped out and began stabbing people randomly. In total three people died and eleven others were injured. Prior to his sentencing statements were read from his mother, father and girlfriend requesting for mercy and forgiveness. Desoto also spoke during his sentencing. He blamed his mental illness for what he did. On Friday, the Court will address contempt of court charges against Desoto's cousin Michelle Fatovic and his girlfriend Reanne Acasio. Department of Corrections phone records show the two spoke with Desoto even though they were ordered by the court not to have contact. Desoto, meanwhile is scheduled to appear back in on court on November 19th for a restitution hearing.

Google Maps adds Street View support for Guam

Posted: Sep 25, 2014  by Jason Salas  KUAM

Guam - Google Maps added its much-overdue street view imagery for many of the island's roadways. You can now not only send friends topographical and satellite maps of the island, you can get view first-person pictures throughout the island, making for the ultimate virtual tour.

Special photo sets include high-res collections of the island's various parks and tourist spots, hotels, and beaches. There are also several well-known restaurants, malls and hotels that you can tour - inside of the buildings.

Just load Google Maps in your browser or app on your mobile device, and drag the Pegman icon onto a blue street along the island, indicating the presence of Street View imagery.

It's insanely addictive to use, even if you've lived here all your life and know the places like the back of your hand


‘Retirement crisis looming’


Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GGRF board supports hybrid retirement plan

THE Government of Guam Retirement Fund board of trustees agreed that while the proposed hybrid retirement plan is not a cure-all for an upcoming retirement crisis, it is the most beneficial option available.


The agreement came in testimony during a public hearing on Bill 394, which was introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and seeks to establish the new plan for government of Guam employees.

Maggie Ralbovsky, investment consultant for GGRF, said the average government employee has about $32,000 in their retirement account, which is not enough to sustain a lifestyle for very long after retirement.

“This will translate into a poverty level retirement living standard. It’s very inadequate,” she said. This in turn will affect the economy, Ralbovsky noted. There will be a generation of people seeking government welfare to support their lifestyle after retirement because what they had saved over time was not enough.

The alternative to that, however, is to never retire, said Gerry Cruz, GGRF trustee.

With the consequences in sight, the retirement fund has worked to “reverse the crisis waiting to happen,” Ralbovsky said.

Weighed

The board weighed the costs to employees and the government when considering retirement options, all of which were “inferior” to the hybrid plan proposed.

Under the hybrid plan, according to Cruz, the government would pay 0.82 percent less than it already is paying. Tuesday night the board testified that the best-case scenario is for all 8,000 government employees under the Defined Contribution (DC) plan to switch over to the hybrid plan.

The worst-case scenario is if only employees over 50 years old switch to the hybrid plan. Cruz said that scenario would cost the government 1 to 2 percent more than it is already contributing to the retirement fund.

For employees, the hybrid plan includes a “floor benefit” similar to the Defined Benefits (DB) plan, although not as generous, and a 1 percent mandatory contribution to 475 plan. This translates to a 10.5 percent cost to the employee. Under the current DC plan, employees contribute 5 percent.

However, according to testimony provided by consulting actuary Rich Wright at Tuesday’s public hearing, monthly benefits will be more upon retirement.

According to Wright’s testimony, under the current DC plan, if an employee worked for 30 years and retired at age 65 without Social Security contributions, he or she would receive $1,651 to live off of each month.

In contrast, Wright’s testimony indicates the same employee who worked for 30 years under the hybrid retirement plan would receive $3,747 a month.

The DC plan is still an option for current GovGuam employees, but they may also choose to switch to the hybrid retirement plan, if they feel it will benefit them.

If the bill is enacted into law, all employees hired after Dec. 31 will automatically be placed on the hybrid retirement plan.



New seniors center may rise in Hagåtña


Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A NEW facility that aims to house more elderly residents on island may soon rise in Hagåtña after officials of the nonprofit organization GovGuam Association of Retired Persons Inc. (GGARP) announced yesterday that planning is underway for the long-desired project.


Gregorio Calvo, advisor of the organization, announced during the Rotary Club of Northern Guam meeting yesterday that the building of the Manamko’ Legacy Multipurpose Center has been approved by its board, embraced by the municipality of Hagåtña, and is supported by GovGuam.

Proposed to be constructed along East O’Brien Drive in Hagåtña, the legacy building will be built on a 3-acre property to be equipped with a mini-convention center, a bingo and dance hall, an amphitheater, an enrichment facility, arts and crafts exhibit hall, and an elderly and day care service center.

Calvo, along with Vicente Angoco, the association’s president, and John Palomo, vice president, yesterday told Rotarians that funding for the project is being identified now. The group said federal grants are being explored for the undertaking and applications for two federal grants are being readied.

Planning for the project started in March and the completion target is December 2016.

Calvo said the proposed multipurpose center will be constructed inside a two-story building. GGARP has an existing building in Hagåtña and the proposed project, once operational, will become an added facility for the organization.

The cost of the project was not disclosed. The project’s construction will be done in phases, according to the officials.

During yesterday’s meeting, the design of the legacy project was shown to participants. Included in the design are historic murals.

They said the building will accommodate lots of activities for the manamko’.

The GGARP officials also invited the Rotary Club of Northern Guam to become its first associate member. They offered to open their existing facility to become the host of Rotary Club’s future meetings.

Palomo said a partnership with the Rotary Club will greatly help the association in accomplishing its mission to provide more opportunities for the island’s senior citizens.

At present, GGARP officials said they have estimated about 150 active members and about a thousand “not very active” members in the organization.

In its upcoming general membership meeting in March 2015, the number is anticipated to increase.

Besides the presentation about the “legacy project,” the association officials also unveiled upcoming activities for the manamko’.

On Oct. 18, a tennis tournament is to be held at the Hagåtña tennis courts and community members and leaders are encouraged to participate.

On Oct. 25, the IK Walk & Wheel Fun event is set in front of the GGARP Office along East O’Brien Drive.

On Nov. 22, GGARP will showcase the talents and achievements of the elderly in its “Manamko’ Legacy Concert” to be held in the UOG Field House.

The group is seeking support and assistance for these activities for the senior citizens.


Burglary is leading crime on Guam


Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Police Department announced yesterday that burglary and theft of property are the two most reported crimes on Guam. The department recorded more than 1,000 cases in each category in the first eight months of this year alone.

This was based on the department’s records from January through August this year.

Through Aug. 1, 194 burglary cases were recorded, according to Priciliano M. Ruiz, GPD’s newly hired crime analyst. Of this figure, 199 were committed during August. In July, there were only 160 burglary cases reported.

In January, there was a high volume of burglaries reported with a total of 192 cases compared to mostly single and double digits for other offenses like assault and child abuse for the same period.

In February, GPD saw a decline in the number of burglary incidents reported to the agency as it posted only 140 for that month. The decline in the number of burglary cases continued in the next four months – March had 139 burglary cases; April posted 127 cases; May registered 133 burglary incidents, and in June, 104 cases were noted.

However, in July, the figure showed a significant increase with a total of 160 burglary cases on island and further growth was noted in August when the agency posted 199 burglary cases.

Second

Theft of property was the second most reported crime category with a total of 1,090 in eight months. Of this figure, the highest number of cases (172) was recorded in August.

Data from GPD indicated that in January, the number of theft of property offenses was 132. The number remained steady in February with 131 cases. However, in March the volume increased to 146 cases, according to the agency. In the following months, there seemed to be an up-and-down trend as 116 such cases were recorded for April, 124 cases for May, 142 cases for June, and 127 theft cases for July.

Ruiz said he will focus on these top two crime categories on island.

After becoming familiar with the latest data, Ruiz said his next step is to open the police reports and identify where these happened, when these happened and interview the victims. If the offenders have been arrested, he plans to go to the Department of Corrections and extract their modus operandi.

It is only after opening police reports that the crime analyst can determine which among the areas are considered crime hot spots on Guam, according to Ruiz.

Guam Police Department Chief Fred Bordallo Jr. yesterday told Variety that one of the most effective ways to eradicate these crimes is partnership and collaboration with villages’ neighborhood watch programs.

“This is one of our strategies. We always reach out to neighborhood watch programs and work with our community,” he said.

Another way, he said, is to encourage community members, especially business owners, to invest in security surveillance cameras to protect their livelihood. Bordallo cited the effectiveness of security cameras in resolving burglary and theft cases.

This week, Bordallo announced that GPD is anticipating bringing onboard additional volunteer-reservists that will boost police visibility.

Another way to deter crimes in businesses and residences is the placement of signs. “When we put signs that this area is under surveillance, that really helps because we let the criminals know that there’s a chance they will be caught,” he said.

Disturbance

GPD records indicate that disturbance had the next highest number of offenses in eight months with 618 total cases from January to August 2014.

Of this figure, 99 cases were recorded in June; 92 in May; 84 cases in August; 79 cases in January; 79 cases in April; 71 cases in July; 62 cases in March; and 52 disturbance cases in February.

For crash/traffic cases, GPD posted 460 total cases from January to August, while a total of 438 criminal mischief reports were recorded in the eight months.

Other crimes had the following statistics: assault (389 cases); harassment (348 cases); confiscated contraband (195 cases); criminal sexual conduct (131 cases); damaged property (157 cases); DUI (113 cases); retail theft (129 cases); stolen vehicles (134 cases); and terrorizing (133 cases).




GDOE to gauge impact of new half-day school schedule


Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Fernandez seeks input from affected stakeholders

FOLLOWING concerns raised by public school stakeholders regarding scheduled professional development shortened instructional days, the first of which was yesterday, the Guam Department of Education has started gathering community input to determine the schedule’s impact before proceeding with the next scheduled half-day on Oct. 29.


GDOE will be compiling student attendance and meal participation rates to help provide a clearer picture of the new half-day schedule’s impact.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez announced the plans to the education board in a meeting Tuesday night. The superintendent had informed parents and guardians of the survey in a letter dated Sept. 24.

The survey can be accessed by going to www.cvent.com/d/54qtmg. It will be posted for public input until Oct. 3.

Fernandez said he has requested the schools to have a computer with Internet access made available during normal school operation hours for those who do not have access to the Internet.

Fernandez said stakeholders will be advised on the outcomes and how the department will be moving forward with the next scheduled professional development half-day once information has been gathered.

Designated time

According to the department, the additional professional development hours provide all public schools with designated time for staff to focus on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and form assessment results for students as well as intervention strategies to best help students that fall below grade-level expectations. The schools will also meet the required 180 instruction days set in law.

After the first scheduled half-day, Fernandez assured stakeholders that he and his management team were at the school sites observing the activities and ensuring that time was maximized.

He also recognized that from the onset, it would be difficult to accommodate all parents’ work schedules and unique situations.

However, he asked to move forward with the schedule for the day and also expressed commitment to solicit feedback in order to hear from a broader spectrum of stakeholders.

Fernandez also thanked the parents and guardians for understanding the importance of providing the additional time for teachers to meet and for all of the feedback that has been sent, both supporting and opposing the late start schedule.

“Like all of our families with children in our public schools, my family is impacted as well. Regardless of what schedule you prefer, it is important that we receive your input,” he said.

Earlier this month, GDOE announced that there will be eight scheduled shortened instructional days for all GDOE schools to provide professional development time for teachers.

Minimally disruptive

This year, for the first time during the scheduled “half-days,” schools will open three hours later than normal and the release time will remain the same for all schools.

Fernandez said each year, a number of schools request half-days at various times of the year to meet their professional development needs. By including the days in the calendar, schools no longer need to make the requests and everyone is on the same schedule.

The superintendent also mentioned that one of the goals with scheduling the half-days was to be minimally disruptive.

“By starting late, we will still have all of our after-school programs in full force,” Fernandez said. “Students in after-school sports and clubs won’t need to go home and then come back later, ASPIRE and Eskuelan Puengi can continue; it just made more sense.”




Torres reacts to Camacho’s endorsement

Friday, 19 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

FORMER Port Authority of Guam General Manager and current Republican senatorial candidate Mary Torres has finally broken her silence with regard to her sister-in-law Joann Camacho's endorsement of the Democratic gubernatorial team.

Camacho is a former first lady and the wife of former Republican Gov. Felix Camacho, who is Torres’ brother. Joann Camacho last Friday made political waves by endorsing the Democrats’ gubernatorial team of former Gov. Carl Gutierrez and Gary Gumataotao during a meeting of Democratic Party leaders and supporters.

In a statement to Variety, Torres said that from a political perspective, it’s important to remember that "political difference is good for democracy, whereas political indifference is harmful." 

She added that "differences of opinion and heartfelt debate are vital components of a democratic society" and that everyone has the right to free speech and the privilege of voting for their chosen leaders.

"People should be encouraged to make their voices heard through the political process. From a personal perspective, Joann’s family is very close-knit and her outward support of her first cousin (and God-brother) in this gubernatorial race should come as no surprise to anyone intimately familiar with Chamorro culture. Joann has also served as Guam’s first lady for eight years, is a devoted wife of a two-term governor, a mother and grandmother, and cannot be faulted for defending her family’s honor. She has been a supportive sister-in-law for over 30 years and I sincerely appreciate her concern for my well-being," Torres said.

Unceremoniously

Torres was unceremoniously removed by Gov. Eddie Calvo from her position as general manager of the Port Authority of Guam in December 2012 and linked to allegations of Workers Compensation fraud against port employee Bernadette Meno. Prior to her position at the port, Torres was executive manager at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport.

Torres said the political party with which one chooses to become affiliated "is a personal decision" and the "discretion to remain with a party" belongs to the individual. "My father, the late Gov. Carlos Camacho, was one of the founders of the Republican Party of Guam and my family is proud of his legacy and honors his memory by serving under the party banner. No matter what our differences, decisions that will affect our society require consensus-building and a willingness by leaders (present and future) to respect and listen to the will of the people, even if it is contrary to their own position," Torres said.

In her statement endorsing Gutierrez, Joann Camacho specifically implied that Torres was removed from the port because she did not follow the administration's wishes.

"I knew they were having issues with my sister-in-law because they needed to move her out of the airport for whatever reason as they were carrying out their shenanigans and they sent her to the port. She got to the port and she became a problem because they weren’t able to do what they wanted to do at the port. And this was the honest truth I’d see. So what they wanted to do was get rid of her," writer Bruce Lloyd quoted Camacho as saying in his blog Guam Democrat News.

Responding specifically to this, Torres said that in her prior management positions, "I aspired to put people before politics and will continue this style of leadership."

Torres also affirmed her support for the Republican slate of candidates, however, she indicated that she is well aware that the success of a candidate in the general election requires a cross section of support from Republicans, Democrats, independent voters, and those who are undecided about whom to select.

"I was recently invited to a gathering of Democrats in Barrigada for a brief meet-and-greet, and was warmly welcomed. Traditionally, the hallmark of a successful campaign for political office is to gain bi-partisan support, and I’m encouraged by the positive response I’ve received from Republicans, Democrats and others so far.  I aim to gain the public’s trust and vote, and will continue to reach out to everyone, not just a select few," she said.

When asked whether she would be able to work with Adelup if Calvo is re-elected and she is elected senator, Torres said: "Should I be elected senator, I will work effectively with other senators, the executive branch and the Judiciary of Guam to do what is right and fair for all the people of Guam, regardless of our leaders’ political affiliation."

In endorsing the Gutierrez team, Joann Camacho said she was "disappointed" with the leadership of the Calvo-Tenorio administration. Having been a member of the Calvo Cabinet, she said “I’ve seen what’s going on.”

Joann Camacho also said that her family relationship to Guamataotao was a factor in her decision to back the Democratic team.

“Tamuning is traditionally a Republican village and that’s what I am, but this time it’s a different election. Gary Gumataotao is my first cousin,” she said.

Joann Camacho also said she deplored the way Torres, her sister-in-law, was treated by the administration when Torres served as general manager of the port.

GPA sells out $76.4M in revenue bonds

Friday, 19 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Power Authority yesterday successfully sold $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds that will be used to fund energy storage systems, system improvements and the initial phase of GPA’s proposed energy conversion plan.

    According to Gov. Eddie Calvo, GPA’s bond sale was well received by investors who submitted nearly $700 million of orders in less than an hour.

    “Investors have once again heard our message and have demonstrated their support for our island by continuing to invest in our community. GPA was able to take advantage of favorable market conditions and low interest rates to secure financing for needed capital improvements,” Calvo said in a statement reacting to the bond sale.

    Lester Carlson, public finance manager for the Guam Economic Development Authority, said this latest bond sale built off other recent successful sales by GPA in 2010 and 2012 as well as the Guam Waterworks Authority 2013 new money issue and GWA's 2014 bond issue.

    He added that representatives from both GPA and GEDA spent the days leading up to the sale marketing GPA and Guam to investors.

    “We continue to deliver on Gov. Calvo’s promise three years ago to increase transparency and communication with investors. Under the governor’s direction, we have prioritized meeting on a regular basis with both rating agencies and investors. This open communication and the governor’s commitment to fiscal responsibility have increased investor interest in Guam, resulting in lower interest rates on all Guam credits,” Carlson said.

    Significant premium

    Due to the strong demand, Carlson said investors were willing to pay a significant premium to purchase the bonds, which enabled GPA to reduce the par amount borrowed by $7.8 million while still receiving $83.6 million in net proceeds.

    In addition to the direct investor outreach, the GPA sale also received national media attention from an article published in Bloomberg the week prior to the bond sale. In that article, Bloomberg stated that GPA's bonds are expected to be popular with investors because Guam's economy grew 24 percent in the five years through 2012 in contrast to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands which have faced persistent deficits.

    "Compared with the Virgin Islands, we recognize Guam as the stronger of the two credits,” Bloomberg quoted a report by UBS Wealth Management analysts led by Thomas McLoughlin.

    “Once again, the accomplishments of Guam and GPA have been recognized by the financial media, further evidence of the success we’ve had over the past several years,” said Joaquin Flores, GPA general manager.

    He added that GPA was able to take advantage of favorable market conditions and low interest rates to secure financing for needed capital improvements and leverage strong demand for the bonds, resulting in reducing the repayment of the bonds by nearly $1 million.

Museum $1.5M over budget

Friday, 19 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DURING yesterday’s Guam Economic Development Authority board meeting, project coordinator Larry Toves told board members that the Guam and Chamorro Educational Facility would cost about $1.5 million more than its original projected cost.

Toves said the issue with the foundation and the piles has been resolved, at a cost of $200,000. However, he said there will be change orders issued in the future which is why the cost for the museum’s construction is expected to be over budget by $1.5 million.

The foundation has begun to be poured, he said, but the recent rainy weather has delayed the work.

Toves told board members that contractors are attempting to work as much as they can, given the weather conditions.

Gavin Thomas, part of the design management team, told board members yesterday that the recent earthquake did not have any adverse effect on the museum.

The museum was originally priced at $27 million and expected to open in December, but with the facility still under construction, an opening date has yet to be determined.

The project broke ground in February 2013. Earlier this year, contractors had problems with piles and GEDA said many of the piles were damaged which delayed the pouring of the foundation.

The three-story museum is expected to display artifacts and relics of Guam’s history and will include a bookstore, theater, café and an outdoor activity space.

It is among the projects being funded by the $90 million hotel occupancy tax bond.



Shaken but not stirred: 6.7 earthquake rattles Guam


Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 03:00am


But no major damage reported, public schools remain open today

DELORES Gonzales, 67, was sitting outside the GCIC building when she noticed the doors of the building shaking and people scurrying to the outdoor entrance area around 4:15 p.m. yesterday. “Oh my goodness,” Gonzales said. “Where I was sitting – I was swinging back and forth.”

Gonzales and Dorothy Santos were among a small crowd of people gathered outside the GCIC building after the 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Guam yesterday afternoon. Santos was on the fourth floor, at the Department of Labor’s Community Senior Community Service Employment Program office, when it hit.

“We thought it was going to stop and it kept on. A few seconds (later) and it jerked again,” Santos said. “So I started to say, ‘Earthquake, earthquake!’ and I grabbed my purse and my cellphone and started taking the stairs down.”

Neither one reported any injuries nor did they notice any major damage at the GCIC building related to the earthquake. Except for short-term power outages in pockets of the southern and northern villages of Guam and about an hour of disrupted telecommunications service, little else was disturbed due to the afternoon quake. The United States Geological Survey recorded the center of the quake nearly 28 miles northwest of Piti and at a depth of 84.9 miles, a statement from the government of Guam Joint Information Center (JIC) said.

No aftershocks were recorded

Karmelin Pachkoski from Talofofo was one of the residents whose electricity went off in the middle of the earthquake. “It seemed to stop for a bit and shake again,” she said. During that short pause, the lights went out in her home, but the tremor continued.

She said Notre Dame High School employees at the campus next door were also without electricity. Pachkoski said the water pressure in her home was lower than usual immediately after the quake, however the water was not completely disconnected.

According to Guam Power Authority spokesman Art Perez, the power outage affected Talofofo and the area around Bear Rock in Inarajan. A live downed wire in Mangilao was also discovered yesterday afternoon, according to a JIC statement. GPA crews were notified of both incidents and restored power to the villages by 6 p.m. yesterday.

As of 8 p.m. last night, no one had come to Guam Memorial Hospital or U.S. Naval Hospital Guam with an injury as a result of the earthquake. Many businesses finished the day and closed at 5 p.m. as usual. Restaurants and retail stores remained open for business, operating just as they would on any other day.

Guam Homeland Security did not issue any tsunami warnings for the island and around 6:30 p.m. yesterday, the governor deactivated the Joint Information Center. The last announcement from JIC proclaimed, “Guam is fine.”

Santos said yesterday’s earthquake reminded her of the quake that occurred in 2002, which was also strong. “That time I was at home. I remember looking out the window and seeing the cars shaking on the street,” she said.

According to the USGS, the earthquake that occurred near Guam in 2002 was recorded as a magnitude 7 temblor. Prior to that, a 5.8-magnitude quake occurred in 2000. To date, however, the strongest earthquake on Guam occurred in August 1993 and measured magnitude 8.1.

No deaths related to that earthquake were reported then and as of press time, none had been reported yesterday. “By all accounts, Guam was not affected in a major way by this strong earthquake,” JIC officials said in a statement.

Schools open

Meanwhile, the governor’s office announced last night that public schools will be open today as scheduled.

The advisory was issued following what Adelup described as “a fake notice of school closure” mimicking a news report that looks very official. The fake notice is made to appear to be information from the government's Joint Information Center and even has a fake quote attributed to "a GDOE Chairman."

“At the very least, this hoax is irresponsible and reprehensible, if not illegal. We are alerting authorities to this forgery and this use of an official government entity to color this fake notice with any authority or credibility,” Troy Torres, the governor’s communications director said.



$10M in tax refunds to be out this week


Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


NEARLY 5,000 taxpayers will receive their income tax refunds soon, according to an announcement from the Office of the Governor yesterday. The refund checks will be mailed tomorrow.

According to the statement, $10 million in tax refunds will be mailed to 4,947 individuals who filed their tax documents up to April 1.

The last time the administration released the tax refunds was a week ago.

“When (Lt. Gov.) Ray (Tenorio) and I came into office, our people were waiting three to four years for their refunds,” the governor said in the statement. “We promised the wait would become a thing of the past, and that has happened,” Calvo said.

For the past two years, the government paid all status A refunds without the use of any special financing, he added.

Calvo, who is seeking re-election in November, assured that his administration will continue this commitment year after year.

As a result of a federal court ruling, the government of Guam and certain government officials were required to restructure the method of administering tax refunds and pay them in a fair and timely manner.

Under a January 2013 court decision, the government of Guam must pay most tax refunds no later than six months after tax returns are due. The practice of expediting refunds to certain taxpayers has been also terminated.

In case the government fails to comply with the new payment timeline or any other part of the injunction, it could potentially face a court-ordered receivership, a remedy often used in litigation as a last resort when an agency fails to implement court orders or obligations.

For the next five years, government officials will need to provide periodic reports about their efforts to pay income tax refunds in a timely manner.

In fiscal 2015 which starts on Oct. 1, about $118 million will be utilized to continuously pay tax refunds as appropriated under the new budget act.


New hospital opening coming along


Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • THE new hospital’s construction is coming along, but there is still much to be done including installation of equipment and an inspection by the Guam Fire Department, but those things are secondary to finalizing construction, according to Gloria Long, Guam Regional Medical City chief operating officer.

    Long was hesitant to offer an exact opening date yesterday but said the hospital would start serving patients before the end of the year.  “We’re trying to open as soon as we can,” Long told the Mayors’ Council of Guam yesterday. “We’re 100 percent controlled by the construction company and their ability to finish the building because (GFD) has to clear it before patients can be admitted, but we’re working very hard.”

    The project cost about $215 million and contractor dck Pacific Guam LLC is expected to complete it by mid-November.

    The first floor of the facility is more complete than the other floors, Long said during a tour of the hospital yesterday. Wiring and duct work was ongoing and none of the three nurses stations in the emergency department resembled much of anything, save for a space with workstations along the wide hallways.

    Glass for windows in the main lobby remains packed away while construction workers work on the steel frames behind temporary plywood doors. The main driveway leading up to the emergency room is still comprised of gravel. In fact, Long said one smoother-looking section of gravel at the beginning of the driveway leading up to the emergency department was supposed to have been paved by now but the rain halted progress on that undertaking.

    “We can’t pave the lot and paving the lot requires us to do things and we don’t have a direct connect upstairs to say, ‘Turn off the rain for a couple days,’” Long said.

    Looking forward

    Even with much of the facility still under construction, GRMC officials are looking forward to the completed building, considering that two years ago, it was “just a hole in the ground.”

    Some equipment has already been moved into the hospital, including a mammogram machine and a TrueBeam linear accelerator, the second of its kind on Guam, which will help with radiology treatment for cancer patients.

    The linear accelerator at GRMC is a better version of the other one on island, Long said. She likened the machine’s precision to that of a shooting range of a shotgun versus a rifle. The linear accelerator at GRMC is more precise, Long said. The other machine is at the Guam Medical Plaza.

    The linear accelerator offers one of the specialty treatments that residents would sometimes leave the island for.

    When the facility finally opens, Long said everyone is welcome. GRMC currently has contracts with Net Care, TakeCare, SelectCare and Staywell insurance companies. It has already applied for Medicare and Medicaid certification and eventually plans to offer specialty care for veterans on Guam as well.

    Until then, physicians who are expected to work in the six-story, 267,000-square-foot hospital will serve patients in the specialty clinic and at the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

    Even with the hospital bringing an additional 130 beds to help sick residents, it is still not enough to serve the whole island and GRMC expects to work with Guam Memorial Hospital and the U.S. Naval Hospital to bring improved medical services to people in the region.


New GRMC clinic will open next week


Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WHILE the new Guam Regional Medical City hospital in Dededo is nearing completion, a separate specialty clinic will open next week, according to Gloria Long, GRMC chief operating officer.


Long announced the specialty clinic’s opening at the Mayors’ Council of Guam meeting yesterday. The new clinic is at the old Social Security office in Harmon, in the building next to Cost-U-Less wholesale store.

There is enough space in the clinic for 10 examination rooms. Beginning next week, doctors hope to start consulting with patients Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Most local insurance providers – including NetCare, TakeCare, SelectCare and StayWell Insurance – have contracts with GRMC, Long said. However, GRMC has yet to secure a contract with the Medically Indigent Program (MIP).

“We didn’t get a contract with MIP just yet because we have to be certified before we can get contracts for that so these are the insurances we can take right now,” Long said. “The patients will need to get a referral from their (primary care physician) in order to access care.”

Long said the clinic will remain open even after the main GRMC facility opens later this year. Specialists from the mainland that have already been hired and are already on island will be consulting with patients at the new clinic.

A urologist, a cardiologist, an electro-physiologist, a hematologist-oncologists and a wound care specialist will be available for consultation next week at the GRMC specialty clinic.

Currently there is a banner outside the clinic and Long said the hospital is looking to install improved signage so the clinic is easily identifiable.

Consulting

In addition to the opening of the new clinic, GRMC doctors have been working closely with the Department of Public Health and Social Services. Long said doctors have been consulting with patients at DPHSS’ northern facility. “What we’re doing is lending some of our manpower that’s available to assist with providing care to Public Health as well,” she said.

Long said 17 specialists hired to work at GRMC are on Guam already and many of them have ties to Guam. The specialists who will be seeing patients at the clinic are already on the payroll, she said. When the new hospital opens later this year, GRMC expects to employ 54 physicians and specialists.


United Airlines offers flight attendants voluntary buyout

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) – United Airlines and union officials said that eligible flight attendants will be paid up to $100,000 to leave the company through a voluntary buyout, in a deal that aims to end furloughs at the over-staffed airline.

The agreement comes six years after United, which employs more than 23,000 stewards, retired a number of its planes, leaving the company 2,000-plus flight attendants above capacity.

While some 1,450 were still on unpaid leave for the company this month, United said it now is recalling all of its attendants so they may apply for the separation payment or return to work.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United's stewards, lauded the high-paying severance as "virtually unprecedented in the airline industry."

United's cooperation with AFA bodes well for contract negotiations that have been going on since the carrier merged with Continental Airlines in 2010.

The relative seniority of each carrier's flight attendants has yet to be determined, and despite a single operating certificate, United and Continental stewards have not yet integrated.

"Recalling furloughed flight attendants and aligning our staffing to match our flying schedule will further facilitate the company and AFA reaching a joint collective bargaining agreement," Mike Bonds, United's executive vice president for human resources and labor relations, said in a statement. "It's another positive step in what has become a productive relationship with AFA."

The deal also has the potential to cut United's costs if the carrier replaces senior flight attendants who accept the severance with junior ones hired at a lower pay grade, according to industry consultant George Hamlin.

Still, Hamlin offered a word of caution.

"Why did it take so long to get to this?" he asked, adding that United and Continental "still have to come up with a way to deploy all (of their) flight attendants as one entity."

The airline has made separate collective bargaining agreements with its pilots, fleet service and passenger service groups.

United's stock fell almost 1.7 percent Monday to close at $49.56 per share. The announcement came out after the close of New York trading.

Poll: Education, public safety top concerns

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

EDUCATION remains the top concern among Guam’s women voters, while men tend to be more concerned about public safety, according to the results of a poll of 265 voters conducted Saturday and Sunday by Ron McNinch, local political analyst.

McNinch asked the voters eight questions about issues related to the upcoming Nov. 4 general election. The results were then categorized by gender and age into four groups: women under 40 and women over 40, and men under 40 and men over 40. The poll also indicated that voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana and believe Delegate Madeleine Bordallo will be re-elected.

Respondents were asked to name “issues or concerns (that) should be the highest priority for our elected leaders?” Of 62 women under 40 years old, 28 named education; 13 named public safety/national security; 11 chose health care, and no other issue was named by more than three respondents.

Of 84 women over 40 years old, 33 named education; 13 named health care; 11 selected public safety; eight named crime, and no other issue was named by more than three women.

Of 57 men under 40 years old, 17 named public safety as the issue warranting top priority status; 15 named education; six named health care, and no other issue was named by more than four respondents.

Of 62 male respondents over 40, 17 named education and 17 named public safety, law enforcement; nine named health care, and no other issue was named by more than three respondents.

Marijuana

A majority of respondents in all categories answered affirmatively when asked if they support medical marijuana. Of women under 40 years old, 75.38 percent responded yes to the medical marijuana question, as did 60.76 percent of women over 40.

Of the younger men, 92 percent answered yes, and 58 percent of men over 40 also responded in the affirmative to the medicinal pot question.

When respondents were asked if they thought Madeleine Bordallo or Margaret Metcalfe would be elected to Congress, a majority in all categories responded that they thought Bordallo would win.

The percentages of respondents who selected Bordallo were: women under 40 years old, 70.77 percent; women over 40 years old, 69.62 percent; men under 40 years old, 64.62 percent; and men over 40 years old, 66.13 percent.

Other results from the poll indicated that overwhelming majorities of the respondents like living on the island (82 percent), prefer U.S. citizenship over “some other” citizenship (94 percent), oppose the privatization of public schools (71 percent) and have decided which team they will choose to be governor and lieutenant governor (79 percent), though they were not asked their preference for the top executive offices.

DOJ awards Guam $622K in grants

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

OMZB) – Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo yesterday announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded Guam $622,594 in federal grant assistance.

The Office of the Attorney General was awarded $414,754 through the Office for Victims of Crime’s fiscal 14 VOCA Victim Assistance program. This formula grant will help the attorney general’s office respond to a wide variety of crimes and enhance services provided to victims on Guam.

The Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence Inc. was awarded $207,840 through the Office of Violence Against Women’s Grants to State Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coalitions Program. This grant will assist GCASAFV coordinate victim services and collaborate with federal and local entities to respond to violence against women issues.

“These funds will help improve public safety and provide much needed support to victims of crime on Guam,” Bordallo said. “The grants are part of the DOJ’s continued efforts to ensure that local law enforcement entities and community organizations are equipped to better serve their communities. I look forward to these grants benefitting our community.”

‘Local experts should be tapped for independent economic impact study’

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A LOCAL economist stressed the importance of tapping local experts for the completion of an independent economic impact statement relative to the minimum wage increase on Guam.

This was stated by Maria Claret Ruane, resident development economist at the Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives at the University of Guam, during a public hearing for Bill 376, the compromise version of the minimum wage increase legislation that was passed by the Guam Legislature and enacted as P.L. 32-178 in July. The legislation mandates a minimum wage increase from the current $7.25 to $8.25 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015 instead of an incremental raise from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017, which had been proposed.

As currently stated in Bill 376, introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita, the Department of Labor is required to issue a request for proposal to conduct a one-year independent economic impact statement relative to the minimum wage on Guam no later than Jan. 1, 2016.

Ruane said the first consideration for the bill is to recognize that there are local economic experts who could perform the required independent economic impact statement.

According to Ruane, an economic impact statement by local experts would yield more relevant and accurate results than those produced by off-island economists.

Insufficient

Local experts are familiar with the insufficient data on the Guam economy and that insufficiency is the reason why studies on Guam's economy often could not use methodologies used in the U.S. states and other jurisdictions, she said.

Ruane said she supports the intent of the bill, as well as other measures designed to yield quantitative measures and analysis on the economic impact of any change – in this case, the policy change to raise the local minimum wage that would take effect by next January.

"As we all know, it is rarely the case that a change could have only negative or positive effects. Often, it could have both and inasmuch, unless we measure these opposing effects, we will never be certain what the overall net effects of that change would be," she said.

Ruane also noted that actual data becomes available after the minimum wage increase takes place, one of the reasons why she supports the timeline proposed by Bill 376 which will allow approximately one year of data following the anticipated minimum wage increase.

"The bill states that DOL will issue the (request for proposal) for the independent economic impact statement by Jan. 1, 2016. And for the economic impact statement to be made available six months after the completion, which would be approximately June 2016 at the earliest to be submitted within 30 calendar days, or July 2016 at the legislature," she said, adding, "To reiterate, I support the intent of the bill with the timeline proposed by the bill," she said.

According to Yamashita's office, the statement should, at a minimum, detail the impact of the minimum wage increase on small businesses, their employees and their budgets.

Moreover, it should detail the impact on wage earners – their buying power, job security and job retention.

During the public hearing, both the Guam Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Labor presented their testimony in support of the measure but also proposed to change the requirement for the economic impact statement and instead amend it to reflect that a full economic impact study be conducted to determine the impact of the minimum wage increase.

Army takes part in Valiant Shield exercise for the first time

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SINCE Exercise Valiant Shield began in 2006, the U.S. Army had not previously participated, but this year the troops brought an air defense artillery battery system along, ready to work with Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps forces during the joint training.

Capt. Samuel Horowitz, commander of the Charlie Battery 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Regiment stationed in Japan, said the Army was excited to be part of this year’s Valiant Shield.

“It’s really special and of course Valiant Shield is the largest exercise in (the Pacific Command),” Horowitz said. “For us to get involved in this is a really big deal to us.”

The Patriot Battery sits atop of a grassy section on the east side of the Andersen Air Force Base, with a clear view of the ocean. The system set-up includes a central engagement control station, a three-man operation, according to platoon leader Samuel Bjorkman. “Basically, this is the brains of the operation and it’s where we do our air battle management,” Bjorkman said. 

Other posts and stations surround the engagement control station, including a radar set that detects enemy aircraft and launching stations, ready to release missiles at the command of the officer in charge. The missiles in the single launching station on site yesterday were inert missiles, Bjorkman said.

“We’re here to support our joint partners and definitely exercise our … capabilities,” Horowitz said.

The Army troops are part of the estimated 18,000 personnel on and around Guam for the Valiant Shield exercise. The biennial training offers a chance for the U.S. military forces to prepare missions jointly.

Opportunity

“It’s a great opportunity. We’ve got some guys from the Navy and the Air Force that we’re working with – which we otherwise don’t get to when we get back home – and we get to see how they do business,” said Capt. Jarod Dicks, of the U.S. Marine Corps Marine Fighter Squadron 115.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-115, nicknamed the Silver Eagles, is focused on air-sea battle, Dicks said. “It’s really an opportunity to work with Air Force and Navy and it’s kind of that joint interoperability and work on each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures, and figure out how everybody works and how to work together and become better with that,” he said.

Eleven of the Silver Eagle Hornet aircraft were lined up, but none took off yesterday. Dicks said the aircraft had been in the air on Monday, the first day of Valiant Shield. The exercise will continue until Sept. 23.

Real estate village meetings to start

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GAR) – As part of its mission to serve as the leading advocate and “voice of real estate” on Guam, the Guam Association of Realtors (GAR) will kick off the first of a series of islandwide town hall village meetings this Thursday, Sept. 18, in Sinajaña.

The meeting will be held at the Sinajaña Community Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Residents from Sinajaña, Ordot-Chalan Pågo, Hagåtña and Agana Heights are encouraged to attend as information provided will be specific to residents in those villages.

“Realtors are good neighbors too,” said GAR President Louisa Wessling. “And that’s why we’re excited to bring this new program directly to village residents. We are working with all the village mayors to help us get the word out and encourage residents to get informed.”

The town hall meetings will provide market analysis in each village and address questions or concerns related to buying, selling, renting and lending requirements.

General information will also be discussed, such as differentiating between a realtor and a real estate agent. Residents will also have the opportunity to meet with the realtors on Guam.

For more information, contact Peggy Llagas, GAR executive officer, at 477-4271; email eo[at]guamrealtors.com; or visit www.guamrealtors.com.

Insular energy bill passes House

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that aims to provide technical, policy and financial expertise to U.S. insular areas, including Guam and the CNMI, with the goal of lowering energy costs.

H.R. 83, introduced by Delegate Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands, requires the Secretary of the Interior to put together energy teams for American Samoa, the CNMI, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Freely Associated States. The energy teams will develop individualized plans for each area and assist in putting the plans into action.

The passage of the legislation at the House was confirmed yesterday by CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan.

The bill is co-sponsored by the territorial delegates including Sablan and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo.

H.R. 83 requires the Secretary of Interior to assemble a team of technical, policy and financial experts to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the United States and the Freely Associated States through the development of action plans. It also requires technical assistance on the increased use of indigenous clean energy resources.

“This bill directs assistance to the short-term needs of our community as well as to ensuring that when the transitions are made, we will be putting together the right mix of fuel sources that will provide the most efficient electricity at the lowest possible costs,” Christensen said.

Remedies

H.R.83 requires that the energy action plans identify and offer remedies to the immediate, near-term, long-term and environmental needs, along with recommendations on how to improve the performance of energy infrastructure, overall energy efficiency and a schedule for implementation of those recommendations.

Christensen emphasized that energy costs in the territories are five times the national average, a cost that is unsustainable and crippling to the economy and the health and safety of the community.

“Despite our challenges and obstacles, our territories are diligently working to identify opportunities to promote a diverse portfolio of energy options,” she said. “Still, this bill is extremely necessary as it recognizes the need for immediate, short-term action.”

Earlier, the bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee where it got bi-partisan support with Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton calling the bill “common-sense legislation” and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield also expressing support. Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman also said H.R. 83 “is precisely the kind of legislation we should be working on. The bill enhances energy security and expands renewable energy generation. It is a win for the island states and U.S. territories that it will assist.”

Last year, Christensen, Bordallo, and Sablan, along with Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, and Delegate Eni Faleomavaega, of American Samoa, were also successful in convincing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the islands.

Yona family saves huge with solar panels

Posted: Sep 17, 2014 by Joan Aguon Charfauros kuam

Guam - Did you know that when it comes to solar panels and inverters Pacific Solar and Photovoltaics provides options for homeowners, not just in the number of panels you would like on your home's roof but also in the type of inverter?

The Poppe family from Yona decided to invest in the advanced Sunny Boy 6000 inverter system. Province Poppe told KUAM News, "We have two Sunny Boy 6000s here, we have a 48-panel system that produces 275 watts per panel and these will provide up to 13,200 watts of power."

The solar panels are tied into the grid by two Sunny Boy 6000 inverters which provide added benefits. "One of the benefits is that we can check how much power we use through the Pacific Solar website," said Proviince.

In addition customers with the Sunny Boy 6000 can also download an android application to monitor their system from anywhere in the world. Another added feature of the Sunny Boy 6000 is if you knock on the display panel it will switch between views of the solar panels on the roof so you can make sure they are working properly. This particular system set up costs upwards of $30,000 but it is money well spent. "Because we have chosen to invest in the solar panels we are saving over $110,000 for the next 20 years...definitely the system is paying for itself," she added.

And while the system will pay for itself and create a savings in the future at this point and time the Poppe family say they're enjoying a significantly lower power bill, with Province adding, "Last month our power bill was $50 and this month it should be $11." This is in sharp contrast to their normal GPA power bill, which could be $500.

The Poppe family is now able to enjoy running their air conditioning units as long as they want and not have to worry about forking out a large amount of money to pay for their power bill. If you would like more information on how you can invest in solar energy contact Pacific Solar Photovoltaics.


Chamber, DOL support minimum wage economic impact bill

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Chamber of Commerce and the Guam Department of Labor expressed support for Bill 376, a measure introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita that would require the completion of an independent economic impact statement relative to the minimum wage on Guam.

Yesterday, the Guam Legislature's committee on rules scheduled a public hearing for Bill 376, where both the chamber and labor department presented their testimony.

Although the chamber and DOL both support the bill, they are proposing that an amendment be made which states that a full economic impact study be conducted to determine the impact of the minimum wage increase.

Manny Cruz, DOL director, said that as a regulatory agency of the government of Guam, the labor department initially had concerns that the increase in the minimum wage set in law would be artificially implemented without the benefit of an economic impact study. However, he said Bill 376 addresses this concern.

As currently stated in the proposed legislation, the labor director is required to issue a request for proposal to conduct a one-year independent economic impact statement, relative to the minimum wage on Guam no later than Jan. 1, 2016.

According to Yamashita's office, the statement should, at a minimum, detail the impact of the minimum wage increase on small businesses, their employees and their budgets.

Moreover, it should detail the impact on wage earners – their buying power, job security and job retention.

Compromise version

Bill 316, a compromise version of the minimum wage increase legislation, was passed and signed into law July 10. The legislation mandates a minimum wage increase from the current $7.25 to $8.25 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015.

Bobby A. Shringi, chairman of the legislative review committee and a board member of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, read a statement supporting the measure.

Shringi noted that nothing precludes a future legislature from amending the recently passed minimum wage increase bill.

Thus he said the chamber is suggesting that language be inserted that would prevent any minimum wage increase proposal from being introduced without an independent economic study.

In his testimony, Shringi also noted that the chamber as well as other business organizations have shared their concerns about the adverse impacts that could be created through the passing of any minimum wage legislation. "We were more concerned on the direct impact this would have on the small businesses as well as the rising costs of goods and services on island," he said.

"We commend the efforts of the author in her efforts to raise the concerns of the business community by the introduction of the measure. However, we would like to offer some recommendations for this legislation to assure that it actually meets its intention," he said.

Shringi said the chamber recommends that the term "'independent" as stated in Bill 376 be further defined to ensure the statement be free from a perspective of a political or business conflict of interest.

Secondly, they also recommend amending the term "economic statement" to the term "economic study" since it is important that the results of the recent minimum wage increase be reviewed both comprehensively and objectively, and a study should be able to accomplish this intent versus a statement.

"We have had great community conversations on the minimum wage with the private sector,” Yamashita said. “This is the result of our private partners requesting that an independent economic study be done."


Emerald picks up application for condo project reconstruction

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 03:00am  BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Department of Public Works said yesterday that the new developer of the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium has picked up its application for the project reconstruction.

Based on the initial information from the agency, there are modifications indicated in the planning design which it anticipates may scale down the cost of the construction.

Carl Dominguez, Department of Public Works director, yesterday told Variety that the new owner – Core Tech International – has submitted the drawings which DPW is currently assessing.

“They picked up the application, they filled it out, and they gave us a set of drawings. Now, their representatives are going around to the different agencies and presenting the application for their review and clearance,” Dominguez said.

DPW is the agency that issues building permits for all government and private sector construction. Once the other agencies clear the applicant, DPW will grant the permit which requires construction to commence in 90 days.

“They started at DPW and they will end at DPW (as far as the building permit is concerned),” Dominguez said.

When asked about the modification in the new drawings, Dominguez said he was provided initial information that the towers would be reduced in its design.

“I was told verbally that (the towers) won’t go any higher,” he said, adding that the towers will remain at the current height as the developer plans to finish as it is.

Plan

Under the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium plan in 2010, it wants to build four condominium towers and 20 villa-type luxury homes.

Under the original planning and design, two towers were to rise to 15 stories while the other two towers would be 18 stories.

Dominguez said he does not yet know the full extent of the modification including the estimated construction cost for the project.

“I haven’t seen yet the declaration and if declared, my guys have to review it to know if that is a reasonable declaration,” said the director.

Meantime, when asked about the project update yesterday, Core Tech CEO Chit Bathan told Variety that the company has no finalized plan for the project.

“We have not finalized our plan yet for the project,” she said in an email yesterday.

In 2007, DPW issued the building permit for the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium project. However, when the project stopped its construction in June 2010, it didn’t ask for an extension of its building permit. The agency provides 90-day permit extensions.

By Guam law, if an applicant discontinues a project for 90 days and doesn’t  get an extension from DPW, the permit becomes void.

The original target date for completion of the Emerald Oceanview Park was set for the end of 2010. But the project was suspended in June 2010 after banks financing the main contractor, Korea’s Hanil Corp., were ordered by the Korean government to suspend any further loans.

Core Tech acquired the mortgage to the property several months ago.

Calvo says Gutierrez camp creating ‘climate of fear’

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Republican Party of Guam, led by its gubernatorial standard-bearer incumbent Gov. Eddie Calvo, appeared before the media yesterday and said he was troubled by what he described as misinformation that is creating a climate of fear among community members.


Mike Benito, Republican Party chairman, said that at rallies and meetings in the villages, people say they are getting information from the Democratic Party candidates about pending massive layoffs in the government and the eventual collapse of the Guam economy come January 2015.

In a press conference yesterday, the Calvo-Tenorio team lambasted Gutierrez’s camp for spreading what they called misinformation in an effort to discredit the Calvo administration.

Calvo said it’s just interesting to hear his opponents talk about the impending massive layoffs and the anticipated collapse of the economy when in fact the budgeting process for the new fiscal year ended smoothly.

This means the Democratic Party lawmakers who hold the majority in the legislature and the minority legislators from the GOP agreed on the appropriations bill which was recently signed into law by the governor.

“So obviously, there’s a disconnect on what has been stated in the budget sessions. They have looked at the numbers and details of the finances ... and where we’re going,” Calvo said. He described the government finances as solid and said his opponent is taking advantage of social media in “discrediting” his administration.

Calvo said yesterday that he is ready for a debate.

When Calvo assumed office four years ago, he said, the government had a $330 million deficit, negative $12 million cash in the bank, and there was a 13.3 percent unemployment rate on Guam.

‘Disappointed’

During yesterday’s press conference, the governor also admitted that he was disappointed upon learning of the endorsement made by former first lady Joann Camacho of the Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates.

He said the former first lady, who was a longtime Republican Party member, had a good friendship with his family.

Calvo said Camacho had her reasons for leaving the GOP and he respects her decision.



US flexes military muscle


Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Exercise Valiant Shield 2014 kicks off

AMID growing regional tension involving China, U.S. military forces yesterday began flexing their muscles as they kicked off Exercise Valiant Shield 2014 off Guam to sharpen their abilities to overcome anti-access air denial challenges.


“Valiant Shield 2014 focuses on joint training among U.S. forces, and provides operational experience which enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units of sea, and the air and on land and in cyberspace,” said Rear Adm. Russell Allen, U.S. Navy 7th Fleet deputy commander and exercise director. “When you think of the U.S. military in the Pacific, you want credible combat power.”

This year’s exercise involves two aircraft carriers – the Yokosuka-based USS George Washington and the San Diego-based USS Carl Vinson – along with 19 surface ships, three submarines, more than 200 aircraft and an estimated 18,000 personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

This year’s Valiant Shield, which continues until Sept. 23, does not include a land component as activities will be confined to the east of Guam “and nothing outside of that,” said Cmdr. Michael Huff, chief exercise controller.

Designed for a non-specific scenario involving “no particular country,” Valiant Shield – which is conducted every two years – focuses on unified training among all U.S. forces, Navy officials said.

Invaluable

“Training like this is absolutely invaluable. It provides deterrence and stabilizing effects as an integrated force that is ready at the outset of a contingency without delays for buildups or extensive mission rehearsals,” Allen said. The integrated training is aimed at enhancing the U.S. forces’ ability to deal with emerging anti-access area denial challenges “so that our forces will have the necessary freedom of action to conduct effective operations and to deter, and if necessary, defeat an adversary.”

Valiant Shield, Allen said, “refines the military’s ability to respond to crises across the spectrum of operations, from humanitarian response to disaster to armed conflicts. Simply stated, the experience we gain from working together helps us to provide the best possible support for our allies, partners and friends in the region for a wide variety of missions, where and when we are needed most.”

Emerging threats

China has reportedly been investing in land-based ballistic and cruise missiles that may pose a serious threat to the United States’ ability to operate in the Western Pacific.

China’s territorial disputes with the Philippines over the Spratly Islands and with Japan over the Senkaku Islands threaten to build short- and long-term tensions in the South China Sea.

Several days preceding Valiant Shield, reports began circulating online about China’s supposedly inadvertent revelation of its possession of a DF-26C medium-range intercontinental ballistic missile, informally known as the "Guam killer," designed to allow China to attack U.S. military facilities in the Pacific.

According to a Sept. 8 article on Strategy Page, a Washington-based website covering global military developments, the DF-26C missile appears to have a range of 3,500 kilometers, capable of hitting U.S. military facilities in Guam.

Navy officials, however, said they could not confirm the report.

Aware

Nevertheless, Allen said the United States is aware of China’s emerging capabilities.

“We are also very aware of the regional partners, allies and other interested ASEAN nations that are asking for the U.S. to provide a stabilizing force for the region, and that is our goal at this point. And the purpose of Valiant Shield allows us to work as a joint force so that we have a more capable force to intervene wherever, whether it's humanitarian assistance or full-range military operations,” Allen said.



GPA to sell $77M worth of bonds


Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam Power Authority plans to sell $77 million worth of bonds as soon as next week, the financial news agency Bloomberg reported.


According to Bloomberg, GPA's bonds are expected to be popular with investors because of an economy that grew 24 percent in the five years through 2012. That contrasts with other municipal bonds from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which have faced persistent deficits.

"Compared with the Virgin Islands, we recognize Guam as the stronger of the two credits,” Bloomberg quoted a report by UBS Wealth Management analysts led by Thomas McLoughlin.

Proceeds from Guam’s power-bond deal will be used to pay for improvements to generating facilities.

When the power authority asked the Guam Legislature for authority to issue the bonds, GPA General Manager Joaquin Flores said bond proceeds would be used for projects that were categorized as "once-in-a-lifetime" major maintenance projects.

"When we were doing our budget, I found out that major maintenance projects would have a significant revenue requirement. As an example, some of the projects that we were considering were the postponed overhaul for the Cabras 1 and 2 boiler turbines, which were postponed because Cabras 3 was down for repairs. That was $5.6 million in itself – a single project for major rework of the components of the boiler,” Flores said.

The GPA head said these costs “spike up” the agency’s budget.

“I asked if there was any way that we could levelize that and incorporate them in our budget process; in other words, by capitalizing it. So we did research and found out that if the costs can be associated with some form of financing and can be capitalized over the short term, we can levelize the spikes,” Flores said.

He added that these maintenance “spike costs” are very different from routine maintenance costs.

“Routine maintenance, we can predict in a year. But some of the spiked costs, like the Cabras repairs for instance, cost millions of dollars on top of the routine requirements. So we need to levelize the costs and stretch them out,” Flores said.

The GPA bond sale will be Guam’s second this year as earlier, the Guam Waterworks Authority issued about $86 million in bonds last July.

The GPA bonds will be secured by a first lien on net revenues of GPA.



Valiant Shield starts today

Monday, 15 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE fifth Valiant Shield exercise will begin as scheduled today. The biennial field training exercise will include 18,000 troops from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps who will train with two aircraft carriers, 20 other naval vessels and more than 200 aircraft, focused on integrating military forces.

The joint training will take place in and around Guam. “This training will enable real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon, public affairs officer of the Joint Information Bureau.

The Valiant Shield series began in 2006 and is aimed at developing a pre-integrated joint force built from regular relationships, a statement from the U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs office said.  Lessons learned from exercises like Valiant Shield help the country develop regional and global power projection capabilities to succeed in defense of the nation’s interest, its allies and its partners worldwide.

The exercise is scheduled to take place for eight days, ending Tuesday, Sept. 23.

The last Valiant Shield exercise took place Sept. 11 through Sept. 19, 2012.

The 18,000 troops will exercise a wide range of capabilities, the Pacific Fleet Public Affairs office said in a release. “These capabilities range from maritime security operations to anti-submarine, air defense exercises and complex warfighting,” according to the statement.

Practice

Servicemen and women will practice searching for submarines, stopping suspect vessels at sea and using a new missile defense system recently set up on Guam. They'll work through issues like how Navy F-18 pilots might talk to Air Force F-16 or F-15 pilots.

Only U.S. forces will participate, unlike many other large-scale exercises that involve multiple partners and allies. This will provide the different services a rare opportunity to work on high-end tactics with each other and smooth out any issues.

"We want to have worked out those pieces early on. We don't want to be working those pieces out in front of our partners, to say, kind of showing dirty laundry," Cmdr. Mike Huff, the U.S. Pacific Fleet's lead planner for the exercise, said in an interview.

Altogether 19 ships, more than 200 aircraft and about 18,000 personnel will participate in the drills that start Monday and are scheduled to last a week.

Most personnel will be from the Navy and the Air Force. Marines and Army soldiers will also join the drills, which are called Valiant Shield.

The Army will use its new missile defense system – which has a truck-mounted launcher, tracking radar, interceptor missiles and an integrated fire control system – in the exercises for the first time.

THAAD

The Pentagon sent the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is designed to intercept missiles during their final stage of flight, to Guam last year as North Korea was vowing to increase production of nuclear weapons materials and threatening a pre-emptive strike against the U.S.

Huff said it's gotten harder to do this kind of training because the services have fewer ships, submarines and aircraft. The ones they do have are also often on deployments or are preparing for deployment.

Budget cuts forced the military to cancel a major exercise in Alaska called Northern Edge last year, making this month's drills in Guam all the more important.

Valiant Shield provides realistic training that helps the services plan and communicate, U.S. Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Capt. Susan Harrington said.

"High-level, joint training among U.S. military forces ensures the U.S. military remains the pre-eminent military power in the region, capable of honoring its security commitments to allies, partners, and friends," she said in a statement. (With reports by Audrey McAvoy | The Associated Press)

Islandwide neighborhood watch proposed

Monday, 15 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE governor’s office is planning to implement a neighborhood watch program in the coming months which will be coordinated with the Guam Police Department and the Mayors’ Council of Guam.

MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan informed mayors at the council’s regular meeting earlier this month about GPD and Adelup’s plan. Sablan said GPD authorities will contact the mayors' offices with helpful guidelines to assist the villages with setting up a neighborhood watch program. “They want to start slow,” Sablan said.

The plan is to start with villages like Dededo, Barrigada and Yoña, which already have neighborhood watch programs in place, and then eventually include other villages in the program.

Sablan said the plan is also for GPD precinct commanders to remain assigned to their precincts for at least two years so the officers understand the makeup of the community they serve. “They get to know you, they get to know your villagers and they get to know where your crime areas are at,” he said to mayors. “They’re also going to do a crime mapping program for each village to show what areas in each of the villages have the highest rate of crime.”

Greater emphasis will be placed on neighborhood watches in those areas of the village with more crimes.

“This is a new program being set up by GPD, through the governor’s office,” Sablan said. The program is separate from the Atkins Kroll Cars for Community initiative, he said.

The AK initiative was announced in May, and is part of its 100-year business anniversary celebration. The company supplied 25 Toyota vehicles worth $25,000 each for a neighborhood watch project.

T

GMH open to dispensing medical marijuana

Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • GUAM Memorial Hospital is in need of additional revenue for its operations, and if dispensing medical marijuana would bring in more cash, then the hospital might just seize that opportunity, said June Perez, GMH public information officer.

    “If it helps GMH and can guarantee additional revenue, we will gladly (be) a dispensary, if that’s the will of the people,” she said.

    GMH Administrator Joseph Verga is reserving comment until details of the plan are worked out, Perez said.

    The proposal to designate GMH as the sole dispensary for medicinal marijuana was brought up by the Democratic Party of Guam in a recent statement detailing the party’s campaign platforms.

    Sen. Rory Respicio, party chair, said the Democrats would work with federal law enforcement agencies to ensure all regulatory mandates are complied with, in respect to medical marijuana. Respicio also said the party would “explore the prospect” of having GMH serve as the sole dispensary for medicinal marijuana.

    Voters will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed legalization of medicinal marijuana on Guam during the general election this November.

    The Guam Election Commission has begun circulating notices in the form of pamphlets available for voters at the GEC office and through mail.

    This period is also a time for public comments and arguments about the initiative to be sent to GEC. Arguments are not to exceed 500 words.

    Current local and federal law prohibit the use of marijuana in any capacity as it is a Schedule I illicit substance.

    As of this year, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado.

he cars are leased to the GPD CAPE volunteers unit for two years, including maintenance and insurance costs.



DZSP-21 wins new BOS contract


Monday, 15 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • THE Department of Defense announced Saturday that it has awarded the base operating support services contract at Joint Region Marianas to DZSP-21 LLC of Hagåtña. DZSP has operated the BOS contract for the Navy on Guam since October 2005. The current contract expires in December. The new contract is cost-plus-award-fee with award options, similar to the current contract.

    The maximum dollar value including the base period, four option periods, three award option periods, and a six-month services extension is $532.3 million.

    "We are pleased with the team's tremendous track record of success in partnering with private industry to support mission-essential work in our far-reaching Navy and Air Force installations on Guam," said Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Pacific. "This was an enormous and complex endeavor, and I thank those that were a significant part of the acquisition process for their service and commitment from start to finish."

    The much sought-after award is a reflection of DZSP’s performance for the past nine years, company officials said. “We believe that our exceptional past performance on the current contract, supported by six consecutive exceptional – in all five categories – (Contractor Performance Assessment Reports), was a huge factor in the award of the follow-on contract,” said Wayne Cornell, CEO of DZSP-21.

    The work to be performed provides for facility support and base operations support for the following services: management and administration, port operations, ordnance, material management, facility management, facility investment, electrical, wastewater, steam, water, base support vehicles and equipment, and environmental.

    The new contract will, however, be somewhat smaller in scope than the previous award. “Four annexes were removed (public affairs, Naval Hospital food services, solid waste management, and Navy safety and health programs management) from the (contract) to become small business set aside contracts to be performed by others,” Cornell said.

    According to the DoD award announcement, $42.09 million is obligated at the time of the award, of which $17.85 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year and $24.24 million will expire at the end of fiscal 2015. Work is expected to be completed by February 2023.

    This contract was competitively procured and eight proposals were received.

    DZSP has about 825 employees with another 125 embedded subcontractor employees, Cornell said.

    Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific is the contracting unit.



Guam declared disaster area


Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Federal aid made available for typhoon recovery efforts

PRESIDENT Barrack Obama yesterday signed a disaster declaration for Guam, making funding assistance available to fix the damage caused by Typhoon Halong.


The federal disaster aid will be utilized to supplement the territorial government’s recovery efforts in the area affected by the tropical storm which hardly hit the island on July 28 through 31.

The amount of funding assistance has yet to be assessed pending a visit by a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Damage

Halong dumped torrential rains that caused floods in low-lying areas including the tourist hub of Tumon. A road in Mangilao has been washed out and the flooding drove three families away from their homes in Barrigada.

Downed trees and power lines were also reported in several villages, including Sinajaña, Piti, Mangilao, Dededo, Asan-Maina, Agat and Agana Heights.

About 20 homes in a Yigo subdivision lost water service due to a power outage. Power went out in the areas surrounding Guam Memorial Hospital.

Cost-sharing

The federal funding will also be made available to eligible private and nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work, repair and replacement of facilities damaged by the tropical storm.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the presidential disaster declaration was provided upon Gov. Eddie Calvo’s request for support after the island suffered damages during the typhoon.

Kenneth K. Susio has been named the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. His team will arrive on Guam next week.

Upon Susio’s arrival, a specified amount will be provided as this is still being assessed.

The funding assistance package may include:


  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health;

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repair or replacement of damaged public facilities such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, and similarly publicly owned property; and

  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by territory and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.

    The approved public repair projects are paid through the territory from funding provided by FEMA and other participating federal agencies.



Village entrance signs reflect ‘authentic’ Chamorro spelling


Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


MOTORISTS may have noticed new concrete village entry signs with unfamiliar spelling, but officials say the signs are not misspelled – rather, they reflect the villages’ indigenous names.


Sinajaña Mayor Robert Hofmann said the spelling of each village name was confirmed during the design stages of the project. “These are all actually based on the actual Chamorro names of the village,” Hofmann said.

The entry sign for his village is located along Route 4 on the right-hand side of the southbound lane. Instead of the familiar “Sinajåña,” the sign reads “Sinahånña,” complete with a tilde over the third "n" and a ring above the second "a."

Mayors of the 19 municipalities worked with Architects Laguana & Cristobal, consulting firm RW Armstrong and experts from the University of Guam early on in the project to ensure the names of each village were represented authentically according to the Chamorro language.

Official letterhead

Hofmann said so far there is no government mandate to change how village names are currently spelled, but he might change his official letterhead to reflect the modification in spelling. “We’re trying to keep the identity of the island,” he said. 

Other modified spellings of village names that will be printed on the entry signs include that of Barrigada, which reads as “Barigåda” on its entry sign, and Mongmong-Toto-Maite, which reads “Mongmong-To’to-Maite’.”

Barrigada Mayor June Blas said the authentic spelling of the village names is a good thing. “It would be great if we could follow and standardize everything, because what we’re trying to do is stay within our culture,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot to be changing. We’re all open to changing it. We all want to go with the correct pronunciation as well as correct spelling.”

HOT bond

The replacements of village signs are among the HOT bond projects, a collection of capital improvement initiatives that uses proceeds from the hotel occupancy tax bonds for the Guam and Chamorro Educational Facility under construction in Hagåtña and other community projects.

The Guam Visitors Bureau, which is funded by hotel occupancy taxes, was part of the village sign review process, said Josh Tyquiengco, GVB public information officer.

According to the HOT bond website, the signs that are now being put up throughout the 19 municipalities are intended to be resistant to typhoon weather conditions, moisture and UV lights.

Each sign is to be installed at all major intersections along a 50-mile scenic drive and at 2-mile increments between major intersections, according to the scope of work listed on the HOT bond Web page.



Artists and vendors sought for arts fair, holiday bazaar


Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


CAHA is also inviting cultural dance groups or individual performers who might be interested in participating in the event.

For more information, contact CAHA at 300-1206.

Meanwhile, the Guam Naval Officers’ Spouses’ Connection and the Guam USO are inviting vendors to the Annual Holiday Art and Craft Fair to be held Nov. 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Top O’ the Mar in Asan.

The Holiday Art and Craft Fair is a popular island tradition that is open to the public.

Almost 1,000 vendors and shoppers showed at last year’s event.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Guam USO and Guam’s local charities.

Deadline for registration is Oct. 31.

For more information contact, Dawn Ellis or Edmund Lebita via email at contactgnosc[at]gmail.com and Elebita[at]uso.org.



Ribbon-cutting held for Paradise Meadows

Friday, 12 Sep 2014 03:00am

ceremony yesterday, marking the opening of the first phase of the development. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety

(TRI) – The developer of Paradise Meadows held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday for its new residential housing development. Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, other dignitaries and some of the new homeowners were on hand to cut the ribbon to open the development. TRI Inc., the developer of Paradise Meadows, a new residential single-family-home subdivision, has completed construction of the first of five stages in the 128-unit project in Yigo. According to TRI, stage one, consisting of 17 homes, is complete and ready for occupancy by new owners and tenants.

Paradise Meadows is the follow-up project to the recently completed 383-unit single-family community known as Paradise Estates in Dededo. The goal of the development team is to create a community that caters to local first-time buyers and investors.

Paradise Meadows will consist of 128 single-family homes, each home containing three-bedrooms, two baths and approximately 1,450 square feet of gross living area. Each home will be situated on approximately 500 square meters of fee-simple property. Homes will have a range of standard features, including appliances, an electric garage door opener and a perimeter fence.

The subdivision will have underground utilities, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, a cluster mailbox system, solar streetlights and access to a community park. The community will be governed by a Homeowners Association and will be subject to covenants, conditions, and restrictions to enhance the value and desirability of the community.

The first stage, consisting of 17 homes priced at $280,700, is sold out. Stage two, consisting of 21 homes priced at $289,700 will commence construction immediately.

Airport OKs new budget, $70M revenue projected for 2015

Friday, 12 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority board of directors has approved a new operating budget for fiscal year 2015 which indicated that the authority is anticipating it will generate $70.05 million total revenue in the next 12-month period.

The authority’s forecast for fiscal 2015, which starts Oct. 1, is inclusive of all airport revenue including passenger facility charges and interest on investments.

The revenue projection shows an increase from what the authority is projecting for the current fiscal year 2014 which is $67.81 million.

Based on the budget documents from the agency, from signatory airline rentals and fees, GIAA projects $28.25 million for the new fiscal year. This forecast is based on the anticipated 1.79 million enplaned passengers at the cost of $15.80 per passenger.

According to Carlos Bordallo, the agency’s comptroller, GIAA will implement a slight increase in the cost of per enplaned passenger – from fiscal 2014’s $15.61 to fiscal 2015’s $15.80 – after consultation with signatory airlines whom he said were receptive to the new amount.

For the revenue from other sources, including the concession revenue at the terminal building, GIAA is projecting $18.85 million in fiscal 2015; from rentals and other charges, $3.76 million; from public parking and ground transportation at the terminal area, $5.4 million; revenue from the airfield area which include the lease of non-signatory airlines and community airline landing fees, $300,005; and revenue from the apron area, $249,052.

From miscellaneous revenue, GIAA projects $405,811 in revenue while from interest income, $528,048.

From the passenger facility charges, the authority’s revenue forecast is $6.93 million over the next 12-month period.

244 FTEs for 2015

During the board’s last meeting, the GIAA management reported that for the new fiscal year, the agency is budgeted to have 244 full-time employee positions (FTE).

At present, of these FTEs, the board was told 32 are vacant primarily in the engineering and electrical areas.

For operation and maintenance expenses for the new fiscal year, GIAA projects to incur $43 million in expenditures. The following are expenditure projections by the agency: personnel services, $19.31 million; contractual services, $21.32 million; materials and supplies, $1.78 million; equipment, $146,000; and retirement supplemental, $500,000.

For personnel services, the new budget shows an increase from the current budget as a result of the additional 15 personnel hired for the aircraft rescue and firefighting facility this year.

Debt service coverage

According to GIAA management, the agency’s debt service ratio for 2014 is 1.38. For the next fiscal year, the ratio is projected at 1.31 percent. The actual debt service ratio for the agency in 2013 was 2.06, based on its records.

Edward Untalan, GIAA board chairman, said he was pleased to know from management that compared to the previous years, GIAA now has more cash in banks, totaling $320 million as of Aug. 28.

The chairman said this is a significant indicator that the authority is making progress in its financial system and management. He described the amount in the bank as exceeding the required reserve for the agency.

 

Medical marijuana initiative notices issued; arguments sought

Friday, 12 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • PrintTHE Guam Election Commission has started issuing notices about the legislative initiative on medical marijuana that will be on the ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.

    GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan told Variety that since Sept. 5, the agency has notified the public about the inclusion of this controversial proposal on this year’s ballot. The first notice, she explained, indicated only the “ballot summary title” that basically informs voters about the inclusion of the referendum on this year’s ballot and encourages voters to participate in the November poll.

    Pangelinan said GEC is scheduled to issue three notices: on Sept. 5, Sept. 12 and Sept. 16.

    The decision as to whether Guam will legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes will be in the hands of island voters after the Supreme Court of Guam ruled on Aug. 5 that it is legal for the Guam Legislature to put the question to a referendum. Two days later, the commission, which had contended it could not legally put the initiative on the ballot, unanimously voted to do so. The proposal to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes is also known as the Joaquin KC Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013.

    Pangelinan said the notices are to inform voters about the proposal and obtain comments and arguments about the initiative to be considered for use in the education process. By Sept. 19, she said, the commission will stop accepting arguments on the proposal. Based on the notice sent by GEC, the argument must not exceed 500 words.

    Mandated

    Pangelinan said the sending out of notices as well as seeking comments or arguments on the proposal are mandated by the election law.

    “We are mandated by law to inform voters of any proposal (referendum) and invite the public to comment for or against it,” she told Variety. The GEC will decide which among the arguments it receives will be placed in the pamphlet as “pros” and “cons” to the proposal.

    Pangelinan said after Sept. 19, GEC will start mailing the pamphlets to all registered voters. She encouraged voters to update their mailing addresses to ensure that they receive the pamphlets on time. The pamphlets will serve as informational materials to further help the public understand the legislative initiative.

    She said the commission, besides sending out pamphlets, will not do any other campaign relating to the pot initiative. Pangelinan said that prior to the approval of the referendum, a series of public hearings was held for the proposal.

    In the publication of notices bearing the ballot summary title, Pangelinan said the commission plainly writes the title of the legislative initiative and invites the voters to take part in the election.

    “In doing that process (of issuing notices), we hope to entice voters to participate in the election,” Pangelinan said.

    Pangelinan added she is counting on the recently-approved budget act for fiscal year 2015 which includes a $60,000 appropriation for the GEC. Pangelinan said she will review the specifics of the law.

    That amount, she said, if received within fiscal 2014, should be enough to produce the needed pamphlets for the marijuana initiative.

    “I am kind of worried whether it’s going to be available this fiscal 2014,” she said. Sending pamphlets to all registered voters is a major task for the commission, she said.

    As to the number of pamphlets to be produced for the initiative, Pangelinan said a final number is not definite yet as registration is ongoing for the general election. During the primary election, GEC recorded a total of 49,110 registered voters – a figure she’s hoping will grow for the general election.

    When asked if GEC believes the marijuana initiative will entice young voters to participate in this general election, Pangelinan said she didn’t want to speculate.

    Department of Agriculture seeks regulation to punish thieves

    Friday, 12 Sep 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    DEPARTMENT of Agriculture officials are hoping to see established in Guam law a statute to punish people caught stealing crops, slaughtering livestock for animal parts and even people who purchase stolen harvest or livestock.

    “The thing we’re working on is maybe we’ll propose a law or create some kind of protective measure for anybody caught in violation of theft of property from farms and …(they) will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said John Borja, chief of agriculture development.

    The Department of Agriculture is working with its oversight chairman, Sen. Rory Respicio, to implement such a statute, Borja said. One option is to have thieves pay back the damage done to farmers done through community service on the farms.

    Although details are still being worked out, Borja said the idea is to provide a statute to help farmers who have been hit by vandals or thieves.

    The public is also encouraged to refrain from buying items they think may have been stolen from a farmer. “We’d like to make an awareness known that those buying from certain individuals that seem suspicious, to question them and report it to authorities,” he said. “If you know this person doesn’t look like a farmer and whatnot, most of the time (the goods) are stolen.”

    Borja said there have been reported incidents of people stealing crops from farmers, and in February, he said someone stole 12 cows and three carabaos. Because a cow is so large, it is easier for rustlers to lead the cow to an inconspicuous area and slaughter it. Borja said the main parts thieves go for are the animal’s hind legs.

    Carted away

    Smaller livestock, like goats, are usually carted away. Borja said they are sold for their meat, priced anywhere from $200 to $400, depending on the size of the goat.

    All kinds of crops are targeted as well, he said. Recently, he recalled an incident involving a dragon fruit farmer who reported damage to his crop. “His farm was hit by vandals and he indicated it was possibly three groups of people actually robbing him. They seem to know when he’s not there and they seem to know when it’s a good time to steal his harvest,” Borja said. In this case, police caught one of the thieves, but that is not usually the outcome farmers expect.

    Most of the time, robbers sell the items for as much as they can get out of them, he said. Watermelons, for instance, bring back a greater return if sold to a buyer, compared to crops that don’t weigh as much.

    Many times farmers are unable to watch over their farms 24 hours a day, which makes them vulnerable to thieves. Borja said farmers should report stolen goods to police. He said the department often advises farmers to keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles or suspicious people and strengthen their areas with barricades to deter criminals.

    Sometimes, Borja said, farmers brand their animals which helps authorities identify it, and some farmers install microchips to track them.

     

    • RCGuam 8 hours ago

      Ridiculous, as if a new law will fix this problem. There are laws that exist that make trespassing, stealing and handling and selling stolen goods illegal. Those laws are not being enforced. How are new laws going to solve the problem? Why not make it illegal to have brown tree snakes and rhino beetles on your property if making laws fixes things.


     

‘Limit number of FAS citizens allowed into Guam’

Friday, 12 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • MARGARET Metcalfe, the Republican candidate for Guam delegate to Congress, said Guam has become an underpaid caretaker as a result of the Compacts of Free Association and is proposing to limit the number of people allowed to migrate to Guam, in order to balance the strain on the island’s resources.

    Metcalfe said Guam’s borders are open and there is no regulation in the COFA that limits how many people are allowed to migrate to the island. “There needs to be some control or everyone suffers,” Metcalfe said.

    Control, she suggested, comes in the form of deportation enforcement from the federal government and having a quota for the number of people from Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands that migrate to Guam.

    “I think we need to find some way to put some quotas in place, just like any other state in the nation – like every other country in the world – just to make sure that we can bring people in, in a way that we can best care for our people, care for these other folks but not at the risk of losing our own benefits here for our people,” Metcalfe said.

    According to the delegate-hopeful, there are about 20,000 FAS migrants in Guam and 82 percent of them are not employed but still live on island. This alone is enough cause for deportation, but Metcalfe said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has not enforced deportation.

    “They’re supposed to be deportable but no one does it. The local police, the local authorities cannot do it. It has to be done by immigration, but immigration has been told by (U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder) not to enforce it,” she said.

    Contrast

    In contrast, Metcalfe said there are only 12,000 FAS migrants in Hawaii and 82 percent of them are employed.

    Metcalfe said it is provisions like these that could have been changed when the COFA was up for review in 2003 and 2011. “None of these are bullet trains. They didn’t just come and slam us. These are things that have been known for years. Why hasn’t our representative been making this information available to us before we are overwhelmed and cannot recuperate from it?” Metcalfe said.

    Representatives from Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Saipan and American Samoa were included in the review of the agreement, but there was no representation from Guam, Metcalfe said. Every eight years, the agreement is assessed and the assessment makes for an opportunity to change things.

    “In 2003 and 2011 it was reviewed and renewed. Both times we’ve had over 30 senators in attendance, people from Saipan, from American Samoa, people from the Virgin Islands, people from Hawaii ... zero from Guam,” Metcalfe said. “What good is it for us ... to have a seat at the table if we’re not there when it counts?”

    For those FAS citizens who are currently on Guam and have become part of the extended families of local people, Metcalfe suggested to work with them so they can be productive and the overall quality of life can be improved. But in the future, she said possibly implementing a quota or a limit to the number of migrants allowed into Guam is a solution to the strain on Guam resources.

    8,000 Marines vs. 20,000 migrants

    Metcalfe noted that the federal government’s attitude toward Guam residents is hypocritical, when comparing the military buildup and the Compact of Free Association. “They tell us we cannot afford 8,000 military Marines because of the infrastructure,” she said. “And yet we’re allowing over 20,000 over the borders – with no limit. There are no quotas. It’s unlimited, open borders. Do you see the injustice and just the hypocrisy that’s going on here?”

    If any of the 50 states were told they had open borders, Metcalfe said the state would not stand for it. She said Guam needs to put its foot down, draw a line in the sand and start making some noise. “What we’re turning into is an underpaid care-giving nation. We’re care-giving for other island nations at our own expense. That is not appropriate,” she said.

Home Depot customers urged to monitor financial activities

Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CUSTOMERS of The Home Depot were urged yesterday to closely monitor their financial transactions after the company acknowledged that the customers’ payment data systems of the company were breached.

On Monday, the chain said its payment systems had been hacked in a data breach that could affect millions of customers who used credit and debit cards at its more than 2,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada since April.

Guam Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas, in a statement yesterday, encouraged residents who are also patrons of The Home Depot to report any possible identity theft to local law enforcement.

“I encourage all consumers to closely monitor their credit and debit card accounts to ensure that there are no unauthorized charges. If anyone suspects that their personal information has been compromised, immediately contact their financial institution and report the possible identity theft to local law enforcement,” said Rapadas. The law enforcement agencies include the Guam Police Department, the FBI and the Secret Service.

Late last month, Rapadas and the Office of the Attorney General hosted a Law Enforcement Summit on Identity Theft Training which brought out the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association Lifelock training team to educate law enforcement authorities on aspects of identity theft, identity theft trends, relevant identity theft laws, investigative techniques, data bases to assist in identity theft investigations, identity theft awareness, and protection strategies.

The training included a live demonstration of “skimming” and “check washing.”

Task force

As a result of this training, Rapadas will be meeting with the relevant agencies to form an Identity Theft Task Force of Guam which held its first meeting yesterday.

“Identity theft wreaks havoc on individuals’ lives and can have long-lasting effects. Hopefully, with the tools provided to us through the training, and with the commencement of the identity theft task force, we will be better able to protect island consumers from falling victim to this type of crime,” Rapadas said.

Based on The Home Depot website, the company announced on Sept. 2 that it is investigating a possible breach of payment data systems.

“We want you to know that we have now confirmed that those systems have in fact been breached, which could potentially impact any customer that has used their payment card at our U.S. and Canadian stores, from April forward. We do not have any evidence that the breach has impacted stores in Mexico or customers who shopped online at HomeDepot.com,” according to the company’s message to customers.

In its message to customers, the company also emphasized that they will not be responsible for any fraudulent charges to customer accounts, and it is offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to any customer who has shopped at a Home Depot from April on.

Home Depot customers can call Home Depot Customer Care at 1-800-466-3337
skypec2c://r/2041-800-466-3337 for more information.


Granite Construction Company Guam wins $75M DoD contract

Posted: Sep 09, 2014 

 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - A $75 million military contract has been awarded to Granite Construction Company Guam. According a press release from the Department of Defense the company has been contracted to construct and repair roads, streets, parking areas, and sidewalks on US Government shore based facilities in the territory. The work is slated for completion in September 2019.  

Housing board OKs land exchange, procurement of housing equipment

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority board of directors has approved a land exchange for one of its properties in As Tumbo and approved the procurement of several units of refrigerators and electric stoves for the needs of its housing clients.

    The board last Friday adopted a decision to exchange its 1,263-square meter land in As Tumbo to a 778-square meter parcel of private land, also within the area.

    According to GHURA Executive Director Michael J. Duenas, although the agency has given up more than what it will receive in return, the land exchange decision is in fact favorable to the agency.

    Duenas told the GHURA board that the property has been sitting idle for years. Because of its location and the lack of connections to infrastructure, Duenas said will be costly for GHURA to develop the property.

    The executive director said that prior to the management recommendation for a land exchange, GHURA had conducted an appraisal of the property.

    “Based on the appraisal of the lot, the exchange is in our favor,” he reported to the board last Friday, adding that the exchanged property has power, water, and sewer connections that would be advantageous to the agency.

    According to GHURA board chairman David Sablan Jr., this is not the first time that the board had approved a land exchange. He said the board has authority to do so based on its fiduciary duty.

    New equipment

    Besides the land exchange issue, the board also approved the procurement of new units of refrigerators, electric stoves, and water heaters to replace older ones in many of the housing units.

    Costing $33,887, the GHURA board approved the procurement of a total of 55 units of refrigerators of various sizes.

    Another $21,667 was approved to purchase 34 units of electric stoves, and four units of water heaters.

    Bids for both projects were opened last month after which two vendors were selected for the services.

    Also last Friday, the GHURA board approved a new contract for the existing vendor of the agency’s internet and telecom services.

    Pacific Data Systems, its current vendor, was selected for the service at a rate of $38,949 per annum.

    According to the management, when the bid was announced, six vendors picked up the bid package. However, PDS emerged as the winning bidder because it was chosen as the one that can most accommodate the needs of GHURA based on its specifications.

    The newly approved contract of $38,949 reflects only a slight increase from the existing contract of the company. The increase, the board was told, was due to the agency’s request to increase the byte capacity (for speed) and a back-up plan for the service.

    The management also said the PDS offer is significantly lower than what the top two proposers submitted which cost $61,000 and $51,000 per annum, respectively.

        

Naval base to change base access procedures starting Oct. 1

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

NBG) – U.S. Naval Base Guam will implement revised base access procedures effective Oct. 1.

The revised procedure, referred to by Department of Defense as “Trusted Traveler,” will authorize registered vehicle drivers/operators who present a valid Department of Defense Identification Card to vouch for all occupants of their vehicle when entering the base. Trusted Travelers will not be permitted to vouch for visitors in another vehicle, nor will Trusted Traveler apply to personnel entering the base by means other than a vehicle.

Trusted Travelers will no longer be required to proceed to the Visitor Control Center and obtain visitor passes for guest visits of 48 hours or less; however, Trusted Travelers will be held responsible for the actions and conduct of their guests. Trusted Travelers must remain within close physical proximity of their guests at all times.

The program is designed to ease traffic congestion at the Visitor Control Center and the gates. Sponsorship of guests is a privilege that can be revoked if abused; however NBG leadership is confident Trusted Travelers will take their responsibility seriously.

The following ID cardholders are authorized to be Trusted Travelers:

  • Uniformed service member or federal government employee with a valid Common Access Card (CAC);

  • Military retiree with a valid DoD identification credential; and

  • Dependent older than 16 years old with a valid DoD identification credential.

    Contractors and vendors may not act as Trusted Travelers.

    Hours

    Trusted Traveler will only be authorized between the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for the main base (Big Navy), Polaris Point, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam and Navy Housing areas. 100 percent ID card checks will remain in effect for Main Base, Polaris Point, Naval Hospital Guam, and Navy Housing between the late evening hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and 24 hours a day at all other satellite locations to include U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam and Naval Munitions Annex.

    All visitors are reminded to have a valid photo ID with them at all times since 100 percent ID checks may be conducted at any time in accordance with random antiterrorism and force protection measures. The Trusted Traveler program may be suspended if force protection conditions change or at the discretion of the commanding officer.

    In concert with implementation of the Trusted Traveler program, visitor passes will no longer be issued at the gates. Effective Oct. 1, the Visitor Control Center will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and closed on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Requirements for visitor passes, to include advanced arrival visitor passes, should be coordinated during these times. Individual visitor requests are required to be submitted five business days prior to the expected arrival/event to allow for proper background checks.

    Base access procedures for contractors, vendors and other personnel not authorized base access under the Trusted Traveler program remain unchanged.

    In addition, NBG will also begin use of the Navy Access Control Management System scanners as a means to verify the authenticity of ID cards of personnel entering the base. These scanners will determine validity of active-duty CACs, dependent family member ID cards, and RapidGate credentials. NBG will conduct trial use of the scanners during off-peak travel times over the next several weeks to enhance the efficiency of traffic flow once use of scanners is fully implemented on Oct. 1.

  

Poll shows Dems with supermajority

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Ron McNinch

IF THE general election were held over this past weekend, the Democrats in the Guam Legislature would hold a veto-proof majority, according to the results of a poll conducted by Ron McNinch who is a political analyst, Variety columnist and University of Guam professor of public administration.

The pollsters surveyed 300 registered Guam voters on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6 and 7. The makeup of the survey sample was controlled for age and gender with a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent.

According to McNinch, the results show 10 Democrats in the 15 spots with the most votes. Ten, or two-thirds of the members of the legislature, is the number of votes needed in order to override the governor’s veto of any legislation.

The general election will be held eight weeks from today on Nov. 4.

The poll results appear to contradict those of the primary election which was held only 10 days ago on Aug. 30. In the primary, however, voters were only permitted to vote for candidates in one party. In the general election, that is not the case.

The most notable difference between the McNinch survey and the primary election is that in the primary, Speaker Judi Won Pat ranked eighth among Democrats. In the survey she was the top vote getter.

First-time candidates making the top 15 in the McNinch survey were Nerissa Underwood and Adonis Mendiola. Non-incumbent former senators in the survey top 15 were Judith Guthertz and Frank Blas Jr. Incumbents not in the top 15 in the survey were Sen. Brant McCreadie and Sen. Chris Duenas.

20 file candidacy for utilities commission, education board

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Simon Sanchez, the current chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, is running for re-election. Variety file photo

A NUMBER of individuals have submitted their names to serve on both the Guam Education Board and the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, all hoping to deliver positive changes for schoolchildren and lower utility rates for the people of Guam.

For this year’s general election, a total of 20 individuals have filed candidacy for both the CCU and the education board. This is based on the official list of the Guam Election Commission as it closed the filing deadline last Friday. There are three vacant seats for both agencies in this general election.

According to the election commission, 11 candidates are seeking seats on the CCU. These include Joseph George Bamba, Earl Joseph Garrido, William H. Hagen, Eloy P. Hara, Andrew S. Leon Guerrero, Benigno M. Palomo, William A. Payne Jr., Simon A. Sanchez II, Francis E. Santos, Jose Santos Servino, and Frederick Phil Q. Tupaz.

Bamba, one of the candidates who filed on Friday, told Variety yesterday that his desire to help the people to better cope with the increasing cost of utilities on island is his main motivation for running for the CCU post.

The former senator said the continuous suffering of people in paying their increasing utility rates can be addressed by way of offering alternate energy for the public.

Bamba said there is a need at this time to expand relationships with independent power producers for a wider range of alternative energy options for Guam. This, for the first-time CCU contender, is among the areas he feels he can help if elected to the utility board.

When asked about his plans, in the meantime, incumbent Palomo said if elected he plans to continue to help the people. He said his years of serving the commission is testament that what he is offering is his vast experience and knowledge in serving the position at CCU – which he pointed out is not a political post.

School board

Meanwhile, GEC has posted nine candidates for the Guam Education Board. These are Peter Alecxis Ada, Ronald A. Ayuyu, Lourdes S. Benavente, Jose Q. Cruz, Maria A. Gutierrez, Albert T. San Agustin, Lourdes San Nicolas, Joseph Cruz Santos and Rosie Rivera Tainatongo.

Candidate San Agustin said serving the GEB requires dedication and commitment. In seeking his second term this year, San Agustin said he has a good vision for the public schools. He told Variety that it is his dedication to education as well as dedication to the children and the school system that truly motivated him to seek another term.

In particular, Agustin wants to see the system implement a more holistic approach with middle school students, or those children in their puberty years. This way, the educator said, they will be given great coping skills that will help them adjust to the high school environment.

              

Naval base to change base access procedures starting Oct. 1

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

NBG) – U.S. Naval Base Guam will implement revised base access procedures effective Oct. 1.

The revised procedure, referred to by Department of Defense as “Trusted Traveler,” will authorize registered vehicle drivers/operators who present a valid Department of Defense Identification Card to vouch for all occupants of their vehicle when entering the base. Trusted Travelers will not be permitted to vouch for visitors in another vehicle, nor will Trusted Traveler apply to personnel entering the base by means other than a vehicle.

Trusted Travelers will no longer be required to proceed to the Visitor Control Center and obtain visitor passes for guest visits of 48 hours or less; however, Trusted Travelers will be held responsible for the actions and conduct of their guests. Trusted Travelers must remain within close physical proximity of their guests at all times.

The program is designed to ease traffic congestion at the Visitor Control Center and the gates. Sponsorship of guests is a privilege that can be revoked if abused; however NBG leadership is confident Trusted Travelers will take their responsibility seriously.

The following ID cardholders are authorized to be Trusted Travelers:

  • Uniformed service member or federal government employee with a valid Common Access Card (CAC);

  • Military retiree with a valid DoD identification credential; and

  • Dependent older than 16 years old with a valid DoD identification credential.

    Contractors and vendors may not act as Trusted Travelers.

    Hours

    Trusted Traveler will only be authorized between the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for the main base (Big Navy), Polaris Point, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam and Navy Housing areas. 100 percent ID card checks will remain in effect for Main Base, Polaris Point, Naval Hospital Guam, and Navy Housing between the late evening hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and 24 hours a day at all other satellite locations to include U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam and Naval Munitions Annex.

    All visitors are reminded to have a valid photo ID with them at all times since 100 percent ID checks may be conducted at any time in accordance with random antiterrorism and force protection measures. The Trusted Traveler program may be suspended if force protection conditions change or at the discretion of the commanding officer.

    In concert with implementation of the Trusted Traveler program, visitor passes will no longer be issued at the gates. Effective Oct. 1, the Visitor Control Center will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and closed on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Requirements for visitor passes, to include advanced arrival visitor passes, should be coordinated during these times. Individual visitor requests are required to be submitted five business days prior to the expected arrival/event to allow for proper background checks.

    Base access procedures for contractors, vendors and other personnel not authorized base access under the Trusted Traveler program remain unchanged.

    In addition, NBG will also begin use of the Navy Access Control Management System scanners as a means to verify the authenticity of ID cards of personnel entering the base. These scanners will determine validity of active-duty CACs, dependent family member ID cards, and RapidGate credentials. NBG will conduct trial use of the scanners during off-peak travel times over the next several weeks to enhance the efficiency of traffic flow once use of scanners is fully implemented on Oct. 1.

 

GWA certification in jeopardy

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GEPA issues intent to revoke waterworks lab certification

THE Guam Environmental Protection Agency has issued a notice of intent to revoke Guam Waterworks Authority’s lab certification after the waterworks authority laboratory failed to identify a sample as positive for E. coli bacteria during a recent proficiency test.

  • GWA’s laboratory certification expired in July and has been under provisional status while GWA was working on its renewal process.

    According to Eric Palacios, GEPA administrator, GWA requested the environmental agency to conduct an audit in order to acquire recertification for another three years. Part of that process, he said, entailed taking the required proficiency tests as well as laboratory site visits by the agency.

    After issuing the notice, Palacios said the waterworks authority has 30 days starting Friday to retake and pass another third-party proficiency test to be administered by an off-island laboratory.

    The third-party laboratory has to be USEPA-approved and completely separate from Guam to ensure impartiality in the testing process.

    Meanwhile, GWA continues to be under provisional status while completing the requirements.

    Before issuing the notice last week, GEPA notified GWA that drinking water samples being tested for total coliform and E. coli must be processed by a certified laboratory.

    According to GEPA, laboratories that test drinking water are required to meet and maintain certification requirements enforced by the agency.

    This includes successfully completing standardized proficiency tests. These certifications are required to ensure any drinking water samples being tested for bacteria, total coliform and E. coli are correctly analyzed.

    According to GEPA, testing for coliform bacteria and E. coli is a critical component in the management of any drinking water system because this type of testing helps ensure water is safe for use. Ensuring water does not have bacteria or E. coli is also a requirement of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    GWA earlier assured in a statement from acting General Manager Thomas Cruz that the quality of water that GWA delivers to the community is and always will be their top priority and that they will work with the environmental agency to ensure that the island’s water is not compromised.

    Palacios said GEPA will continue to provide assistance to the waterworks authority.

    “I want GWA to know that they have our full support. I do want my team to continue working with GWA to get them recertified because we do need GWA in the community,” Palacios said. “We just want to see them succeed.”

      

Rapadas: Reorganizing AG's office 'doesn’t make sense'

Monday, 08 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Office of the Attorney General is still in its infancy and its current structure is similar to that in a majority of states, so restructuring the office would not make sense, said Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas.

Rapadas’ remarks are in response to attorney general candidate Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson’s suggestion of possibly reverting to an appointed attorney general instead of an elected attorney general. Barrett-Anderson also suggested the possibility of establishing a position for solicitor general, who would be appointed by the governor.

Both candidates have said they are not opposed to an elected attorney general.

However, Barrett-Anderson said when an elected attorney general and an elected governor have differing opinions on policy issues, a conflict occurs. A solution to that conflict may be to elect a prosecutor and have the governor appoint the attorney general or appoint a solicitor general to handle policy decisions and continue having voters elect an independent attorney general.

Rapadas said Barrett-Anderson’s suggestions would split the OAG in a way that does not make sense and is not consistent with how a majority of OAGs are structured.

About 47 states and territories have elected attorneys general and the trend is moving toward consolidating legal services, according to Rapadas’ research. “We have the simple route now. To go and play around with the structure – this division goes here, this division goes there, this division becomes elected, this one stays appointed – it seems to me it doesn’t make sense, (it’s) not simple at all,” Rapadas said.

Further, an appointed attorney general can be switched out at the will of the governor. “For any appointed position – an appointed attorney general, an appointed solicitor, an appointed this or that – there’s always the danger of an immediate dismissal by the appointing authority, which is the administration, the governor,” he said.

The people of Guam wanted to elect an attorney general in the late 1990s so that there was an individual independent from the legislature and the governor who would be held accountable to the people, Rapadas said. Now that the office has been established for 12 years, it is still working out its role in the government as an independent body. “This office is only 12 years old. In any span of any attorney general’s office, 12 years old doesn’t even make it an infant, doesn’t even make it to toddler status,” Rapadas said. “There are many things that need to be worked out as far as the parameters of the attorney general’s powers.”

Five terms is not enough to “complete the picture” of an attorney general’s functions, Rapadas noted. Reshaping the responsibilities of each division or the entire office in 12 years will not allow the office to grow as a legal office. “That’s one thing you don’t want – is to stunt the growth of this legal office,” he said.

One function that Rapadas said an attorney general should not play is that of a rubber stamp.

Many times Rapadas said his office is in agreement with the practices of legislature and the governor, but it is when one or the other “steps off that line that (the Office of the Attorney General) will step in,” he said. He added that conflict alone should not call for reorganization of an office. There are some instances in other parts of the country when the attorney general, the governor and a majority of the legislature are from one political party and conflict still occurs, he said.

Nonetheless, each body must serve to balance each other. “This office serves as a check and balance against a rogue administration, a rogue legislature,” Rapadas said. “And if this office looks like it’s a rogue office, then the people have the choice to remove this person because it is an elected position accountable to the people.”

GWA to upgrade 80 water wells

Monday, 08 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Waterworks Authority is now preparing to embark on another critical court-ordered project that would improve the island's water quality after getting the green light from the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

GWA's Deep Well Chlorine Residual Analyzers project involves work at 80 water well sites to improve electrical safety and reliability as well as install 73 chlorine residual analyzers.

According to GWA, the electrical improvements are necessary for the safe and reliable operation of the analyzers as well as to effectively monitor chlorine residual levels, and to stop water production at the wells should the measurements indicate unacceptable levels.

Asanuma Corp. submitted the lowest and most responsive bid, Thomas Cruz, interim general manager of GWA, reported to the CCU.

“Part of the project is to provide electrical upgrades within the wells as part of the necessary measures to get the point analyzers to work but also to get the production wells at a state where the electrical system is robust,” he said. He added that having the analyzers in as well as getting the system functional are two important components of the project.

About $3 million has been earmarked for the project from GWA's 2010 and 2013 bond proceeds under the “Implement Ground Water Rule” and “Water Wells” components.

Also approved by the CCU was a construction management service contract worth around $302,000 which will also be funded by 2010 and 2013 bond funds. The recommendation was to award the contract to Stanley Consultants Inc.

Court order

P.L. 32-69 authorized GWA to borrow up to $450 million worth of bonds in three separate bond sales – one in 2013, another one in 2015, and the third in 2017. The bonds will be supported by rate increases and operational efficiencies implemented by GWA.

For the first bond cycle, approximately $140 million worth of capital improvement projects will be undertaken by the waterworks authority to comply with the requirements of the November 2011 amended stipulated order as well as to address the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant Findings for Water and Wastewater report.

Based on documents submitted to the Public Utilities Commission, GWA outlined the need for $95.13 million for potable water projects, which include tank replacements and repairs.

In addition, $33.3 million will be utilized for wastewater projects; $5.395 million for electrical engineering projects; and $5.5 million for engineering projects, which include laboratory modernization, land surveys and general plant improvements.



Budget bill signed into law


Saturday, 06 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


·         Sen. Tommy Morrison, right, and Sen. Frank Aguon look on as Gov. Eddie Calvo signs the fiscal 2015 budget bill into law. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


$111M in Section 30 coming to Guam

THERE was no tug of war between the executive and legislative branches over the fiscal 2015 budget bill as Gov. Eddie Calvo signed the amended and substituted Bill 269 into P.L. 32-181 yesterday morning.


The government appropriations measure pegs the 2015 budget at $666.43 million.

As this developed, Calvo also acknowledged that Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia'aina has approved a total of $111 million in Section 30 federal income tax transfer payments for Guam.

The prior budget cycle saw the version passed by the legislature vetoed several times before reaching a compromise version.

In fiscal 2014, a unanimous vote to pass the seventh version of the budget measure broke the budget impasse, just less than a month away from the onset of fiscal 2014.

Calvo himself acknowledged efforts put in by both Democrats and Republicans at the legislature by calling Bill 269 a bipartisan effort, a measure shaped by legislators from both sides of the political spectrum.

"As the process went along, it was not only provisions and amendments put in there by the Democratic majority but also the Republican minority, all in the spirit of bipartisanship," he said.

COLA

Calvo noted positive gains in the budget bill, especially the inclusion of an appropriation for the cost of living allowance, or COLA, to benefit 6,500 retirees – $2,000 to each retiree of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund who is retired as of Sept. 30 this year, or his survivor, no later than Nov. 1.

Priorities

According to the Office of the Governor, 33.9 percent of the budget will go to education operations; 18.8 percent to medical and health care services; 20.2 percent to public safety and emergency response services; and 27.1 percent for debt service.

In fiscal 2015, the Guam Department of Education will be receiving $11 million more than fiscal 2014 appropriation levels, while the University of Guam and the Guam Community College will be receiving an increase of $4 million and $2 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, public safety agencies will also see an increase in funding, with the Guam Police Department receiving a boosted $5.3 million from FY2014 appropriation levels, while the Department of Corrections, Department of Youth Affairs and the Guam Fire Department will see increases of $4.6 million, $1.3 million and $6.4 million, respectively.

Around $118 million was also allocated for FY2015 tax refunds.

After Calvo signed the budget bill, he announced that $15 million in tax refunds were being prepared for release.

Another $10 million, he assured, will be going out within the next couple of weeks as well.

Collaboration

Sen. Brant McCreadie called the collaboration a "caucus of common sense."

“This is something that we talked about in the last two years and we finally did it. We worked together as a team. We caucused together as one.”

Sen. Frank Aguon highlighted education, public safety, and health – areas which are critical to public services. The senator also noted how the measure incorporated much-needed funding to address mandates set in the Competitive Wage Act and to address law enforcement requirements.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tommy Morrison said he appreciates the inclusion of a provision in the bill that ensures programs and facilities at the village level as well as another provision which provides the Department of Public Works the flexibility to introduce and expand new programs.

Morrison also thanked his colleagues for prioritizing and putting in resources for the Office of Technology, a division within GovGuam which he said is key to advancing customer service in government.

Sen. Tony Ada said the FY2015 budget process goes to show what can happen when the legislative and executive branch work together hand-in-hand in moving government forward.

"I hope that future budget processes would be just like this," he said.

Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes said she is particularly pleased that the mayors will be receiving the resources they need to service their villages and that the Guam Visitors Bureau’s budget request was supported.

A number of cultural groups have also received funding through the Tourist Attraction Fund. Muña-Barnes said “it is important that we support these groups because they are preserving and promoting our Chamorro language, culture and practices. They provide the product that GVB markets and they ensure that Guam is more than just sun and sand, and that tourism is not just in Tumon.”

Withdrawal

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Duenas has announced the withdrawal of Bill 390, a measure he introduced which seeks to authorize the appropriation and payment of $5 million from Section 30 funds to fund the remaining 50 percent salary adjustments to government of Guam employees pursuant to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

"I will be withdrawing Bill 390 because there is no need for it anymore. Our colleagues put that $5 million to ensure that our government employees are made whole with the additional 50 percent retroactive pay," he said.

The upcoming fiscal year’s budget also includes the full implementation of the Hay study pay plan for personnel under the general pay plan. The governor has already directed the Department of Administration to begin preparing the Hay increase.




Star Marianas eyes on-demand Guam-NMI flights

Friday, 05 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

FLIGHTS to and from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands may soon increase since Star Marianas Air Inc. has recently submitted its application to the Guam International Airport Authority seeking authorization to operate commuter and on-demand services between Guam and the CNMI.

During the airport authority board meeting last week, Charles Ada, GIAA executive manager, said the company had submitted correspondence for its proposed operation in Guam.

Ada said Star Marianas is planning to commence operations this month as soon as approval is secured from GIAA and after satisfying all local and federal requirements. Ada said negotiations are ongoing between the authority and the company.

Shaun Christian, president of Star Marianas, yesterday confirmed to Variety the company’s interest to begin the scheduled and charter service between the NMI and Guam. He said the company is now awaiting the final word from GIAA.

He said that as soon as approval is secured, the company will work on satisfying all requirements as well as filling the staffing positions for the operation.

Christian said this is not the first time Star Marianas put in a request to GIAA. Two years ago, the company made an initial proposal which was not successful.

Proposal

Under the current Star Marianas proposal, daily operations will commence primarily for Guam-Rota service and Guam-Saipan service, according to Christian. It will utilize an eight-seat Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft.

At present, Star Marianas operates a cargo service between the NMI and Guam.

Christian said the company is pursuing the Guam-NMI service because it believes there is a demand for the service and it wants to assist the people as well as the economy.

Until recently, there were two airlines serving the Guam-NMI route. However, when Freedom Air filed for bankruptcy last year, United Airlines became the sole service provider for the market. Passengers have recently expressed disappointment with frequent delays and rising air fares.

Star Marianas was incorporated in August 2006 under the name Star Aviation Inc. In 2008, the name was changed to Star Marianas Air Inc.

The Star Marianas fleet is comprised of seven Piper Cherokee Six aircraft and four Navajo Chieftain aircraft.

GIAA preparing area for commuter operations

Rolenda Faasuamalie, Guam airport marketing administrator, yesterday told Variety that GIAA is preparing a temporary area for commuter operations, such as that proposed by Star Marianas.

She said discussions have been ongoing with Star Marianas about its interest in offering scheduled commuter and on-demand services on the Guam-NMI route.

“Currently, planning is ongoing to make ready an interim area for a common-use facility to conduct commuter operations, without impact to current operators and existing tenants. The proposed area must meet layout requirements to address all safety and security concerns in line with airport operations, and is subject to the building permit process for renovation work,” she said.

According to Faasuamalie, this space will also be available for other interested carriers utilizing similar aircraft types and will become a common use facility.

It is important to note, she said, that another piece to making this facility possible lies with the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency which must approve of the operation and allocate resources to process arriving passengers and cargo.

Further, she said Star Marianas must meet security requirements mandated by TSA in its operations.

“Without specifically identifying the proposed area for operations, the facility is right next to the main terminal, and has public access and parking facilities to accommodate operations. We will be able to specify the area once all approvals, permits and safety/security concerns are addressed,” she said.

 

First economic symposium seeks to attract off-island investors

Friday, 05 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Economic Development Authority’s first economic symposium will be next month with the goal of attracting investors and connecting them with possible economic opportunities on Guam, GEDA officials announced yesterday.

“We are America in Asia,” said Mana Silva, GEDA acting administrator. “This is a huge selling point to investors throughout Asia who are looking to do business in the United States and have U.S. protections and assurances that their investments are safe.”

Developers, contractors, service companies and transportation industry investors from Asia and the U.S. have been targeted by GEDA to attend next month’s three-day symposium, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

About 400 investors and policy makers are expected to attend, according to a statement from GEDA. The symposium is scheduled for Oct. 22 to 24. Invitations have been sent and Silva said that registration is now open for those interested in attending.

E.J. Calvo, GEDA board chairman, said the island is preparing for a period of sustainable economic growth. This symposium will allow investors to capitalize on the upcoming growth, he said.

Calvo said tourism demands, infrastructure, the military buildup, Guam’s financial ratings, development plans for Hagåtña and new investment programs will be discussed at the symposium.

Study

Other announcements will also be made during the event, including the results of a study done on the island’s hotel industry. “We had the world’s top hotel consultants do a study on Guam and look at our need for hotel rooms so we’ll be releasing that study,” said Nathan Denight, GVB general manager. Denight said the study would be a powerful tool to help attract investors to the island.

Featured speakers include Joshua Cooper Ramo, the vice chairman of Kissinger Associates. Ramo has been called one of China’s leading foreign-born scholars and will discuss the role of Guam in relation to China and the United States’ assertion of new roles of influence in Asia, Silva said.

Tom Weyl, director of a research company, and Frank Chin, a managing director at Citigroup, will also be featured guest speakers at the symposium. Additionally, Silva said Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina yesterday confirmed her attendance at the symposium.

Aqua Suites dedicates fitness course

Posted: Sep 03, 2014 2:10 PM <em class="wnDate">Wednesday, September 3, 2014 12:10 AM EDT</em>Updated: Sep 03, 2014 2:10 PM <em class="wnDate">Wednesday, September 3, 2014 12:10 AM EDT</em>

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Aqua Suites Hotel in Tamuning today dedicated a new fitness course to honor the island's active duty and retired military personnel that live and visit Guam.

Mathew Martin, director of sales and marketing, told KUAM News, "Personally this is important to me because this is a veteran owned hotel I served two tours in the Marine Corps and I think that it's not only important that we recognize people who are currently serving but also people who have sacrificed a lot to have served and their families. We look across our island here in Guam and each individual family member whether it be a mom a father, brother , sister, a husband, wife or even a child that has a lose this time or hold up on their own when they're serving their country it's our way of saying thank you."

The hotel owners also presented a $1,000 check to the USO Fund. Also part of today's dedication, five recruits were sworn in to serve in the US Army. According to Martin today's dedication is just the beginning as the hotel plans to continue to reach out to military service members. Currently Aqua Suites provides all military free stateside phone calls as well as free WiFi in every room. The Tamuning hotel also has plans to expand the recreation area in the back of the hotel and construct permanent BBQ stations and pavilions.

The idea is to provide visitors a home away from home.

New sea of green at Cocos Island leaves officials seeing red

Posted: Sep 03, 2014 Joan Aguon Charfauros kuam

Guam - Testing begins to determine what has prompted a massive algae bloom at a popular tourist attraction south of Guam.

You'd expect white sandy beaches and clear blue waters but that wasn't the sight when officials visited Cocos Island last month. As we previously reported, officials discovered a massive algae bloom hundreds of feet thick. Guam Environmental Protection Agency administrator Eric Palacios told KUAM News, "It is causing instability to the marine environment in that particular area so we're concerned about that. We are aware of the negative impacts that it has on our fishing community as well so we want to make sure we can address the situation as is necessary quickly."

But is it a natural occurrence or something else? Palacios says testing is underway, noting, "We're going to run two separate testings based on samples that we've collected - one will be done here at our lab. We're going to check for nutrients and the type of nutrients that are in the water. And then the separate sample that will be tested will actually be of the algae itself. That one, we're going to send to an international lab to see or determine the composition of that particular type of algae."

Depending on the results of both samples, he says they'll decide how best to proceed. "When we are eventually armed with that information hopefully we'll be able to determine whether there's anything on land that we need to look at more closely, maybe regulate more heavily or whether it truly is a natural occurrence which some people are claiming it to be," he said.

Fingers crossed - Palacios says they hope they can turn the new bloom into a resource. "What we're hoping for is to realize some type of beneficial reuse of the algae because it will need to be cleaned up at some point," he explained, "I'm hoping personally that maybe it can be used as fertilizer and that we can supply local farming industry or some other beneficial reuse. That's where we're at with this process." 

GMH not getting the funding needed for budget

Posted: Sep 02, 2014 by Jolene Toves kuam

Guam - The Guam Memorial Hospital's flatlining finances continues  as for the second year in a row they are not receiving the budget they've been asking for. With Fiscal Year 2015 beginning on October 1 GMH is working tirelessly to try to get the necessary funding needed for hospital operations.

Administrator Joseph Verga told KUAM News, "The biggest thing not mentioned had to do with the $25 million that we asked for...for uncompensated trust fund and that had to do with the sustainable source of revenue that I had recommend where I had recommended a customs user fee to be used for that purpose that would be recurring."

But  Verga says that was not addressed at all in the budget bill. Also not addressed the reimbursement of their Medicare services at the actual GMH service cost. "Appropriately funding Medicare levels that was not really done in the bill that was mentioned by the Senate and we have some other things for example our pharmaceutical fund we had asked that 75 percent of the fund comes to GMH in the form of cash actual revenues not 75 percent of the fund going to Medicaid for matching fund," he said.

Verga says this means that the $9.8 million in pharmaceutical funds is misnumbered because the hospital does not receive that money. All that is received is 25 percent while the rest goes to Medicaid for matching funds. In addition GMH had asked for funding for prior year obligations and capital improvement funds. He says that too was not addressed, noting, "Those were some of the big ones $4.1 million for the hay study that I believe we were only funded $1.3 million, so again that not fully funded for prior obligations there you know when you put it all together again it is significant and so of course I am disappointed."

The Guam Memorial Hospital is receiving about $26 million less than what they requested for their Fiscal '15 budget this is the second year in a row where they have received less than what they had asked for and this has caused a strain on hospital operations.

Despite the disappointment Verga says he continues to move forward with their three-year plan to put GMH on stable ground. But it is not easy, as Verga said, "So we continue to move the hospital forward but it makes it difficult to hire adequate staff makes it difficult to pay vendors on a timely manner so it affects the hospital operations and as I said to you before patient won't feel it because we work very hard when somebody comes here sick we take care of everyone."

With only three weeks left in the fiscal year  Verga is working with the Governor's Office to identify funding to cover the FY14 shortfalls. 

GEDA close to completing draft of new QC program

Posted: Sep 02, 2014    by Ken Quintanilla   KUAM

Guam - What once made sense ten years ago, may no longer be the case especially when it comes to GEDA'S qualifying certificate program. And the agency is close to completing its set of recommendations as part of its plan to revamp the QC.

It was earlier this year, when the Guam Economic Development Authority voted to move forward with a "new look" for the qualifying certificate program. GEDA board vice chairman David John is overseeing the QC Committee, and told KUAM News, "We're trying to integrate, we want to make sure we don't go independently and have the QC come up with independent and then have the response come back from Horwath over at GVB and then the recommendations from them not tie in with what we're doing, so we're just making sure the recommendations that are going to come out of the report that GVB is working on is consistent with what we've been working on it, it looks like it is."

As we reported, this "new look" would add a special QC for specific and urgent investment incentives starting with hotel room development. GEDA is working with the Horwath HTL consulting group based out of Singapore for the study. "The whole idea behind the new process is to clear up what's been put together over the years the QC program has been instrumental to get the tourism industry going down in Tumon now we want to make sure it falls in line with the 20/20 project for GVB is all about," said John.

Revamping the QC program covers over a year since the Office of Public Accountability issued an audit of the QC program noting several deficiencies. John says that will be taken into consideration, noting, "Challenges is to take out the things that aren't helping and just stream line it there's certain things we should be monitoring to make sure the QC is beneficial to the community not just the developer."

He ultimately says certain aspects of the QC program that made sense at one point in time may no longer be the case today. "So each QC will be different based on what it brings to the island and it needs to be revisited - does the island want it? That's something I think should be revisited every certain number of years that's something we have to talk about with the Legislature," he said.

The committee will be meeting this Wednesday to finish a draft proposal that will be presented to the board later this month.