GDOE to seek more money

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012815/top_200_200.jpgGEB OKs $328M budget for FY2016

THE Guam Education Board last night approved a $328 million Guam Department of Education budget for fiscal 2016, which is a 40 percent increase from appropriations approved in FY2015.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez told education board members last night that the FY2016 request represents a 40 percent increase over the FY2015 appropriations.

“This comes to around $93 million over what we proposed in FY2015,” Fernandez said during last night’s GEB meeting.

According to Fernandez, GDOE requested around $234 million in FY2015.

Board member Ken Chargualaf, who chairs the board’s committee on finance and budget, said the development of the FY2016 budget was shaped by hearings and work sessions involving GDOE management, school principals and various stakeholders.

Chargualaf said the budget hearing process also included discussions on the 14 points of the Adequate Public Education Act, a supplemental budget to cover the department’s shortfall, the provisions of the Competitive Wage Act and its impact to FY2016 operations, and funding for the charter schools, among others.

“The request of $327,988,389 million is adequate to meet the department’s core mission,” Chargualaf stressed.

Critical

Fernandez said there are several critical items which the FY2016 budget needs to fund, including a $20 million allocation for capital improvement projects addressing safety and deferred maintenance requirements at the schools.

The GDOE superintendent referred to the Department of Interior-funded assessment report by the Army Corps of Engineers which identified approximately $90 million in deferred maintenance costs throughout the GDOE school system.

Fernandez said GDOE is also working on a request for proposal for at least $100 million in school construction and repairs. He acknowledged the work that Gov. Eddie Calvo and the legislature have put out to ensure financing is available to address school facility concerns.

He also said the department is requesting around $21 million to make up for the operational shortfalls in FY2015 appropriations.

The GDOE budget request also includes appropriation for textbooks. Fernandez said the department will be requesting around $15 million on top of the regular annual appropriation for textbooks.

Around $8 million of the budget will also go toward personnel needs, primarily for school-based support staff requirements.

Part of the budget request, according to Fernandez, will also fund security alarm installations as required by the Secure our School Act, as well as the remaining air-conditioning installations not covered by GDOE’s ARRA funding, among others.

The charter schools are not included in the budget request.

The budget will be submitted to the legislature during the FY2016 budget sessions.



Local economist sees positive economic outlook for Guam


Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A LOCAL economist sees good prospects for Guam in 2015 with positive developments in tourism arrivals as well as military, public and private construction activities.


“Things are looking pretty good for Guam," said Joseph Bradley, chief economist of the Bank of Guam, during his presentation at the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay meeting at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa yesterday.

Bradley noted several construction projects which are either completed, ongoing or in the planning stages.

“We have one new hotel that is about to open, another in the design phase. Those are two good things. Guam’s business cycle has always been driven by construction activity,” he said.

Bradley also outlined infrastructure utility projects initiated by the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority such as the proposed wastewater treatment facility in the south.

The $60 million plant, according to GWA, would meet the current and future wastewater loading requirements for Agat and Santa Rita, with the ability to expand and handle wastewater from other treatment plants.

Meanwhile, GPA has an ongoing project in Dandan, Inarajan, which is a combination of solar- and wind-generating energy. The power authority has also announced plans to procure a new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation. According to the presentation, the units could potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“When there is a lot of construction activity it means there are a lot of outside investments coming into Guam, whether they are federal or private expenditures. That creates a lot of jobs during the construction phase,” he said.

NDAA

Bradley also noted that the U.S. Senate has finally approved funding for the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The body recently passed the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for military construction projects on the island, including $51 million to support steps to establish a fully capable Marine Air-Ground Task Force on Guam.

The congressional funding includes an additional $34.4 million, above President Obama's budget request, for a corrosion control facility at Andersen Air Force Base that was added as a top priority project for the Air Force.

“The appropriation of $168 million for military construction on Guam this year sounds like a lot of money except it was a third of what they usually appropriate for military construction on Guam,” Bradley said.

Tourism

Although not as high as 1997 figures, Bradley said visitor arrivals were up in 2014 over 2013 by almost 9,000. “Pretty good for an island with a population of 160,000 to 165,000.”

According to reports, visitor arrivals during 2014 totaled 1,342,377, which is 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497.

Korean arrivals during 2014 also grew by 25.4 percent, while arrivals from mainland China rose by 45 percent and Russian arrivals increased by 101.5 percent. Additionally, sea arrivals for 2014 increased by 115.7 percent.

With regard to prices, Bradley said consumer prices are relatively stable, with the fourth quarter Consumer Price Index for Guam just 1.8 percent higher than it was in December 2013.

With oil prices now reduced to just over $45 a barrel, he said the prices of consumer goods might also fall.

“It is a good thing. It takes a while to transfer that in shelf prices to go into effect. It would take two to three months before there is kind of a ripple effect on the economy,” he said.

Matson has already announced another decrease in its fuel surcharge as a result of the oil price reduction, according to Bradley.

Matson recently lowered its fuel surcharge to 32 percent from 36 percent for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.



What's GovGuam doing to address affordable housing?


Posted: Jan 27, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

Guam - With homelessness a continuing issue locally, organizations such as the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority are working to increase affordable housing and give struggling families a step-up.

GHURA executive director Michael Duenas said, "As part of the governor's goal to build 3,000 affordable homes by the year 2017 is we've been awarding funds, credits under the low income housing tax credit program."

So far this has created an additional 154 new homes. Other successes include GHURA's Self-Sufficiency Program, which works with families in the Section 8 program to enhance their earning potential and skills. "We help them through things like finding educational opportunities, training opportunities, job opportunities," Duenas stated.

As their income increases, so does their rent, with the excess money contributed to an escrow account. At the end of the five-year program they can then use this for a downpayment.  He says the program has successfully created many new homeowners. However, demand for GHURA's programs far outnumber available slots. "Right now our Section 8 program is not accepting new applications, we closed the wait list in February of 2011," he said.

In fact, over 1,600 people are on the waiting list for roughly 100 vouchers, coupled with an 8% turnover rate, means the wait will be staggering.

"We don't want families to be out there on the wait list for 2-3 years thinking that any time soon they will be housed, when in reality, the turnover rate we have, it'll be seven years or more before they can be reached," he said.

GHURA's Public Housing Program, however, is still accepting applications, despite the fact that there are already 1,400 people on a wait list for only 30 vacancies of its 750 housing units.

Duenas says unless resources increase or the economy improves, homelessness will remain an endemic community issue. 


Government financial information must be shared

Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WE SUPPORT Vice Speaker Cruz’s Freedom of Information Act request for the government’s fiscal year 2014 revenue, expenditures and changes in the general-fund balance, and we are concerned that the Department of Administration has not complied with his request.

It seems not only reasonable but necessary for the chairman of the legislature’s committee on appropriations to have access to information about the government’s income and spending.

After all, by the Organic Act, the legislature holds the government’s purse strings and the legislators come into office no less than any member of the executive branch, by virtue of their election by Guam’s people – to whom the money being accounted for belongs. We expect, and to some extent accept, partisan bickering over the use of government funds, but that is not the same as denying access to information about the people’s money. When information about government finances is provided to the legislature, it is also provided to the people.

Transparency, such as providing complete information about government revenue and spending, only builds trust in government institutions. Declining to provide such information accomplishes the opposite.

The government meets its payroll and has, as we have been reminded, paid recent-years’ income tax refunds in a timely manner. It has also paid out pay raises and overdue overtime pay along with merit pay and various other forms of compensation that were promised but delayed.

But at the same time residents are told the government’s finances are in good shape, the island’s public schools are in need of $100 million of repairs and do not have enough teachers, textbooks and support staff. The mass transit system recently discontinued an apparently successful expanded service program because it could not afford it; island roadways are in need of repair; there are shortages of personnel at Guam Memorial Hospital; the police department does not have enough officers patrolling the island; more manpower is needed at the Department of Youth Affairs and the Department of Revenue and Taxation; the main branch of the public library has been closed for more than four months; the University of Guam announced it will be raising its tuition and cutting programs so it can meet expenses; the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority does not have enough funds for housing vouchers for all homeless families on Guam; and the island’s prison facilities are not adequate to safely accommodate all inmates.

The people have a right to expect that when legislators pass the government’s budget – that is, when they spend the people’s money – they will be able to make informed decisions. We encourage the administration to provide the legislature with the requested information.

Respect the taxpayer

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MOST people have full sympathy for the hard working, responsible single mother working two low-wage jobs to support her family. No reasonable person expects that she, or other blue-collar workers in low-skill jobs, will be paid the same as the engineer who designs safe highways or the scientist who makes sure the island’s drinking water is safe, or the attorney who prosecutes thieves, rapists and murderers.

But she – as do other members of the community – has a reasonable expectation that her hard-earned contribution to the government coffers will be treated respectfully. She undoubtedly could use the money that is paid to the government – for example, when she makes a purchase at any retail store – for some necessity that seems to be a little more expensive every time she sees it in the store.

During the public hearing on Bill 4-33 last week, high school teacher Andri Baynum, a vocal opponent of the raises for government officials that Bill 4-33 proposes to roll back, responded to statements from government officials opposing the bill, with the above description of the single mother. “She works hard; she works hard,” he said, with emphasis on “she.” We would not presume to talk for Baynum, but will borrow his unnamed, and all-too-real character.

The single mother – and all taxpayers – struggling to meet expenses have the right to expect that her tax dollars will be used to put enough police officers in the neighborhoods where she and her children live, work and play; to ensure her children’s schools are well-maintained and have enough teachers, aides and textbooks; to subsidize the mass transit system and the public hospital; and to run a safe prison. These are not being done, but tax money is being used to boost the pay of elected and appointed government officials.

If Baynum’s single mom were to ask for a raise – which would likely be well-deserved, and which she may or may not get – she would probably not be taken seriously if she asked for a 40 percent raise or to be paid the same rate as the second-highest paid person in her field of work in the nation. One can imagine the response if she included a request that the pay be retroactive to a year previous.

She is not able to decide on her own that she deserves a raise and help herself to the money, at least not legally. The politicians that asked the single mom to vote for them before the election did not mention their plans to implement the hefty, retroactive raises, which would have been another reasonable expectation.

We encourage the members of the Guam Legislature to vote in favor of the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. Rolling back the Nov. 21 pay raises will be a first step in getting the new legislature started on the path of using the people’s money to benefit the island’s people.

Farmers market a welcome project

Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WE ARE encouraged to hear that the new Farmers Co-op facility in Dededo is on schedule and on budget for completion in June. The benefits of developing the local food-growing industry are numerous. Local produce is fresher, more nutritious and tastier than that shipped thousands of miles. And money spent on food grown on Guam will stay on Guam and benefit the local economy.

There is not much doubt that the consumers of produce would choose that grown locally, if it is available and affordable. In addition the superior quality of fresher food, it is increasingly popular to make purchasing decisions that take into account the environmental impact of the product. Food grown on Guam makes its way to Guam tables with less fuel-burning (and costly) transportation and storage.

Cuisine based on local tastes with local ingredients is also trendy – and traditional local dishes will never cease to be in demand and require local ingredients.

As we have noted, the University of Guam Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives reported last year that Guam imports $8.25 million worth of fruits and vegetables a year, $41 million worth of meat and $14 million in fish and seafood. The center study pointed out the benefits of replacing just 10 percent of imported food with locally produced food.

Given the advantages of locally grown food, it would seem growing the local-food market shifting would not only be feasible, but should happen without much effort.

We are hopeful that the new farmers market will be a stimulus for farming on Guam. If it is successful as a conduit for famers to get their produce to customers, hopefully it will help farmers see potential for financial success. It may also serve as a means for customers to provide feedback to farmers, so they can improve their service and product selection.

Since the market facility will be operated by the Guam Farmers Cooperative Association, it will no doubt serve as a hub for that organization to be in regular contact with farmers. Hopefully, that too will better help farmers meet the needs of the market – what is needed, what will command the best price and so on.

Often farming is cast in a romantic light – it has a long tradition that included the ancestors of most people, it requires knowledge of and reliance on nature, and it can be rewarding. But it is hard, risky, often dirty work, especially on a scale to earn a living. We are hopeful that those involved in Guam agriculture are successful in growing that industry, and we see the coming market facility as a step in that direction.


Doctors to practice, train on Guam


Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


LAST week, the American Medical Center welcomed experienced family physician Dr. Rumi Iqbal, to the island from Puyallup, Washington.


Iqbal was recruited to come to Guam by her former medical colleague, Dr. Hieu Campus, who himself set up his island family practice a little more than a year ago.

Simultaneously, family physician Dr. Mariana Cook-Huynh, a St. John's School alumna arrived last week to complete her medical residency rotation with Dr. Hoa Van Nguyen and other local doctors. Cook-Huynh is the daughter of attorney Jeff Cook and Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Bank of Guam president and board chairwoman.

To make things even more encouraging for the care of children on our island, pediatricians Dr. Amanda Del Rosario, also a St. John's School alumna and her husband, Dr. Michael Um, will be visiting the American Medical Center this week as part of their pediatric residency training at the University of California at San Francisco, Children's Hospital Oakland.

AMC continues to actively recruit more physicians and support staff to be part of our growing family.


Cruz re-introduces bill on tax records, in-house counsel


Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz has re-introduced legislation pertaining to the use of in-house attorneys and the accessibility of tax records.


Cruz re-introduced the bills last week to facilitate compliance audits on hotel occupancy tax (HOT) assessments and to end what he describes as "exorbitant" legal billing for government agencies.

Bill No. 31-33 allows the Public Auditor to access certain tax records provided the U.S. Internal Revenue Code does not specifically privilege such information. Cruz introduced the measure last year after the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation denied a request from the Office of Public Accountability relative to a compliance audit of HOT data.

Reintroduced as Bill No. 30-33, Cruz's in-house counsel bill mandates the use of unclassified internal counsel for government agencies and autonomous public corporations permitted to retain outside counsel.

According to the vice speaker, the legislation is necessary in light of the "outrageous" legal fees racked up by the Port Authority of Guam.

“Good legal counsel is essential, but taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars when a more cost-effective option exists. Under this bill, taxpayers save money and agencies still receive sound legal advice,” Cruz said.

Currently, GovGuam agencies are permitted to retain counsel other than the attorney general and they have no limitations on the amount paid for outside legal services.

Certify

The new bill would require the Office of the Attorney General to certify the need for outside counsel in writing to the speaker of the Guam Legislature and the governor. 

In addition, the outside counsel must have at least five years’ experience in the relevant subject matter or specialized area under litigation. 

Furthermore, the bill provides a 10 percent differential pay for full-time classified in-house attorneys, with maximum additional credit for seniority and experience.

Despite Gov. Eddie Calvo's veto of the in-house counsel bill last year, the vice speaker said he is confident that the composition of the newly installed 33rd Guam Legislature will allow the bill to secure the necessary votes for an override.

Cruz said he has been a staunch opponent of excessive legal billing within the government of Guam. In response to mounting legal fees of more than $800,000 for the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority for fiscal year 2008, Cruz introduced legislation in 2009 to designate the airport’s staff attorney to represent the agency during litigation.


Legislation introduced to fund Festival of the Pacific Arts


Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


AS GUAM prepares to host the 12th Annual Festival of the Pacific Arts (FestPac) in 2016, legislation has been introduced temporarily allocating funds derived from the one percent for the arts law to the festival account until June 1, 2016.


Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 19 to amend current statutes relative to arts in buildings and facilities, noting that funding and resources need to be raised to ensure the success of the festival.

As finance chairwoman of the committee involved in FestPac, Muña-Barnes noted that with less than two years until the festival date, they found out that the island has to come up with $13 million to host the event.

“Right now, the trust account has a little over $2.7 million. The event is in May 2016,” she said during the public hearing for the measure.

“We are already heading into February. We have our work cut out for us. This is why the introduction of this bill is necessary,” she added.

Monica Okada Guzman, CAHA board chairwoman, said they are 100 percent in support of the bill.

After 15 to 20 years of being stagnant, the one percent for the arts program has been revived after the approval of its implementing rules and regulations, according to Guzman.

DCA support

Joseph Artero-Cameron, president of the Department of Chamorro Affairs, said that DCA, as the umbrella entity for CAHA, also supports the proposed legislation.

Current laws require that at least one percent of the overall construction, remodeling or renovation cost of a public building or building supported by public funds shall be reserved for the purposes of the design, construction, mounting, maintenance and replacement, and administration of works of art by the Guam Council on the Arts & Humanities Agency (CAHA) in the public area of the building.

The developer can also give the amount to CAHA, to be placed in a grant fund for artists.

Guzman said they would like to remove the grant cap, which is currently set at $3,000.

“We found out in the last few years that this cap is way too low. Through that vehicle, we may be able to support the festival,” she added.

As set in current statutes, the Department of Public Works shall ensure that no construction, remodeling or renovating of a public building or building supported by government of Guam funds is granted an occupancy permit without the law being complied with.

FestPac

FestPac will bring together artists and cultural practitioners from around the Pacific region for two weeks of festivities.

The festival is recognized as a major regional cultural event and is the largest gathering in which the people of the Pacific unite to enhance their respect and appreciation for one another.

Some 27 Pacific island nations and territories with more than 2,500 performers, artists and cultural practitioners, in addition to the thousands of visitors from Asia and festival followers, are expected to attend the event in 2016.

According to a release from CAHA, FestPac was conceived by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to help guard against the diminishment of traditional practices of Pacific nations and to exchange culture.

The festival has already garnered significant support from local agencies. According to a FestPac news release, the Bank of Guam and United Airlines have pledged $100,000 of support for the event.

“As the body knows, Guam will be hosting the FestPac regional event. Because Guam will be hosting this event, we will be able to highlight traditional performance, arts, cultural displays, and demonstrations inclusive of cultural storytelling and other activities. Guam will also have an opportunity to see over 10,000 tourists in that month. These are people who usually follow the festival of the arts,” the senator said.


Young Professional of the Year chosen


Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012715/young_200_200.jpgRegine Biscoe Lee, an account manager and public relations practitioner, has been chosen as the 2014 Reina A. Leddy Guam Young Professional of the Year. Contributed photo


(GCOC) – The Guam Chamber of Commerce has announced that Regine Biscoe Lee, an account manager and public relations practitioner, has been chosen as the 2014 Reina A. Leddy Guam Young Professional of the Year.


The announcement was made at “The Event of the Year” held last Friday, Jan. 23, hosted by the Guam Young Professionals, a committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, at the Lotte Hotel Guam.

"The Chamber is pleased to present its fifth Guam Young Professional of the Year Award honoring an individual who exemplifies professionalism and integrity in all aspects of her life, from the office to the community. Ms. Lee's attitude of ‘service before self’ drives her to promote and ensure the welfare and well being of her place of work, her home life and the community organizations she has been intimately involved in.

“As a champion for small business, Ms. Lee consistently seeks ways to support our local Guam economy through her personal and professional commitment to the Chamber's Buy Local Movement and the Guam Visitors Bureau's Hafa Adai Pledge Program. Ms. Lee's dedication to helping Guam's youth and underprivileged is underscored in her involvement in programs such as Santuary, Inc., Salvation Army, Sugar Plum Tree and the Guam Women's Club, which makes her a role model for all professionals on Guam," said Chamber President David Leddy.

"Regine has been an avid supporter of the Guam Young Professionals and has dedicated numerous volunteer hours to the group's various activities," said 2015 GYP Chairman, Logan Reyes. "Her professionalism and overall desire to make a contribution to our local community and our organization are motivating examples of what every young professional should aspire to. We congratulate Regine on this well-deserved recognition."

Leddy added the Chamber would also like to recognize each of the following nominees and their respective businesses, as they are deserving of this esteemed recognition: Kishin Advani, Realtor, The Real Estate Professionals; Joaquin Cook, Executive Vice President/Chief Sales Officer, Bank of Guam; Maria Leon Guerrero, Vice President, Business Services Division Manager, Bank of Guam; and Judy Rosario, Business Sales Manager, Docomo Pacific Inc.

“We would like to encourage other young business professionals in the community to consider membership with the Guam Young Professionals for the various opportunities for growth and enrichment," Leddy said.

For more information about the Guam Young Professionals, visit the Chamber website: GuamChamber.com.gu or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GYPconnect. You may also contact the Guam Chamber of Commerce via email: gyp[at]guamchamber.com.gu or info[at]guamchamber.com.gu.


Bill seeks demolition of administration building


Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


 (ORR) – Last Thursday, Sens. Rory J. Respicio, Tina Muña-Barnes and Speaker Judi Won Pat introduced a one-line amendment to Guam law which will authorize the demolition of the Manuel F.L. Guerrero Administration Building in Hagåtña. The building is named for Guam’s governor from 1963 to 1969.

During its more than 60 years of service, the old building once housed the Office of the Governor, the Department of Administration, the Department of Education, and many other executive branch offices. In that building, driver’s licenses were also issued, payments made to the government of Guam, and policies were set for the Department of Education, as well as for the Departments of Labor, and Land Management.

According to Respicio, "the past 60 years have not been kind to the old administration building, and structurally it is far better to level the entire structure and pursue other options."

Bill 32-33 says the building, “has serious structural, mechanical, electrical, and environmental issues that create significant safety hazards and render the building unfit for further occupancy such that all government of Guam agencies that were utilizing the building have relocated to other offices.”

The amendment adds the demolition of the Administration Building to a list of other projects funded under the Guam “Hot Bond” law, which are intended to revitalize the historic capital of Hagåtña.

Respicio credited Gov. Calvo's support to use remaining proceeds from the HOT Bonds for this demolition project, and pledges continued partnership with the administration on determining the most appropriate use of the property, taking into consideration the historical perspective and any available financial means for financing this significant undertaking.

Calvo, in is weekly address said, “I was glad to hear that (the Guam Economic Development Authority), in partnership with Sen. Rory Respicio, is moving forward with efforts to demolish the old administration Building in Hagåtña. As you know, my goal is to build the governor’s palacio as part of an overall plan to make Hagåtña the center of culture and history on Guam.”

Hospital billings delayed

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

As $30,000 spent to re-train GMH staff

REPRESENTATIVES from NTT Data, the health care technology company that developed Guam Memorial Hospital’s new computer system, are back on Guam for two weeks to re-train GMH staff to iron out problems with the revenue-cycle system.

In December, information technology staff told hospital board members that there were issues with the revenue system, which slowed down employee progress.

With the slowdown because of the new revenue system, bills have been delayed. GMH Administrator Joseph Verga said not all the bills have been sent out. This could stall revenue collection.

Verga said billing will be delayed for four to six weeks.

The hospital’s business office productivity has been slowed because there are large amounts of information the staff has to sift through for simple tasks that has affected billing and generating reports.

Board members were not given billing information for last November and December because the business office was already overwhelmed with other tasks.

“Of course when the conversion happened we’ve been unable to mine out the data,” Verga said.

Last month, interim chief financial officer Benita Manglona said inputting information into the new system takes more time than it did with the old system. “There are some major challenges with the system that need to be addressed,” she said.

Trainers

Verga said at Thursday’s monthly board meeting that the NTT Data staffers arrived on Guam last week and will stay for two weeks. The trip will cost the hospital about $30,000.

After the new system was installed and went live in October, NTT data representatives were on Guam for three weeks and also conducted web training months before the system was switched. This will be the second time since the system was installed that the representatives will be on island to assist GMH staff.

Trustee Valentino Perez said this trip was outside the original scope of work, which explains the additional $30,000.

“NTT is here and the expectation is that all of this will be resolved,” Verga said to board members. “They’re here, after much wrangling, they’re here.”

Verga said he and Manglona agreed on the cost.

While staffers are re-trained for the revenue system upgrade, the hospital will begin work to upgrade its clinical software system. Verga said this time, the new clinical software will run parallel with the old clinical software to work out any kinks.

Verga said in December that the old revenue software system was not running parallel with the new revenue software, which was a lesson learned.

 

GMH waiting for Compact-impact funds to pay for loan

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • GUAM Memorial Hospital has yet to receive the $2 million promised to it to pay for the $25 million loan it received from the Bank of Guam last February.

    Jun Infante, general accounting supervisor, said at Thursday’s Guam Memorial Hospital Authority board meeting that GMH has not yet received $2 million in Compact-impact funding for the loan.

    Joseph Verga, hospital administrator, said the hospital expects to receive the money at some point from the Department of Administration.

    In the meantime, Infante said about $166,000 is paid every month to the Bank of Guam for the loan.

    “We pay what we can and we’re still dealing with our vendors,” he said. “Vendors continue to pressure the hospital for payments. That’s also eating on our cash flow,” Infante said. “We’re using our own funds to pay.”

    Verga said Benita Manglona, DOA director and interim chief financial officer at the hospital, is working on the $2 million in compact-impact funds.

    Last year, the Bank of Guam lent GMH $25 million, which the hospital said it would use to pay its vendors.

    GMH said it expected that over the next 10 years, $2 million of Compact-impact funding would be given to the hospital to help pay off the $25 million loan.

    Promised

    Verga said last February that the money had been promised by Gov. Eddie Calvo in addition to other funds GMH receives from the Compact-impact agreement. Another $1 million will be allocated to GMH from the Healthy Futures Fund for the loan.

    Verga explained that of the $25 million, $10.5 million was used to pay off an existing debt owed to the Bank of Guam for a loan GMH had previously taken out.

    Additionally, another $4.3 million was used to pay the vendor Perry Point, a medical supplier affiliated with the federal government which had the hospital’s Medicare payments garnished in 2013.

    This garnishment led to what Verga called a “cash flow crisis,” wherein hospital operations were halted or restricted due to the lack of funding from Medicare payments.

    The remaining $10 million of the $25 million loan was paid to other vendors, including the software vendor NTT Data, last year.

    More than half of new hospital's staff hired

    Posted: Jan 25, 2015 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - 53% of the total workforce for the new Guam Regional Medical City has been hired. According to the new hospital's communications officer Kevin Kerrigan, GRMC continues to aggressively hire with more than 100 open positions that still need to be filled. There are currently 382 hired employees including pending offers to some who have later start dates. As part of the terms under the qualifying certificate contract, which was signed by the governor earlier this month, 75% of all employees must be US citizens and permanent resident aliens. The hospital in the meantime is set to open at the end of the first quarter or start of the second quarter of this year. For the list of jobs, go to themedicalcity-grmc.com.

    Vice speaker: DOA ‘stonewalling’ on critical financial reports

    Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    ·         Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz has sent Freedom of Information Act requests for general fund reports which he said are vital to the legislative budget process.

    THE Department of Administration has still not submitted crucial financial information requested through a Freedom of Information Act request, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said.

    On Jan. 12, Cruz issued Freedom of Information Act requests for general fund reports which he said are vital to the legislative budget process.

    Specifically, Cruz is asking for information on revenues, expenditures and changes in the general fund balance, as well as financial statements provided to independent auditors for fiscal year 2014.

    According to Cruz, who is chairman of the legislature's finance committee, DOA missed its deadline for submitting these reports.

    The vice speaker gave the agency until Jan. 16 to furnish the requested information, however, Cruz said DOA has not yet complied with his earlier FOIA request.

    In a response to Cruz dated Jan. 16, DOA Director Benita A. Manglona stated that DOA “[has] no documents responsive to (Cruz’s) FOIA request,” adding that she is citing the same justification she gave in a letter to the speaker of the Legislature dated Nov. 4, 2014.

    “Although it is unfortunate that your department is unable to comply with a reporting requirement meant to uphold fiscal transparency and accountability, the committee is determined to keep government’s finances open and subject to review by not only the committee, but also the people of Guam,” Cruz said in response.

    ‘Too comprehensive’

    In her November 2014 letter, Manglona argued that the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), with which the report must comply, “is too comprehensive for the purpose” of the quarterly report, and that “under this provision, GovGuam generally uses a 90-day accrual for revenues.” 

    Manglona said that revenues reported “as is” at that time, prior to adjustments, “would be understated and in noncompliance with GAAP.”

    Cruz, however, said he is determined to get the information he needs and has filed a new FOIA request.

    In his latest FOIA request, Cruz noted that since more than 60 days have passed since the Nov. 4 letter and more than 90 days since fiscal 2014 ended, the Committee of Appropriations and Adjudication is requesting revenue information in addition to general fund figures for fiscal 2014.

    “While adjustments to accounting … are anticipated, the committee will not accept such excuses for non-reporting as DOA should have the requested information recorded to-date,” Cruz said.

    “Moreover, the Committee demands full transparency through your compliance with this request, lest we have a recurrence of issues like one that surfaced last year relative to $15 million in Section 30 revenues mistakenly recorded in FY 2013 that remained unchecked until much later – but not before information had to be sought after under FOIA and scrutinized,” he stated.

     




Summertime opening likely for new Farmers Co-op facility

Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE new Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam facility in Dededo is expected to be completed by early June this year, according to Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager for the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Mendiola and Larry Toves, project coordinator, updated board members yesterday about the progress of several hotel occupancy tax bond projects, including the Dededo farmers market.

“The completion date is end of May, early June, that’s our target,” Mendiola said. “Currently, the structure is only pending inspection from (the Department of Public Works) of their roof forms and rebars. They will be pouring the roof for the farmers facility next week.”

The new Farmers Co-op building is near the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Santa Monica Avenue. It will feature a retail farmers market, dry and cold storage, a community kitchen, dining area, stalls for flea market sellers and a parking facility, according to the scope of work provided by the Guam HOT bond project website.

Construction on the 6.9-acre lot began last year and the new facility will serve as a central place for island farmers from the Farmers Co-op to sell produce.

Bill McDonald, president of the co-op, said at the start of the construction that he and the other farmers were looking forward to using the facility.

There will also be a space for cleaning, sorting and packing, features which some farmers do not always have readily available to them, McDonald said.

The facility will also house the Dededo Flea Market, which is currently at the intersection of Route 27 and Marine Corps Drive.

HOT bond

The farmers market is one of several HOT bond projects, funded by the hotel occupancy tax revenue bond series, which was established under P.L. 30-228 in December 2010.

The project cost about $2.5 million, with the contract awarded to Mega United Corp. The Guam Economic Development Authority is the contract administrator; however, the facility will be operated by the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam.

Architects Laguana LLC designed the project and Cha Consulting Inc. is listed as the program manager.

Mendiola told board members yesterday that the farmers market project is “definitely on target and on budget.”

Denight succeeds Pangelinan at visitors bureau

Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • GUAM Visitors Bureau board members yesterday announced GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan’s successor at its monthly board meeting.

    Jon Nathan Denight, GVB deputy general manager, will assume the general manager position effective Feb. 1, when Pangelinan steps down.

    “Karl Pangelinan will be departing us after two really strong years that we greatly appreciate,” said Mark Baldyga, GVB board chairman. “The search for the general manager was not difficult.”

    Denight’s appointment was unanimously approved by the board yesterday, after which Baldyga said to GVB staff, “Team, you have a great general manager coming up. He’s very supportive of you. He’s going to work closely with all of us and carry forward with Tourism 2020.”

    Baldyga said he is confident about Denight’s abilities and looks forward to working with him.

    Denight has more than a decade of private-sector marketing experience for companies including MCV, IT&E and Pepsi, according to a GVB bio. He was appointed GVB deputy general manager in July 2011.

    Denight holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Santa Clara University in California and returned to Guam, working up to a position as business development manager to operations manager at Mark’s Motor Corp. before opening his own company, Revolution Productions in 2004.

    Denight was the creative director of the Denight Marketing Group and launched Uno magazine and the television video magazine, RevTV.

    A new deputy general manager will be appointed by Denight at a later time, according to Josh Tyquiengco, GVB public information officer.

    Pangelinan announced his departure a month ago and said he plans to return to the private sector.

    “I've not been shy about my intention to go back to the private sector. It's where my roots are and I'm extremely thrilled about the opportunities ahead for me,” Pangelinan said in December.

GPA faces $108M in penalties

Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012215/gpa2_200_200.jpgTHE Guam Power Authority is facing a potential $108 million in penalties per year for noncompliance with two USEPA regulations, but the body has already identified components of a plan that would bring its units into compliance.

John M. Benavente, Consolidated Utility Services general manager, presented the plan in a work session with the Consolidated Commission on Utilities this week, notifying the body that a compliance schedule has to be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soon.

The plans – which are subject to the approval of the CCU – outline what the power authority intends to implement to address USEPA regulations.

GPA has until the end of January to submit the schedule outlining plans to comply with regulations set by the agency.

Two of the USEPA-issued regulations include the Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine-Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE-MACT) rules and the Electric Generating Utility-Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (EGU-MATS).

During the presentation, Benavente said that should USEPA decide to impose noncompliance penalties – at $37,500 per day for each of the eight noncompliant power generating units – it would add up to around $108 million annually.

Joey Duenas, CCU chairman, said: “USEPA has not chosen to invoke the penalties but they could at any time. Now, the way it works is, USEPA could start to fine us the $37,500 for at least the four units but they have chosen not to do that. They are relying on getting a plan from us.”

Deliberating

Duenas said commissioners will be deliberating on the plan during the next CCU meeting.

GPA’s slow-speed diesel generators as well as its small diesel generators had a compliance date of May 3, 2013 under RICE-MACT rules.

The power authority applied for an extension to comply with the requirements and spent approximately $4.1 million for stack emission equipment to bring the units into compliance with the new regulations.

Moreover, GPA said the cost would be $240 million to bring Cabras 3 and 4 and MEC 8 and 9, all impacted by RICE-MACT, into compliance.

Meanwhile, the EGU-MACT rules impact the operations of GPA’s steam-generating plants – Cabras 1 and 2, and Tanguisson 1 and 2 – and GPA estimated the cost of bringing these units into compliance would be approximately $220 million. Generating units covered under EGU-MACt have a compliance date of April 2015.

GPA was reluctant to make any investment into these plants as the Cabras 1 and 2, and Tanguisson 1 and 2 power plants are nearing the end of their operational lifespan.

The cost of implementing the required stack emission controls would require a significant increase in base rates and there would be no efficiency gains resulting from this significant investment, according to the power authority.

GPA is working on the eventual closure of the Tanguisson power plant before May 2015.

Meeting

GPA representatives already met with USEPA's Air Enforcement Division on Nov. 24 in San Francisco as had been scheduled.

According to Benavente, the meeting allowed GPA to communicate what actions Guam has taken so far with respect to compliance with the applicable regulations.

“It avoided having USEPA issue a consent decree without our input which could have made negotiations quite challenging," he said.

As a result of discussions, USEPA has asked GPA to submit a compliance schedule which would be reasonable and appropriate for their consideration, Benavente said.

Part of GPA’s proposed compliance plan is the procurement of a new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation. According to the presentation, the units could run potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Solar experts partake of renewable energy training

Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM


Guam - Professionals from the solar industry and government agencies such as the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Energy Office are receiving training that will advance their expertise on Guam's fastest growing renewable energy. Participants gained knowledge on how to apply National Electrical Code standards and industry best practices to residential and commercial grid direct solar electric systems to ensure safe, code compliant design and installation. According to photovoltaic instructor Brian Mehalic with Solar Energy International, completion of this training will allow the participants who have successfully completed the exam to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. 

Islanders sound off on repealing pay raises

Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - It was late last year when lawmakers, elected officials and political appointees received raises and retro pay, a public hearing is being held tonight at the Guam Legislature on legislation to rescind the raises and repeal the public law. So what do the people of Guam think about it?

Just weeks after legislation was shot down that would revoke the pay raises senators approved for themselves in November, another bill is again before the Guam Legislature. "I think it's a wonderful thing to repeal them," expressed Ginny Godsoe.

Bill 4 introduced by Senator Michael San Nicolas seeks to rescind the pay raises for elected and appointed officials by repealing Public Law 32-208. Godsoe, from Mangilao, supports the bill's intent, saying, "Why? because they keep giving themselves raises and then they keep taking from other things that should have the money secondly when you don't pass things in congress and in the senate, you should not be paid for that."

San Nicolas has long opposed raises for elected leaders and even introduced similar legislation late last year but it failed on session floor. For some like Barrigada resident Ben Taisapic, he asked lawmakers a questioned posed at a recent hearing on similar legislation. "What makes them so special on a small population and a small island and making more?" he challenged.  "They want to fatten their belly up first and they consider the people homeless or whatever (some people are hurting too). For a small island, population 159,000 or 170,000 at the most, they're making more than people in the States with the population at 11 million, what is their responsibility?"

But it's not just raises that caused uproar, but retroactive payments given to senators and the Executive Branch. Dededo resident Theodore Abella said, "They may deserve the increase, but it's big, can you imagine, that's a lot of money and to top it off, I think it should not be retroactive not even anywhere I heard that raises are retroactive for almost a year it's ridiculous," he said.

along with reducing the salaries of elected and appointed officials to the level before raises were given, Bill 4 would also prohibit the waiving of the public hearing requirement for any legislation that would raises salaries of elected officials. Tamuning resident Tim Rock believes Bill 4 is more upfront for the people. "Nothing ever came before the public for any sort of input, it just happened after the election and I think there should be more public input as far as giving people quite a bit of money out of pockets and maybe we want to have some say in it," Rock said.-BUTT-

Along with Bill 4, a public hearing will also be heard on Resolution 2-33 which asks Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo to introduce legislation in Congress to amend the Organic Act to prohibit elected officials from enacting pay raises until an election has intervened. 

Former homeless woman seeks to help those without a place to stay

Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

Guam - One Guamanian woman was once homeless but is now working to address the issue of homelessness on the island.

"People in Guam don't have their own place to sleep at night," said Esther Taijeron. Just a few short years ago, she was one of these individuals. "I Came to Guam in October of 2012 I entered Oasis in July of 2013. I'm a recovering alcoholic, so when I came out here my family didn't want me 26 so I became homeless," she explained.

Without income or family to support her, she was left to the streets. However, when Taijeron found Oasis, it changed her life. "I found Oasis and they provided me with housing for over 15 months," she recalled. "They hired me on after my 6 months, when I completed residential."

She is now a caseworker trying to give back and help others in similar situations. Guam Homeless Coalition vice chair Diana Calvo says the situations vary: "Substance use, individuals are furloughed from their job because of downsizing or projects are completed, sometimes divorce or separation from family, sometimes domestic violence," she explained.

But who can help? Calvo says organizations to contact include Catholic Social Services, Oasis, Sanctuary, Lighthouse Recovery Center, or the Guam Homeless Coalition liaison at 475-1406. "The services that are provided include financial assistance to prevent homelessness, or to also assist in obtaining more permanent housing," she added.

Calvo stresses that homelessness is actually a community issue, interrelated with everything from our schools to our healthcare system and economy. "One of the challenges that we have in the coalition is that we are maxed out really in our ability to meet the demand," she added.

Because of this organizations struggle to meet the needs of the homeless community, and she urges both the community and government to work together to address the issue. 


The future is under the ground


Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY PAUL ZERZAN


HONG Kong’s Development Chief Paul Chan Mo-Po suggests creating more space for Hong Kong’s expansion by construction underground. He made this suggestion on a recent blog after touring extensive European underground construction (especially in Paris and Switzerland).

Chan Mo-Po visited Paris in late October with a delegation from Hong Kong’s Civil Engineering and Development Department, and the team was impressed with one project in particular that uses underground space for commercial and transportation purposes. Reaching five levels below ground, this project has a mall on three levels and a railway station on two levels. This station handles 750,000 passengers daily.

Prior to the Paris tour the department made a separate visit to Switzerland where many sports and recreational facilities as well as conference halls and exhibition venues are subterranean. Underground spaces are also used for sophisticated industrial and scientific work such as chip-making and radioactive nuclear experiments because the surrounding rocks provide ideal stability and insulation.

I think Guam should pay close attention to these developments because it offers a way of preserving open spaces on our island’s limited surface area as inevitable population growth and industrial-type development occur.

In addition much of Guam’s infrastructure could be protected from storms, bombs and solar flares by going underground and well-stocked underground warehouses would decrease Guam’s vulnerability to any temporary shutdown in world commerce from pandemics, wars, etc.

Guam is fortunate in that underground construction could actually pay for itself. The limestone of Guam is soft and easily mined. It is a valuable commodity with a myriad of uses (from water purification to cement). China is a large and very close market (more cement has been used in China in the last 10 years than has been used in the U.S. in the last 200 years).

Once exposed to air, limestone hardens and becomes waterproof. The underground caves of Guam show such constructions are immune to earthquake damage. With underground malls, theaters, parking and roads Guam could continue to function during and after typhoons. The University of Guam could be expanded downward without impairing its open and scenic campus.

Tunneling and mining technology has been greatly improved in the last few decades and I think Guam should look into the local implications and applicability of these developments. Last month (Dec. 28, 2014) a large 5,000-year-old underground city was discovered near Nevselir, Turkey. I think it would be nice if we left a similar archeological wonder for our descendants to marvel at 5,000 years from now. I think the future is under the ground.


 


Mathew 4 days ago


Good op-column, Paul Z. My engineer cousin told me that his instructor back in the day (like 40 years ago) said that for every 7 storeys up, you can build 2 downward, to maintain structural integrity, with mitigation for drainage issues. (A real engineer like Dave Davis can expand on this, if he cares to.)



Museum construction ‘moving along’ but likely over budget


Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


ABOUT 47 percent of the overall construction of the multimillion-dollar Guam and Chamorro Education Facility has been completed, according to Larry Toves, project coordinator with the Guam Economic Development Authority.


Toves updated GEDA board members about the museum’s construction at yesterday’s board meeting. In August 2013, Toves said about 30 percent of the construction was complete. Damaged piles delayed the project since the damage prevented contractors from pouring the foundation of the building last summer.

Of the 266 piles, there is still one damaged pile that needs to be worked on and that is being addressed, Toves said yesterday.

“Where we’re at today, basically, we’re just about complete with the theater building. We have the starter walls up already. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be starting on the roof,” Toves said. “We have starter walls along the main building already going up. To date, we’ve had approximately 1,400 cubic yards of concrete already poured. The total volume for this project is about 5,000 cubic yards (of concrete.)”

Toves did not have a project completion date, but told board members he would consult with the contractor and give more information later.

“We’re moving along. At this point it’s starting to look like we’ve gone vertical now. We’ve gone past the piles and stuff,” Toves said.

Over budget

Toves said the project will likely be over budget.

The museum was originally priced at $27 million and expected to open in December 2014, but with the facility still under construction, the opening date has yet to be determined.

The project broke ground in February 2013. In June 2014, Toves said that 60 of the 260 piles turned out to be damaged or potentially damaged. The contractor, Inland Builders, had driven the piles into the earth and many were damaged or potentially damaged, which was an unforeseen circumstance, Toves said.

The museum is among the projects being funded by the government’s $90 million hotel occupancy tax bond.

The museum includes an elevated design to protect the artifacts that will be inside, since the area where it will stand is prone to flooding, according to Variety files.

The facility museum is being built at Skinner Plaza in Hagåtña and will be three stories high. It will feature a café, a bookstore, a theater, changing exhibits, an atrium and outdoor activity spaces, according to projected scopes of work.


Summertime opening likely for new Farmers Co-op facility


Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE new Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam facility in Dededo is expected to be completed by early June this year, according to Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager for the Guam Economic Development Authority.


Mendiola and Larry Toves, project coordinator, updated board members yesterday about the progress of several hotel occupancy tax bond projects, including the Dededo farmers market.

“The completion date is end of May, early June, that’s our target,” Mendiola said. “Currently, the structure is only pending inspection from (the Department of Public Works) of their roof forms and rebars. They will be pouring the roof for the farmers facility next week.”

The new Farmers Co-op building is near the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Santa Monica Avenue. It will feature a retail farmers market, dry and cold storage, a community kitchen, dining area, stalls for flea market sellers and a parking facility, according to the scope of work provided by the Guam HOT bond project website.

Construction on the 6.9-acre lot began last year and the new facility will serve as a central place for island farmers from the Farmers Co-op to sell produce.

Bill McDonald, president of the co-op, said at the start of the construction that he and the other farmers were looking forward to using the facility.

There will also be a space for cleaning, sorting and packing, features which some farmers do not always have readily available to them, McDonald said.

The facility will also house the Dededo Flea Market, which is currently at the intersection of Route 27 and Marine Corps Drive.

HOT bond

The farmers market is one of several HOT bond projects, funded by the hotel occupancy tax revenue bond series, which was established under P.L. 30-228 in December 2010.

The project cost about $2.5 million, with the contract awarded to Mega United Corp. The Guam Economic Development Authority is the contract administrator; however, the facility will be operated by the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam.

Architects Laguana LLC designed the project and Cha Consulting Inc. is listed as the program manager.

Mendiola told board members yesterday that the farmers market project is “definitely on target and on budget.”



Former AG sued over contract

Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012115/top_200_200.jpgFORMER Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas is being sued for allegedly approving an unlawful independent contract for an attorney in the Office of the Attorney General during his four-year term as AG.

    The contract cost Guam taxpayers more than $157,000 annually, or $590,000 for nearly four years.

    Besides Rapadas, Chief Deputy Attorney General Philip Tydingco and then-acting Attorney General John Weisenberger were also named defendants of a lawsuit filed by Guam taxpayer William Bischoff at the Superior Court. Bischoff is a former assistant attorney general.

    Rapadas assumed the AG position in January 2011. Since that time, Bischoff alleged that Rapadas approved an independent contract for John Patrick Mason who filled the position of deputy of the OAG Civil and Solicitor Division.

    Mason’s contract amounted to $157,186 per year. The contract was renewed annually from Jan. 3, 2011 through Sept. 17, 2014.

    Bischoff alleged that the position Mason occupied at the OAG was not authorized to be filled by an independent contractor.

    Bischoff said Mason, during the years of serving the OAG under contract, was double-dipping which is a violation of the law. Mason, he claimed, was receiving an annuity of approximately $52,000 per year under the Government of Guam Retirement Fund Defined Benefit Plan.

    ‘Impracticable’

    Under the budget law for four fiscal years – P.L. 30-196, 31-77, 31-233 and 32-068 – the OAG was permitted to enter into contracts, such as Mason’s, for attorney’s services only for areas in which it is “impracticable and impossible” for the OAG to use its employed attorneys.

    These laws, Bischoff said, also required that such contracts with the OAG were to be in accordance with procurement laws of Guam.

    “At all times while defendant Rapadas was the attorney general of Guam and Mr. Mason's independent contractor's contract with the OAG was in effect, the contract was not let in accordance with the procurement laws of Guam, and Mr. Mason was not providing attorney's services to the OAG in areas in which it was impracticable or impossible for the OAG to proceed with its employed attorneys,” the complaint stated.

    Nevertheless, the complainant said, Rapadas at least once either personally or through Tydingco signed a re-certification for Mason's contract, certifying that Mason was providing services to the OAG in areas in which it was impracticable or impossible for the OAG to proceed with its employed attorneys.

    Bischoff alleged that since Rapadas became AG in January 2011, he illegally expended taxpayers’ money to pay for Mason’s unlawful contract without proper appropriation or authority.

    In keeping with the Proper Government Spending Act, Bischoff is seeking a personal judgment against Rapadas for the return to the government of Guam of all money paid to Mason for his contract in the years Rapadas was responsible for government money being paid to Mason.

    A personal judgment against Weisenberger was also sought by Bischoff for the three months – Oct. 1, 2010 to Jan. 3, 2011 – that he served as acting attorney general. The amount being sought from Weisenberger is $39,250. Additionally, Weisenberger, Bischoff said, must also return an additional $117,775 in additional expenses incurred from Jan. 3, 2011 through September 2011.

    Bischoff is seeking a personal judgment against Tydingco for the return to the government of Guam, along with Weisenberger and Rapadas, the amounts that the two are found liable.

    Bischoff is also seeking judgment for attorney's fees and costs of the lawsuit, to be assessed jointly and severally against all of the defendants.

    Scoff filed the lawsuit on Dec. 30, 2014.

Support for the homeless

Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WE COMMEND Gov. Eddie Calvo for his efforts to address the island’s homeless problem. Gauging from the last two homeless surveys conducted by the Guam Homeless Coalition, there are between 1,000 and 1,500 homeless individuals on the island, and about 180 households with children. Last week, the Variety reported on two families that have pitched tents in a pavilion at the Paseo de Susana; those families each have 1-year-old babies.

Last year, the coalition also reported that 13 homeless individuals were mentally ill; 15 were substance abusers, and six were victims of substance abuse. These individuals are in need of support from programs whose resources are already stretched.

In addition, the survey lists 67 people as “chronically homeless.” So the vast majority of those living on the street, or the beach, or in the jungle or abandoned buildings, have apparently fallen on hard luck and would benefit from the opportunity to support themselves. Some, such as those the governor met and the Variety reported on, are in need of medical care.

Others need the type of job-finding and training programs the government offers.

We are also mindful of the gap between Guam’s low wage structure and the high cost of suitable housing. Programs, such as the affordable-rent, federal-tax-credit subsidized Ironwood and Summer homes are welcome and helpful, but we are told they fill quickly. And they clearly are not meeting the needs of those who remain homeless.

Other initiatives would benefit the homeless and others living in poverty. Finding a job is not much help if the would-be employee cannot get to the job site. The benefits of a reliable mass transit system, for example, have been expounded on. Such a system would enable people to get to work, medical appointments, shopping, job interviews and training, and elsewhere without the expense of owning a vehicle. We support the reinstatement of the expanded route schedule even if it requires a government subsidy. Such a subsidy would function as an investment if it allows residents to access the job market.

We are particularly concerned about the long-term effect on the children in homeless families who may not have access to proper nutrition or health care.

The universal pre-school initiative, when implemented, will be especially helpful for children who are disadvantaged. Children are able to gain the pre-school skills and background that will help them enter kindergarten at a level more on par with classmates who may have a more stable home life.

We are encouraged that the government has committed to increasing its help to the homeless. We particularly favor the programs that will give a boost to those in need of help to get back some financial footing, and those that address the long-term needs of children so that all can break out of whatever cycle of poverty they may be in.

  • Mathew 2 days ago

    It is the main stakeholders of Guam, but specifically the Calvo administration, that is chiefly responsible for the increase of homelessness. Weren't FAS folks kicked to the back of the line for GHURA housing by the Feds, upon Guam's insistence? Was not the Gov. opposed to the $10.10 hike in the minimum wage, along with his then go-to-guy at the Legislature, former Sen. Chris Duenas, who has found himself with a cushy gig now at Adelup, which would have helped a whole lot of working class families? If Guam is going to progress economically, it has to reject red state politics and red state supply side voodoo economics. States -- and territories -- are laboratories for policy making and economic growth models. California, often derided by the right-wingers is now the 7th largest economy in the world, given its economic diversity and immigrant assimilation while red state economies that relied primarily on one major industry, like some 3rd world despotic nations, are now in trouble.

Speaker stresses importance of critical thinking

Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ON THE occasion of Monday's commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Speaker Judith Won Pat called on the Guam Department of Education to also emphasize the importance of public service and learning outside the classroom.

In her weekly address, Won Pat called on GDOE to promote critical thinking and public service in emulation of King, whose words and actions led to social change.

"He believed in the power of education and in the power of service. He once stated that 'Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?’ As we remember him this week, let us ponder this question and explore its relevance to our lives today," the speaker said.

Won Pat said she was especially moved by King's dedication to learning and his call for educators to teach their students to think intensively and to think critically.

"Critical thinking often involves a careful examination of one’s life and one’s community. It is essential that our teachers and school administrators remember this when setting priorities in our island’s schools. Our students must be able to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the integral role they play in our island community," the speaker said.

She added that a commitment to critical thinking and service doesn’t only apply to children: "We are all students of life and must be open to learning and growing every day. Dr. King also stated that we must 'look calmly and honestly at ourselves.' As we honor him, I ask you to do just that. Take a look at your life and all the wonderful things you have learned, and discover how you can share your gifts with others to make our community a better place."


Safety enhancements for roads leading to Layon excluded in Guam’s master plan

Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TWO Guam Department of Public Works officials yesterday said that the safety enhancement measures for Route 4 were not included in Guam’s Transportation Improvement Plan, or GTIP, which listed the priority projects that the Guam government planned to build in the years ahead.

The plan was initiated in 2012. This document was described as the master plan of all priority road and highway projects for Guam.

According to Joaquin Blaz, DPW highway administrator, the list of priority projects in the plan were based solely on the decision of the DPW director with the concurrence of the federal highway administration which provides most of the funding for the projects.

Blas said the transportation improvement plan listed the priority projects to be built by the Guam government until 2030.

The plan, he said, had undergone two revisions: one in 2013 and one in 2014.

In these modifications, the recommended safety enhancements on Route 4 remained excluded from the plan, Blaz said yesterday.

If an amendment to the plan incorporates the Route 4 safety enhancement measures, Blaz said it will take some time – maybe six months to nearly a year – before they can be added. He explained the several steps in the process of amending the plan.

Yesterday’s hearing at the U.S. District Court of Guam was to address the proposed financing plan submitted by the government of Guam on Sept. 30 relating to the projects and issues surrounding the closure of the Ordot Dump.

In this financing proposal, GovGuam seeks to remove certain requirements previously included as consent decree projects and to provide financing for other project requirements.

Specific improvements

The federal consent decree calls for specific improvements along Route 4 in order to address traffic safety issues related to the continuous use of Route 4 by large, heavy commercial trucks hauling solid waste to the Layon Landfill.

The proposed financing plan was opposed by the court-appointed solid waste receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, citing the safety issues at risk if no improvements will be made.

In yesterday’s hearing, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said that upon seeing in actuality the situation during a tour of Route 4 last Friday, she cited her concerns about what she saw.

Tydingco-Gatewood said she was surprised by what she saw compared to statements made by the federal highway administration that Route 4 is no more dangerous than other roads in Guam, as reported by GovGuam.

“I am kind of shocked by that statement. I just drove there on Friday and ... my definition of safety seems different from the definition of the federal highway administration (official),” she said.

Tydingco-Gatewood said that in the six-day weekly operation in Harmon, as many as 20 trucks a day have been traveling back and forth on these “unsafe roads.” She also cited the danger posed to residents.

The trucks carry 24 to 25 tons of waste, 10 or more times each workday, and are required to negotiate 18 curves that they cannot navigate without invading the oncoming lane of traffic.

Temporary measure

While the escort vehicles initiated by the receiver have been an effective short-term safety measure, they are intended as a temporary measure only, officials said.

Tydingco-Gatewood reminded GovGuam yesterday that the full transition timeline has already been approved by the court which ends the receiver’s role in December. She said it is now a question of whether or not it will happen since several requirements for the full transition have not yet been satisfied by GovGuam.

According to GovGuam yesterday, funding to do the recommended measures and projects remains the big challenge for the government. That’s why, it said, it submitted a proposed financing plan.

GovGuam is seeking to amend the consent decree to delete the planned improvements to Route 4 in order to gain $6.4 million in savings, which the administration hopes to be able to have available to use for other government expenditures.

But Tydingco-Gatewood said GovGuam had 10 years to get its act together, even before the consent decree and the receivership.

How projects become ‘priority’

Concerned that safety measures on Route 4 never made it to the transportation improvement plan, the court was curious to hear what criteria were used by DPW in identifying “priority” projects for the plan.

According to Phillip Slagel, DPW chief engineer, several factors are considered in prioritizing a project. Among these are the design speed, geometric design, traffic and congestion, accident history and clear zone.

For Route 4 to be prioritized, these criteria would have to be satisfied.

Slagel said that although the Route 4 safety enhancement was identified in the plan for 2030, he described this as not a comprehensive plan.

The federal highway administration, to provide funding assistance for the road enhancements, will need to look at many more aspects of the roadways.

However, the chief engineer said that by instituting “interim measures,” such concerns can be satisfied.

The hearing on the government’s proposed financing plan will continue on Jan. 22.

Impact statement to be released this year

Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Cmdr. Daniel Schaan, Joint Guam Program Office Director, said the supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the early part of this year but the exact release date has not been determined. Photo by Jasmine Stole / Variety

JOINT Guam Program Office Director, Cmdr. Daniel Schaan, said the supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the early part of this year but the exact release date has not been determined.

Schaan met with the Mayors’ Council of Guam yesterday morning and encouraged the mayors to engage JGPO. The main concern mayors brought up at yesterday’s meeting with Schaan was the timing of the military buildup. The mayors at the meeting wanted to know when the relocation of thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam would happen, Schaan said.

“The SEIS is going to be released in early 2015. Concurrently with the SEIS being finalized is consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Those two are precursors to the record of decision which is going to identify and affirm which of the alternatives – if any – are going to be selected as places where the buildup is going to actually occur,” Schaan said.

The National Environmental Policy Act is a deliberate process and multiple agencies are involved in the NEPA process working to ensure all interest is properly vetted, recognized and documented, Schaan said.

NEPA is a federal act that requires a federal agency to employ a systematic approach to analyze the environmental impact on a proposed action, consider alternative actions and make an informed decision when considering taking a major federal action. In this case, the major federal action is the proposed relocation of 5,000 Marines and about 1,300 of their family members to Guam.

Hearings

The U.S. military will soon release a final supplemental environmental impact statement. Last spring, public comment hearings for the draft SEIS were held in the northern, central and southern parts of the island, drawing hundreds of residents in favor and opposed to the buildup.

Schaan said prior to yesterday’s meeting with the mayors’ council, he also met with Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares and Yigo Mayor Rudy Matanane.

“We want to make sure we have a good relationship with Dededo because that’s one of the alternative reserves in that location. We met with Mayor Rudy Matanane, he’s a strong partner with the military being adjacent to the military base,” Schaan said.

The military’s goal is to be good partners with Guam leaders and residents for ‘one Guam’,” Schaan said.

“The JGPO office is transparent. Our goal is to be open and clear about what we’re doing and we operate on the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment,” he said.

The draft SEIS included an evaluation of alternatives for construction and operation of a live-fire training range complex, a main base and family housing, as well as a new assessment of impacts on Guam’s civil infrastructure. The draft is available online.


Landowners sue airport


Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012015/top_200_200.jpgGovernor, ancestral lands commission also sued

THE Guam International Airport Authority, Gov. Eddie Calvo and the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission are facing a class action lawsuit after ancestral land owner Vicente Palacios “Benny” Crawford, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, filed the suit against them in the U.S. District Court on Friday.


Crawford is the landowner of a lot in Tiyan. His family's ownership of the lot dates back to before World War II, according to documents filed in court.

In addition to being the heir to the lot, Crawford is also the administrator of his mother's estate which is currently being used by the airport authority for its operations.

Crawford’s lot is on the eastern edge of the airport property, adjacent to the runways. Pursuant to law, Crawford filed an ancestral title and compensation application with the GALC and a claim of interest with the Department of Land Management asserting his ancestral claim to this lot.

The lands commission has verified Crawford's claim to the lot and his name appears on GALC's list which identifies all of the landowners who have claims to the property currently being used to operate the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, according to the documents.

Crawford said he has never received compensation from the airport or the government of Guam for the use of his land for airport operations. This prompted him to file the suit on behalf of himself and other individuals who are similarly situated.

Empty-handed

In his complaint, Crawford claims that while Guam and the GIAA enjoy millions of dollars in airport revenue each year, class members remain empty-handed.

According to the 24-page document, Crawford indicated four specific claims.

The first claim is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the denial of procedural due process.

Under Guam law, the plaintiff and class members have valid claims of entitlement to their ancestral lands, including the "ancestral property right" recognized by statute. As a result, class members are entitled to either the return of their land or full compensation for the government's use of it. Despite numerous laws enacted, this didn’t happen for the class members.

The second claim on the lawsuit is for declaratory and injunctive relief under denial of equal protection to cease the differential treatment of the plaintiff and class members and to implement policies and practices that will ensure all Tiyan ancestral landowners are given an opportunity to recover their land or its full value.

The third claim is for breach of contract against the defendants.

According to Crawford’s complaint, P.L. 26-100, 30-06 and 30-158 constitute an agreement between the government of Guam, GALC, the plaintiff and class members. Under this agreement, the government of Guam and the GALC agreed to provide the landowners with compensation for their lands. In exchange, the class members agreed to transfer their ownership of the Tiyan ancestral lands to the government of Guam and end their ancestral land claims.

“The government of Guam and the GALC have breached their agreement with plaintiff and class members by failing to provide them with the compensation they agreed to provide,” stated the document.

Unjust enrichment

Crawford is also claiming unjust enrichment against the defendants. According to the complaint, the airport has enjoyed substantial economic benefits from its continued use of the ancestral lands in the form of revenues, rent and other financial benefits it has received through its airport operations.

In his filing, Crawford asked the federal court to certify his filing as a class suit against the defendants and appoint him and his counsel to represent the class members.

Crawford is also requesting the court to enter an injunctive and/or declaratory relief as requested or as otherwise may be appropriate.

The court is also asked to order the airport to disgorge the revenues and other financial benefits it has received as a result of its use of class members’ ancestral lands, and award him attorney fees and the costs of the suit.

Lastly, Crawford also demands a trial jury on all issues that might be tried in court.

Crawford is represented by attorney Ignacio C. Aguigui. The defendants include the airport authority, its board chairman Edward Untalan, the governor, and ancestral lands chairwoman Anita Orlino. Five other John Does are included as defendants and are as-yet unknown insurers who may be providing liability coverage for any of the defendants.

During World War II, Japan occupied Guam and many landowners were forced off of their property. When the war ended, the United States regained control of Guam, placed it under the control of the United States Navy, condemned and converted large areas of the island into military bases, and many of the original Chamorro landowners did not have their lands returned.

On Nov. 15, 1945, the United States Congress passed the Guam Land Transfer Act which authorized the return of lands to Guam for the benefit of ancestral landowners, according to the complaint.


 

Jeju begins new twice-weekly nonstop Busan flight service

Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (GVB) – Jeju Air has launched its new twice weekly nonstop flight service between Busan, South Korea and Guam, the Guam Visitors Bureau announced.

An inaugural ceremony was held Jan. 8 at the Gimhae Aiport in Busan for the new flights.

A Guam delegation consisting of Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, GVB Deputy General Manager Nathan Denight, Miss Guam Chanel Jarrett and other GVB staff attended the event.

They also met with Jeju Air CEO Kyu Nam Choi, Busan Regional Aviation Administration Chief Administrator Jongguk Lee and other Korean transportation and airport executives.

The inaugural flight from Busan arrived in Guam in the early morning of Friday, Jan. 9, with passengers treated to a welcome reception.

“This is great news for Guam and we applaud the efforts of Jeju Air in helping us to grow and diversify our Korea market, which translates into more jobs and opportunities for our island people,” Tenorio said.

“Our administration and GVB continue to welcome all visitors to Guam, especially as we move forward with the Tourism 2020 goal of bringing in two million visitors,” he added.

“Jeju Air’s confidence in Guam as a premier destination is definitely going to help us achieve even greater visitor arrival numbers going forward,” said GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan.

“This past year alone, we received nearly 310,000 Korean visitors, which exceeded our initial 2014 goals. GVB has been working closely with the governor’s office and A. B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority to encourage Jeju Air to pursue more routes to Guam. This inaugural flight is a clear demonstration of the airline’s commitment to grow our Korean tourism market and we just want to thank them for their support,” Pangelinan added.

The new seating capacity with Jeju Air’s 737-800 aircraft has the potential to bring more than 18,000 additional travelers out of Busan and will help GVB reach its 2015 goal to bring in about 375,000 Korean visitors to Guam.

Jeju Air is a Korean low-cost carrier affiliated with the Aekyung Group. The airline also operates daily flights to Guam out of Seoul, which began in 2012.



Joshua Tenorio appointed court administrator

Posted: Jan 15, 2015 ? by Sabrina Salas Matanane  kuam

Guam - He's been serving in the position in an acting capacity for a year and now it's official. The Judicial Council of Guam today unanimously appointed Joshua Tenorio to serve as the Administrator of the Courts for the Judiciary of Guam. Tenorio was initially hired in November 2011 as the Director of Policy, Planning and Community Relations.

   

Korean investors attend Real Estate Construction Expo

Posted: Jan 16, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - Close to 70 investors from Korea are on island. The investors attended a special Guam Real Estate Construction and Economic Expo late this afternoon at the Pacific Star Hotel. The Guam Pacific Danulim Company hosted the expo in order for the investors to meet with government agencies to learn more about possible development on island.

Managing director James Young Kim explains some of the ideas for development on Guam, saying, "Development from the hotel to leisure to water parks, to townhouse and condominiums and construction, too."

The participating government agencies included the Guam Visitors Bureau, the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Department of Land Management and the Governor's Office. The nearly six dozen investors will be touring the island on Saturday before leaving on Sunday.

       

Guam Homeless Coalition to conduct annual homeless survey

Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Homeless Coalition is scheduled to conduct its annual survey of homeless individuals and families on Friday, Jan. 30.

    Since 2005, local authorities kept count of the island’s homeless population. With the help of volunteers, the coalition conducts an islandwide survey to find and count individuals without homes or those living in substandard conditions.

    The Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, which oversees the coalition, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct the homeless population count, said Amor Say, a planner at GHURA.

    GHURA Executive Director Michael Duenas said the coalition is also looking for adults to volunteer on Jan. 30 to help with the count. Volunteers will also be expected to undergo a day of training.

    “We are now in the planning stages of the next point-in-time count,” Duenas said. “From last year’s count we were looking at about 180 homeless households with families with children.”

    Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows 1,356 individuals total were considered homeless at last year’s point-in-time count.

    Of the 1,356 individuals, 67 were considered chronically homeless, 15 were considered chronic substance abusers, 13 were severely mentally ill, 36 were veterans, and six were victims of domestic abuse.

    Compared to data gathered in 2013, the homeless population increased from 1,271 individuals to 1,356 in 2014. Although the homeless population increased, the number of chronically homeless individuals and families decreased from 290 in 2013 to 67 in 2014.

    Suggestions

    Many times, the coalition seeks suggestions from village mayors or coalition members for areas to canvass during the annual homeless count and tally. The count is a day-long event and begins in the early morning into the night with volunteers and coalition members canvassing the island to gather an accurate tally of how many people are considered homeless.

    Last week, two homeless families pitched tents in Paseo de Susana park in Hagåtña as they awaited approval for GHURA public housing. They said they’ve been homeless for months and took shelter at other pavilions including the one across from the Guam Police Department Hagåtña precinct.

    Department of Parks and Recreation Director Raymond Blas said that homeless people taking shelter in public parks is a problem at all the pavilions around the island.

    GHURA receives grant funding from Continuum of Care, a federally funded program that aims to address the needs of the nation’s homeless people. The coalition uses funds from the Continuum of Care grant to help homeless individuals on island.

    The data collected from the homeless point-in-time count, in addition to understanding the number of individuals without suitable homes that are on Guam, will be used on a local level to identify gaps in the services provided to the homeless, officials said.

    On a national level, the data will be used to measure how well the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness is meeting its goals.

    The Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness was initiated in 2010 by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress.

    HUD defines homelessness in a few ways. A new category of homelessness applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 days or more.

    This category also includes families with children who have moved twice or more in the last 60 days and are likely to continue to be unstably housed.

  

GPA, Navy top toxic release inventory data for Guam

Saturday, 17 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Jared Blumenfeld

THE Guam Power Authority and the Naval Base Guam’s Apra Harbor wastewater plant were the top two facilities for total on-site and off-site releases according to a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Guam’s TRI data is part of the annual report for the Pacific Southwest region released by USEPA this week.

TRI data is submitted annually by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste.

A "release" generally refers to a chemical that is emitted to the air, water or placed in some type of land disposal unit. Most of these releases are subject to a variety of regulatory requirements designed to limit human and environmental harm, according to USEPA.

On Guam, a total of 12 facilities reported 517,157 pounds of toxic chemical releases in 2013. However, total reported on-site and off-site releases decreased when compared to the 572,000 pounds reported in 2012.

USEPA reported that Guam ranks 23rd out of 56 states/territories based on total releases per square mile.

CNMI

Meanwhile, data for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands showed that a total of eight facilities reported 15,370 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2013.

CNMI figures also showed a decrease in total reported on-site and off-site releases when compared to 2012 data.

The Commonwealth Utilities Corp and the Mariana Acquisition Corp’s Saipan Terminal, a petroleum bulk terminal were the top two facilities for total on-site and off-site releases.

2012

The 2012 figures for Guam indicate an increase in releases when compared to 2011 data. USEPA data from 2012 in Guam show that since 2011, toxic air releases increased by 9 percent, toxic water releases increased 16 percent, and on-site transfers increased by 802 pounds.

An aggregate of 11 facilities on Guam reported a total of 572,245 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012.

Among the top facilities on Guam with the highest levels of toxic release were the Guam Power Authority, Naval Base Guam, South Pacific Petroleum Corp. and Mobil Oil Guam’s Cabras Island terminal.

In CNMI, a total of eight facilities reported a combined 79,469 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012, an increase over 2011’s 3,224 pounds mainly due to four new facilities reporting toxic release data.

Not released

According to USEPA, the TRI report showed that a majority of toxic chemicals managed at industrial facilities in the U.S. were not released into the environment.

Moreover, national data in 2013 indicate that approximately 84 percent of the 26 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were managed through the use of preferred practices such as recycling.

"We all have a right to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released into our environment, and what progress companies are making to reduce, recycle or prevent waste from being generated in the first place,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This year, our online database known as the TRI Explorer is more robust than ever, and we encourage the public to make use of the extensive information available there.”

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), requires facilities to report prior year's toxic chemical release data by July 1. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.

Relaxation and beauty top motivators for Korean traveler

Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/011915/gvb_200_200.jpgA Guam Visitors Bureau delegation makes a presentation in Seoul to attract more Korean tourists to Guam. Data from the Guam Visitors Bureau show the average Korean visitor’s top two important reasons for choosing Guam are that Guam is a relaxing destination and the island has great beaches and natural beauty. Contributed photo

DATA from the Guam Visitors Bureau show the average Korean visitor’s top two important reasons for choosing Guam as a destination is to relax, and for the island’s beaches and natural beauty. A short travel time and safety are also among the top reasons for traveling to Guam, according to GVB’s August 2014 exit survey.

Bart Jackson, chairman of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association and chairman of the GVB Korea and Russia marketing committee, said with direct Russian flights halted indefinitely, the bureau’s primary focus must be on its top markets, Japan and Korea, while also looking to grow the Chinese market.

On Jan. 9, Jeju Air began twice weekly nonstop flights from Busan to Guam. GVB officials said they anticipate Korean arrivals for this year could reach upwards of 350,000.

“We exceeded 300,000 visitors in the calendar (2014) for the first time ever,” Jackson said. With new nonstop flights from United and Jeju airlines and with Jin Air increasing seat capacity for flights between Guam and Korea, Jackson said there are 500,000 available seats this year for Korean travelers.

“So half a million seats, 75 percent load factor, you’re talking about 350,000 arrivals from Korea. It’s an enormous number. That has to be our second focus,” Jackson said.

GVB data show most Korean visitors to Guam are married and are an average age of 34 years old. Like the average Japanese visitor, most Korean travelers travel with their family and almost none, about six percent of those surveyed, travel alone.

First-time visitors

Unlike the Japanese market however, many Korean travelers are first-time visitors to Guam. In August, 87 percent of those surveyed were visiting Guam for the first time, similar to data from 10 months prior which showed an average 84 percent of Koreans are first-timers to the island. Less than 20 percent of Korean visitors surveyed are repeat visitors.

In contrast, more than half of the Japanese visitors surveyed were repeat visitors. On average, 44 percent of Japanese travelers that came to Guam between October 2013 through August 2014 had been to Guam before.

Further, the average repeat visitor from Japan has been to Guam three times.

Stay longer

Korean visitors tend to stay on Guam a day longer than Japanese visitors, based on the exit surveys. Between October 2013 and August 2014, Korean travelers stayed about 3.6 nights, compared to an average of 2.7 nights for the average Japanese traveler in the same time period. 

While they are on Guam, Korean travelers spend about $480 per person, most of which is spent on gifts for others. They also spend about $842 for prepaid travel costs. This is similar to Japanese customers who spend an average of $489 on-island and about $768 for prepaid travel costs.

Most Korean visitors surveyed, 95 percent, found out about Guam through Internet searches or blogs, while 40 percent of those surveyed relied on recommendations from friends or family for information about Guam and 1 percent said GVB promotions was a primary source of information about the island.

 

Rededication for Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall

Posted: Jan 16, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

Guam - It was over 10 years ago the National Park Service began creating the Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall. It was meant to be a tribute to last the test of time, however, that was not the case.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said, "The first wall was erected in 1996, but it was severely damaged the following year due to the typhoon, in 2007 the wall was vandalized." Looters stole the plaques inscribed with names of those who died, and sold it for scrap metal.

Although disheartened by this, the National Park Service worked tirelessly to create a new memorial with an even greater collection of names of both Chamorros and American servicemembers who fought and died during the Japanese occupation of World War II.

Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio stated, "We look at names, and we don't see the person, and the pain and the suffering and the death that came from that - that makes our life what it is today: the democracy to be able to speak our minds, to be able to redress our government, to be able to have the quality of life."  He said all things that we enjoy and take for granted today, come from the sacrifice of others, and thanked the audience for attending despite deplorable weather conditions.

"Thank you for the time and the commitment that you've made, to endure the weather, and overcome the traffic accidents, and the water puddles that have made your life difficult, but the difficulties that were faced by the people on this wall is far greater than any difficulty we could imagine," he shared.

Bordallo emphasized that the wall included names of 17,771 people who suffered. 71 years later, she said, their names are now a testament to the resilience of the Chamorro people. "As we rededicate this wall, I hope that it will always serve as a reminder of the role Guam played during World War II, and the resilience our people have demonstrated throughout the history," she noted.

The War in the Pacific National Historical Park Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall is open 8-5pm daily, for our island residents to visit and commemorate our fallen heroes. 

Bordallo vows to promote jobs, improve federal relations

Friday, 16 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/011615/bordallo_200_200.jpgGuam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo yesterday said that she will promote jobs and improve the relationship between the federal government and the community of Guam. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety

AS SHE enters the 114th Congress, Madeleine Bordallo yesterday said she will promote jobs and improve the relationship between the federal government and the community of Guam.

The re-elected delegate was ceremonially sworn in yesterday morning in a ceremony held at the Latte of Freedom at the R.J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex at Adelup. The oath was administered by District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.

“During the 113th Congress, we made significant progress on many issues important to our island, and I will continue to build on this progress to ensure that our community’s concerns are addressed at every level of the federal government,” she told the crowd.

This includes, she said, continuing the progress that Guam made on the military buildup, extending visa-free travel for Chinese visitors to come to Guam, promoting educational and workforce development opportunities, and enhancing services to veterans and seniors in the community.

Bordallo also vowed to continue to work to address longstanding issues affecting the Guam community and to identify practicable solutions to issues such as Compact impact, self-determination, and recognizing Guam’s greatest generation who endured the enemy occupation during World War II.

“However, we will only be successful on moving these issues forward if we are united as one Guam and are able to speak with one voice when dealing with the federal government. This will be even more important given the increasing partisanship in Washington, and divided government between the president and the Congress,” she said, adding that she looked forward to working with local leaders and stakeholders to tackle issues with an open mind to get things done in the best interest of the people of Guam.

‘Deeply humbled’

In her seventh term as Guam’s Delegate to the House of Representatives, Bordallo said she is deeply humbled by the support and confidence the people of Guam have provided to her.

As a community, Guam has achieved much for the island over the last 12 years, she said.

“There is still much work to be done, and I am committed to building on the progress we have made to continue to improve the quality of life on Guam,” she said “Today is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made over the years, and to renew our focus to move our community forward. I am happy to have the campaign season behind me, and to once again, focus on governing. I was encouraged by the support and kind words of countless people I greeted along the way, and I was reminded of all the good that we have accomplished together thus far.”

 

Duenas named CCU chairman, elected members sworn in

Friday, 16 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

JOSEPH Duenas was elected chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities yesterday, succeeding recently re-elected commissioner Simon Sanchez.

Commissioner Pedro Guerrero nominated Duenas as chairman, Francis Santos as vice chairman, George Bamba as the commission secretary and himself as treasurer.

All four nominated commissioners voted in favor of the nominees, with Sanchez abstaining from the vote. With all four commissioners on board and the election of the officers, Chief Justice Robert Torres relinquished the pro tem chairmanship to Duenas and welcomed the four new officers to their positions.

Duenas has more than 25 years of experience as a business professional with substantial experience in the private and public sectors. He also served as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission from 1985 to 1994 and has served as CCU commissioner since January 2009.

Prior to the board election, three members elected to serve on the CCU in the November 2014 election were sworn in – the first group to be sworn in at the commission’s new Gloria B. Nelson Public Service Building at Fadian.

The recently elected members are former Sens. Bamba and Santos, and Sanchez, who was re-elected. Bamba, Santos and Sanchez were sworn in at the conference room of the new building in front of family members and dignitaries.

This is Sanchez’s fourth election to the CCU and Bamba and Santos’ first election. Bamba and Santos replace outgoing commissioners Eloy Hara and Benigno Palomo.

Looked forward

In November, Sanchez said he looked forward to another four years working on utilities, lowering energy costs and protecting the island’s ocean and water.

Bamba said he will bring in new ideas to the CCU and work toward determining the community’s best interest.

Former Gov. Felix Camacho was among other dignitaries at the ceremony including Speaker Judith Won Pat, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Sens. Tom Ada, Frank Aguon, Rory Respicio and Mary Torres.

Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio also attended the ceremony.

The commission is made up of five members elected at large to oversee the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority. It was created by P.L. 26-76 in March 2002.

By law, the CCU has contracting authority for both utilities as well as the responsibility for selecting a qualified general manager and chief financial officer.

‘UOG program cuts are necessary’

Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • UNIVERSITY of Guam President Robert Underwood said program cuts under the university’s Good to Great implementation plan are necessary as part of UOG’s restructuring of priorities.

    The Good to Great implementation plan lists eight programs that will be cut, including the master’s degree program in art, East Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The programs will be cut as a result of UOG’s streamlining plans.

    According to Underwood, the primary reasons for the programs being closed is because they are not functioning as programs, there are no students, or the programs have not graduated enough students.

    “We are restructuring our priorities but the programs that were identified in the Good to Great for elimination are not really not part of any cost-cutting plans,” Underwood told Variety. “These are programs that have not functioned well. There are no students in them or they have only graduated one student in the past three or four years. The programs are not functioning.”

    Underwood said that if there are program majors in the programs slated for closure, “then the university will continue them in order to graduate those existing students.”

    In the original proposal under the Good to Great plan, 12 programs were earmarked for possible closure while others were identified as potential programs for consolidation. The programs were identified after review and input and will require a teach-out plan from the respective dean, according to the university.

    Reasons for specific program closure include lack of student interest, unsustainable enrollment and no dedicated faculty.

    Invest

    Meanwhile, UOG also intends to invest in some programs that were deemed essential, noting that some will receive financial assistance, and efforts to start recruiting for vacancies and new positions will start as soon as the budget permits.

    High priority investment programs include the university’s pre-engineering program, health sciences, the Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific, the marine laboratory and others.

    The UOG board of regents passed a resolution adopting the Good to Great implementation plan in May 2014.

    The resolution noted that the university underwent a two-year review of its programs and activities under the plan to ensure that these are consistent with the mission of the university, financially and programmatically sustainable, of high quality and meet the demands of island communities.

    The process entailed a review of more than 60 academic programs and 35 administration and support activities. The evaluation committee then ranked the programs and activities into quintiles for further action, transformation support and elimination.

    The resolution also pointed out that UOG has had incremental increases in GovGuam support for the past 20 years that are insufficient for growth and maintenance of the current complement of programs.

    

2014 visitor arrivals higher than 2013

Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (ADELUP) – For the third year in a row, tourism arrival numbers reached record-breaking levels. Visitor arrivals during 2014 totalled 1,342,377, which is 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497.

Korean arrivals during 2014 grew by 25.4 percent, while arrivals from mainland China rose by 45 percent and Russian arrivals increased by 101.5 percent. Additionally, sea arrivals for 2014 increased by 115.7 percent.

The diversification and growth in various markets helped strengthen the island’s visitor industry despite Japan’s struggling economy.

The preliminary Monthly Visitor Arrival Report for December 2014 shows a 1.0 percent increase when compared to December 2013, with Guam welcoming a total of 119, 829 visitors.

"We're proud of the hard work that was accomplished in 2014, especially recording another banner year with over 1.3 million visitors. But we also need to be mindful and maintain a keen eye on diversification efforts because the Japan market is vulnerable,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. “These milestones could not have been done without the support of our industry partners and our dedicated tourism employees.”

GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan thanked island leaders and the community for their part in the growth.

“I want to personally thank Gov. Calvo, Lt. Gov. Tenorio, the Guam Legislature and the entire community for stepping up to make our island paradise a better place to live, work and visit,” Pangelinan said.

“Let's keep up the momentum to transform Guam into the destination of choice with more world-class hotels, compelling signature events, and unique activities that center on the pulse of our Chamorro language and culture."

 

2014 visitor arrivals higher than 2013

Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (ADELUP) – For the third year in a row, tourism arrival numbers reached record-breaking levels. Visitor arrivals during 2014 totalled 1,342,377, which is 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497.

Korean arrivals during 2014 grew by 25.4 percent, while arrivals from mainland China rose by 45 percent and Russian arrivals increased by 101.5 percent. Additionally, sea arrivals for 2014 increased by 115.7 percent.

The diversification and growth in various markets helped strengthen the island’s visitor industry despite Japan’s struggling economy.

The preliminary Monthly Visitor Arrival Report for December 2014 shows a 1.0 percent increase when compared to December 2013, with Guam welcoming a total of 119, 829 visitors.

"We're proud of the hard work that was accomplished in 2014, especially recording another banner year with over 1.3 million visitors. But we also need to be mindful and maintain a keen eye on diversification efforts because the Japan market is vulnerable,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. “These milestones could not have been done without the support of our industry partners and our dedicated tourism employees.”

GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan thanked island leaders and the community for their part in the growth.

“I want to personally thank Gov. Calvo, Lt. Gov. Tenorio, the Guam Legislature and the entire community for stepping up to make our island paradise a better place to live, work and visit,” Pangelinan said.

“Let's keep up the momentum to transform Guam into the destination of choice with more world-class hotels, compelling signature events, and unique activities that center on the pulse of our Chamorro language and culture."

 

UOG set to increase tuition in 2015-2016 school year

Posted: Jan 10, 2015 6 by Jolene Toves kuam

Guam - University of Guam students will be seeing slightly higher tuition rates this fall. President Dr. Robert Underwood stated that an increase of 5-6% can be expected to help offset growing costs. He emphasized, however, that UOG has held off on this for as long as possible.

"At the end of this academic year 2014-2015, we will have established a record of six years of no raise in tuition. We are the only public university in the entire United States that has kept tuition flat," he explained.

In fact, universities throughout the nation have averaged a 6% increase in tuition per year. Although tuition rates will be rising, UOG hopes to increase aid and scholarships available to students as well. 

Guamanians are more Constitution-savvy than some mainlanders

Posted: Jan 09, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla kuam

Guam - In an effort to celebrate Constitution Day, UOG's Master of Public Administration program conducted a survey evaluating how well Guam residents know the US Constitution. When compared to over 50 states that participated in the study, Guam ranked eighth overall. Dr. John Rivera attributes this high score to Guam's young history of self-government, recent discussions on self-determination, and prevalent military service  

OPA: Lands agency has poor recording system

Saturday, 10 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Ancestral Lands Commission does not maintain an adequate record of non-appropriated funds and lacks timely collection and monitoring of receivables, according to the Office of Public Accountability’s financial audit report for fiscal 2013.

The OPA report, which was released Wednesday, identified the two material weaknesses, noting the commission “lacks a formal accounting system such as Quickbooks, with no formal reconciliation process for general account balances.”

OPA recommended that the commission implement a formal accounting system and establish policies and procedures requiring the timely collection and monitoring of receivables.

According to OPA, the material weaknesses have been previously identified in a prior performance audit and in the fiscal 2012 financial audit.

MOU

The report also pointed out a lack of monitoring the Guam Economic Development Authority’s handling of commission leases, despite the existence of a memorandum of understanding between the two bodies.

In 2010, the lands commission entered into an MOU with the economic development agency to assist with the development, management and maintenance of the trust lands.

OPA recommended that GALC’s board and management engage in regular dialogue with GEDA to ensure they are performing under the MOU, noting GEDA receives 14.3 percent of ground lease and 20 percent of participation rent for services rendered.

In fiscal 2013, GEDA was paid $98,000 as a management fee for GALC leased/licensed property, according to OPA.

Revenue decrease

GALC closed fiscal 2013 with a net change in fund balance of $597,000, compared to the $733,000 in FY 2012. While expenditures decreased in 2013 by $221,000, it was not enough to offset the $356,000 decrease in revenues.

The report said GALC did not issue any new leases in FY 2013, with land value still at $6.7 million.

The total investment in land and other real estate of $411.1 million was recorded at the government-wide level, of which $6.7 million was for GALC commercial leases and the remaining $404.4 million attributed to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, according to OPA.

As of Sept. 30, 2013, GALC had $789,000 in total revenues compared to the $1.1 million reported in FY 2012, reflecting a $356,000 decrease from the previous fiscal year.

The report noted all commission revenues decreased with the exception of revenue from participation rent. A majority of the decrease was

UOG's WERI recognized by US Geological Survey

Saturday, 10 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE University of Guam Water and Environmental Research Institute (WERI) was praised by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) after being named as one of the top water research institutes in the nation.

USGS, which provides grant funding for WERI, praised the institute for its “significant research accomplishments” and its “impacts on public policy and water management throughout the region.”

The body also commended WERI for its work in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia while remaining committed to focusing on the water problems of Guam, FSM, and CNMI. According to a release from UOG, the commendation is “very important given that the water problems differ significantly between the areas.”

USGS conducted an evaluation of 54 similar water research institutes and centers across the nation over the period of 2008 and 2010.

“I believe the success of our institute is due to our strong research, our community outreach, our students who train under very committed faculty, and university support” said Dr. Shahram Khosrowpanah, director of WERI.

"The tropical climate in the islands has a huge impact on water resources, and these varied island environments give researchers diverse project opportunities," Khosrowpanah added.

Now almost 40 years old, WERI is one of 55 institutes established by U.S. Congressional legislation at each Land Grant University in the United States and in several territories. According to information posted on its website, it was originally named the Water and Energy Research Institute of the Western Pacific, before changing it in 1998 in line with expanding research interests in water related areas of other disciplines, such as geology, hydrology, geohydrology, among others.

According to WERI, its role is to "facilitate and conduct high quality research that addresses water problems and water-related phenomena; train students, teachers and future water resource professionals, and disseminate research results to the community at large."

WERI became the first Regional Water Resources Research Institute in the WRRI program by extending its mission to the FSM in 1991 and to the CNMI in 1997. According to the institute, this designation has opened a broad new spectrum of research and service opportunities for UOG.

The institute has several USGS-funded active research projects in FSM and CNMI, including a pilot study to improve the wastewater treatment system in Yap, and research in optimizing Saipan’s water system operation.

from base rent revenues and general fund appropriations, which represented 94 percent of total revenues.


 

GRMC tax waivers signed

Saturday, 10 Jan 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://www.mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/011015/top_200_200.jpgGRMC chief operations officer Gloria Long, Gov. Eddie Calvo and GEDA Deputy Administrator Mana Silva Taijeron were present at yesterday's signing ceremony for the new hospitals qualifying certificate application. Photo by Jasmine Stole / Variety

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday signed the qualifying certificate for Guam Regional Medical City, more than a year after the Guam Economic Development Authority’s board of directors voted to award the hospital the corporate tax income rebate.

GEDA estimated the new hospital would generate $420 million in new tax revenues for the government of Guam, eclipsing the abatement of $170 million during the 20-year tax break period.

The QC will also grant the private hospital 100 percent real property abatement for 10 years and a 75 percent corporate dividend tax rebate for five years.

The terms of the QC program require the hospital to contribute $25 million to the community over the next 20 years. For the first year, the hospital will contribute $500,000 in community contributions, with subsequent annual contributions to increase over 20 years.

Contributions

The hospital recommended that a “large portion” of the community contributions be used to support Medicaid and Medically Indigent Program payments, but the funds will ultimately be approved by the GEDA board and distributed how the board sees fit.

The community contributions can be distributed to fund health care, public safety or Medicaid matching and MIP payments, based on the recommendation of the GEDA administrator. The GEDA administrator and board can also decide to use GRMC’s community contributions to fund the promotion of industry and small business, higher education or cultural preservation, according to a statement from the hospital.

At yesterday’s signing, Calvo said the hospital’s QC was only the second he has approved of in his four years as governor so far. The QC program was created by Guam law originally in 1965 as a tool to encourage investment in activities that would strengthen the island’s economy.

GEDA submitted the qualifying certificate application to the Office of the Governor after the board approved it in December 2013.

Margaret Bengzon, president and executive officer of GRMC, said in a statement she is grateful to GEDA and the Office of the Attorney General for their thorough review of the QC application.

“GRMC is committed to serving the health care needs of the region and the QC will help support that goal,” Bengzon said.

GRMC Chief Operations Officer Gloria Long echoed Bengzon’s statement at yesterday’s signing ceremony.

Calvo, Long, GEDA Deputy Administrator Mana Silva-Taijeron, GRMC Chief Medical Director Mike Cruz and Pete Sgro were surrounded by GRMC nurses and doctors in attendance at yesterday’s signing.

“I just can’t tell you how thankful we are for all of your support,” Long said yesterday. “We’re so grateful we have this opportunity to have a return on our investment and look forward to continuing to serve the people and improving health in every which way we can.”

Construction

With the QC approved and behind them, GRMC officials are waiting on the completed construction of the hospital.

Long said the hospital staff is looking to move in to the facility by the end of March. “There are many reasons for the delay, from equipment, to labor issues – there’s a lot of different things,” she said.

The chief operations officer confirmed the hospital had a coupler failure on the fourth floor of the facility but the hospital resolved it.

In spite of a coupler failure, other work around the hospital has been completed and equipment is being brought in to the hospital.

“So we’ve been working to try and make sure we have everything, but in the meantime, we’ve been training all our staff to get them all prepared and getting all staff trained on the equipment,” Long said.

Under the QC program, three-quarters of the employee population that GRMC will hire must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. Long said up to 700 employees will be hired at the hospital, another 300 more jobs than originally projected last year.

Project proponent

Calvo thanked Pete Sgro, who started the process of bringing a private hospital to Guam to help fill the medical needs of Guamanians, including specialty care that isn’t currently available on island.

The governor also thanked the GRMC leadership and their team of doctors, nurses and staff for wanting to make a difference in the community.

Silva-Taijeron said the purpose of the QC program is to increase jobs. “Not only does the new hospital bring medical services to the island, it also supports the qualifying certificate program. What the hospital also is doing is providing jobs for our people, and that benefits the entire community because of the positive impact to our economy.”

 

  • Mathew 2 days ago

    GRMC is expected to contribute $420M in new tax revenues over 20 years to Gov Guam, according to GEDA's Mana Silva. The abatement of taxes will be $170M. So, presumably, GRMC will contribute net $250M over 20 years, or about $12M annually. How much is GMH bleeding now, annually? According to some of the figures released pre-election (before Benita Manglona was assigned there to help "cook the books"), by the media, the deficit at GMH has exploded since Gov. Eddie C. took office, to stand somewhere at $100M. Also, is the $25M over 20 years, or $1.25M annually on average for community contributions, part of the $12M annual contribution in taxes, when GEDA did the math for the QC? This is fuzzy Republican math at best, and crony capitalism at worst. The vested interests on-island is killing GMH, and by extension, the patients who cannot afford health insurance (hence the gutting of ACA by the SelectCare thugs over the last four years), while fattening the profits of an off-island corporate entity because it was promoted by sell-outs such as Pete Sgro, Jr. and others of his ilk, which includes the media. Some folks lives are not worth as much to these scoundrels. Impeach the Gov.

    Calvo signs qualifying certificate for new hospital

    Posted: Jan 09, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla kuam

    Guam - After more than a year since it's initial request, Governor Eddie Calvo put pen to paper this morning, officially signing the qualifying certificate contract for the new Guam Regional Medical City.

    Before its management team and staff, Governor Calvo says signing the contract was a no-brainer. The contract marks only the second QC he's signed within his four years in office. "The first one was for a hydroponics farm because we want to see a green revolution here and of course with this QC is start another revolution, a medical revolution that focuses on patient care for the people of Guam," he told KUAM News.

    "The QC will result in 75% income tax rebates for 20 years, 100% real property tax abatement for 10 years and 75% corporate dividend tax rebate for five years," he added.

    So what does that all mean? Based on estimates, the new hospital will generate $420 million in new tax revenues for the Government of Guam, more than double the $170 million tax abatement granted over the next 20 years. Chief operation officer Gloria Long said, "And that we can improve the quality of life for everybody and we're grateful that we have this opportunity to have a return on our investment and we look forward to continuing to serve the people and improving the health in every which way we can."

    The QC requires GRMC to make $25 million in public contributions staggered over the 20 year term of the QC. The new hospital has recommended that a large portion of that amount go to support Medicaid and MIP payments. GEDA deputy administrator Mana Silva Taijeron says employment to local residents can be expected as well, saying, "The reason behind the QC program is the creation of jobs - what the hospital is doing is providing jobs for our people so this is a benefit for not just the healthcare community but the entire community."

    GRMC will eventually employ up to 700 people. Under the terms of the QC, 75% of all employees must be US citizens and permanent resident aliens. And whether the return on investment be in taxes or jobs, the QC and the opening of the new hospital will more importantly result in the people of Guam not having to travel off -island for specialty care. Former lieutenant governor and GRMC's chief medical officer Dr. Mike Cruz.

    "For me, about four years ago, my daughter had cancer so my wife and I had to spend almost 6 months living in Los Angeles as she went through chemotherapy and the surgery because being a doctor I was able to afford that, but for most people they can't do that so for us on Guam that's going to be a great thing," he said.

    GRMC is set to open this year by the end of the first quarter. 

     

    Crime lab funds left unused

    Monday, 12 Jan 2015 03:00am

    BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    Of $100K annual allotment, only $18K spent

    DURING the past five and a half years, the Judiciary of Guam has set aside $100,000 each year for Guam Police Department crime laboratory repairs and upkeep, the law enforcement agency has only taken advantage of the funding a few times.

    This was based on the records of reimbursements and drawdowns recorded by GPD in the past since 2009.

    The Judiciary of Guam and GPD entered into a memorandum of agreement to provide funding for maintenance of the police crime lab in June 2009.

    Since then, the judiciary records indicate that GPD had posted an accumulated reimbursement of only $17,996.38 since the inception of the MOA.

    Records obtained by Variety show that reimbursement checks were issued in October 2010 for $10,000 and in Dec. 2011 when GPD drew down $7,720.38 for maintenance expenses incurred from Jan. 1, 2011 to Nov. 30, 2011.

    The last drawdown made by the police department was recorded in August 2012 in the amount of $276 for its water purifier system.

    According to Joshua Tenorio, Judiciary of Guam director of policy, planning and community relations, pursuant to law, the judiciary was directed to fund the construction of the crime lab.

    Each year, the judiciary sets aside in its budget, $100,000 specifically designed for assistance for the crime lab, Tenorio said.

    “Each year we set aside this $100,000 (in Judicial Building Fund budget) to help GPD’s crime lab … sometimes they draw down these monies, sometimes they don’t,” Tenorio said.

    If the amount is not used to reimburse GPD for the crime lab, the remaining balance cannot be rolled over to the following budget year unless the funds are encumbered, Tenorio said.

    “The $100,000 must be used entirely for the assigned year since there are numerous projects to support and maintain judicial facilities that are in line for funds as well,” he said.

    Requirements

    Tenorio provided Variety some requirements for a crime laboratory. He said engineers and architects of the crime lab building develop specifications based on U.S. standards for crime laboratories, which include temperature control.

    In a tour of the Judiciary building, Tenorio showed Variety the building’s maintenance section where technology such as that required in a crime lab is located. In that section, Tenorio explained how the technology, equipped with full-time dedicated personnel, effectively monitor the judiciary’s air-conditioning system at all times.

    He said by getting onboard knowledgeable manpower for the job and keeping them properly trained, the judiciary is able to keep up the air-conditioning requirement for the courts.

    Police crime lab

    In October 2013, GPD Lt. Ronald S. Taitano exposed the dilapidated condition of the department’s forensic science division laboratory. The facility was labeled unsafe and would compromise the overall integrity of the structure if will not be fixed.

    At that time, Taitano requested the GPD Chief Fred Bordallo to declare a state of emergency for the department to make way for the speedy repair of the facility. The request was not granted.

    In a state of emergency declaration, laws and regulations including procurement policies are suspended. The declaration would allow for the reprogramming of funds for specific purposes related to the emergency.

    Taitano’s memorandum to the police chief provided an overview of the condition of specific areas in the crime lab facility.

    Among the concerns raised then was the lack of proper air flow through the building that caused extreme condensation resulting in moisture buildup and subsequent puddles of water throughout the laboratory and the mechanical room. Also cited was the lack of adequate exhaust within the fume hoods that restricts the work of the analysts and poses a danger to the overall quality of the laboratory, among other concerns.

    When asked by Variety about the plan for work on the crime lab during 2015, Bordallo said: “Recently approved work request from crime lab addressing the molding situation on some ceilings.” stated the chief’s brief email response.

    A privatized crime lab

    Since the Judiciary of Guam funded the building of the police crime lab and has continued to assist in its repair needs, Tenorio said that it really doesn’t have any authority to contemplate the idea of a privatized crime lab.

    Tenorio said the decision is entirely for GPD to make. But because of the admitted challenged faced by GPD in meeting the requirements of a crime lab, Tenorio said GPD should consider working with Guam Community College which is now building a forensic lab to develop a comprehensive plan.

    “GCC is building the forensic lab. It’s a new building where GPD can consider negotiation with GCC,” Tenorio said. “I am hoping they can figure out a good strategy to get it (lab) back. Whatever it is they need, we try to help as long as it is balanced with our needs.”

    In the past, Tenorio said the Judiciary even facilitated the communication between the architectural firm that designed the crime lab and the police department to give the department insights for the crime lab facility.

    Bordallo, when asked by Variety about privatizing the crime lab, responded: “Let me have time to reveal (sic) the privatization question.”

 

CLTC may be at risk of losing unregistered lands


Monday, 05 Jan 2015 03:00am


BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


UNLESS it takes appropriate action, the Chamorro Land Trust Commission is at risk of losing about 30 percent of its land inventory that are not registered, the Office of the Public Accountability warned.


“Unregistered land accounts for 3,545.23 acres of CLTC’s 11,061.78 acres of land inventory,” OPA said in a report posted on its website yesterday. “These unregistered properties are at risk of loss from surrounding claimants, and therefore it is important the CLTC work on getting these acreages registered properly.”

The CLTC’s primary mission is to lease Chamorro homelands to native Chamorros and to execute commercial leases and licenses for various purposes. The commission has about 33 percent of government of Guam property in its inventory which is attributed to an administrative transfer in 1995.

As of fiscal 2013, CLTC has qualified a total of 11,050 applicants for its residential and agricultural programs.

OPA noted that not all properties leased through the residential and agricultural programs were readily available with basic infrastructure and property surveys.

“CLTC has leased out a combined total acreage of 2,739.15 through its residential and agricultural programs and 68 acres through its commercial programs,” OPA said. “The land inventory database is currently maintained in Excel format. CLTC must look to move this database into a better software system that can provide the necessary controls to ensure the integrity of the data.”

Independent auditors Deloitte & Touche LLC have audited the commission’s financial statements comprising the balance sheets as of Sept. 30, 2013 and 2012, and the related statements of revenues, expenditures, and changes in fund balances for the years then ended.

Leases

OPA said the commission issued 45 leases in fiscal 2013, increasing the land endowment value by $4.5 million, from $399.9 million in fiscal 2012 to $404.4 million in fiscal 2013.

“The $404.4 million for CLTC leases coupled with the $6.8 million from the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission amounted to a total of $411.1 million in investment in land and other real estate recorded at the government-wide level,” OPA said.

The audit established that the $411.1 million in land endowment increased the Government of Guam’s net position by the same amount. “When combined with GovGuam’s FY 2013 unrestricted deficit of $834.7 million and $508.5 million net investment in capital assets, the land endowment of $411.1 million brought GovGuam’s total net position to a combined surplus of $207.9 million at the government-wide level,” the audit report said.

Material weaknesses

The auditors identified five material weaknesses in the Report on Compliance and Internal

Controls, which according to OPA were previously identified in prior audits.

The auditors identified weaknesses in the areas of accounting system, collection and monitoring of accounts receivable, coral extraction royalties, loan guarantees and rental lease agreement.

The auditors made the following notes:


  • Accounting System: CLTC did not maintain adequate records for its non-appropriated funds on a formal accounting system, and no formal reconciliation process is in place for general ledger account balances;

  • Collection and Monitoring of Accounts Receivable: CLTC lacks adequate internal control policies over timely collection of receivables.

  • Coral Extraction Royalties: CLTC did not have adequate internal control policies requiring monitoring and documentation of coral extraction royalties. Revenues collected were not supported by a contract agreement for established rates, nor did CLTC verify the amount of coral materials extracted;

  • Loan Guarantees: Lack of adequate internal control policies requiring monitoring of loan guarantees; and

  • Rental Lease Agreement: There is a lack of a negotiated lease agreement for the CLTC occupied office space which cost $4K a month.

    Highlights

    Financial highlights are as follows:


  • Total assets exceeded total liabilities by $2,246,594 at the close of fiscal 2013 as

  • compared to $1,663,663 at the close of fiscal 2012.

  • Total assets at Sept. 30, 2013 increased by $471,919 as compared to Sept. 30, 2012.

  • Total liabilities at Sept. 30, 2013 decreased by $111,012 as compared to Sept. 30, 2012.

  • Total fund balance at Sept. 30, 2013 increased by $582,931 as compared to Sept. 30, 2012.

  • Total revenues of $1,054,842 for fiscal 2013 increased by $37,382 as compared to $1,017,460 for fiscal 2012. Total expenditures of $471,911 for fiscal 2013 decreased by $47,888 as compared to $519,799 for fiscal 2012. This resulted in an increase in the fund

    Rev and Tax: ‘Case of missing funds close to closing’

    Monday, 05 Jan 2015 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    DEPARTMENT of Revenue and Taxation Director John Camacho said he thinks the Guam Police Department is nearing the end of its investigation into $18,000 that went missing from the department more than three months ago.

    Camacho said cash and checks were stolen, and the cash itself totaled $18,000.

    He said he could not disclose the value of the stolen checks because the case is still under investigation.

    Camacho denied having any personal ties with the individual who may be responsible for the missing funds and said such speculation is untrue.

    “People are talking about that, but I’m the director here and whatever happens, of course, people will look at me and do these things but that’s not true,” he said.

    balance of $582,931 for fiscal 2013 as compared to $562,217 for fiscal 2012.


Rev & Tax has new online payment system

Posted: Dec 31, 2014 by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Guam residents no longer need to spend time waiting in line with the Department of Revenue & Taxation's new online payment system. The service went into effect today and those interested can register at GuamTax.com. Online payments can be made for business privilege taxes, withholding tax quarterly returns, vehicle registration renewals, and business license renewals.

Director John Camacho said he hopes this change will provide greater efficiency and convenience for consumers.

              

DOC hit for lack of jail plan

Monday, 29 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

OPA: Guam has highest pre-trial detention rate in the world

GUAM has the highest pre-trial detention rate in the world and the Department of Corrections lacks the prison capacity plan to effectively manage its growing prison population, according to an audit report released yesterday by the Office of Public Accountability.

The OPA cited the International Centre for Prison Studies World Pre-Trial/Remand Imprisonment List, which says that Guam had the highest rate in the world with 272 pre-trial/remand population per 100,000 of the island’s population.

OPA said there were 449 detainees or individuals awaiting judicial disposition, which account for 65 percent of DOC’s approximate 690-prisoner population.

OPA quoted the ICPS director as saying the report, “raises fundamental questions about the use of imprisonment and the need to focus our attention on alternatives, thereby reducing overcrowding in order to devote resources to improving the conditions in which prisoners are held.”

In addition, the center said, “besides often being unnecessary, with prisoners frequently being held for exceptionally long periods, such inappropriate use of detention is maintained at a great cost to the state.”

In the OPA report, Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks said DOC should begin discussions with the Office of the Attorney General and other pertinent officials of the criminal justice system to determine and implement strategies to help reduce the DOC detainee population.

Capacity plan

OPA reported that DOC lacks design plans, standards and a management strategy to address forecasted growth, reduce recidivism and help with reintegration of prisoners to the community.

The OPA report also noted that DOC’s lack of a prison capacity plan “occurred due to the lack of priority and lack of qualified individuals tasked to perform the plan.”

As a result, the OPA said, “the department’s facilities compromise the guard, prisoner and community welfare, which may result in potential civil lawsuits and federal receivership.”

The OPA also raised specific concerns about issues of security and safety, noting that DOC facilities are dilapidated and in need of constant repair. Moreover, some prisoners are housed in temporary canvas-like structures, where transfers are required during inclement weather.

Also, other spaces such as library and offices were converted into an “open-bay system” to provide additional accommodation to the prison population.

According to the report, DOC stated that it may be above the Adult Correctional Facility (ACF)’s operational capacity by 192 percent as of December 2013 with an overall population of 706 prisoners. However, OPA said the number is not verifiable due to the lack of reliable data for prisoner population counts.

OPA said DOC was unable to provide original design plans of the existing facilities to show the architectural certification supporting its prisoner capacity per housing unit.

OPA cited cases wherein cells originally designed for one prisoner were converted to accommodate up to four prisoners. But when the OPA inquired about the basis for the conversion, they found out that “DOC does not follow any standards relative to open-bay dormitory conversions and managing prisoner traffic.”

Unsustainable

According to OPA, given DOC's present infrastructure, the growth in DOC prisoner numbers may be unsustainable in the immediate future.

The OPA said, “it is imperative that DOC develop and maintain a master plan to guide the overall construction and development of its prison system.”

The OPA also recommended that the DOC director “work with the governor to re-establish a DOC task force to develop a well-documented management strategy with short-term and long-term measures to address capacity utilization for its current facility as well as the design capacity of a potential new adult facility both intended to reduce the prisoner population housed at DOC.

“The task force should take into consideration reliable forecasting models and the potential use of noncustodial sanctions and rehabilitation needs of offenders and prisoners in an effort to reduce the prison population,” the report stated.

In addition, the OPA also urged senators, policymakers and law enforcement officials to participate in an in-depth site visit of DOC’s multi-satellite facilities to observe the adverse conditions.

According to the report, DOC officials concurred with the findings and recommendations during a meeting with the OPA on Dec 18.

 

229 vacant positions at GMH

Monday, 29 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Memorial Hospital has listed 229 vacant positions in its latest available staffing pattern with 55 new positions in the fiscal 2015.

As of Nov. 30, none of the 55 new positions were filled. GMH is seeking full-time hospitalists for its urgent care unit which is expected to open next year. Additionally, the hospital is looking to hire two cardio hospitalists for a “heart team,” 10 more staff nurses, seven nurse aides and three more security guards among other technicians and supervisory positions.

The staffing pattern lists all of the 55 new positions as full-time occupations.

As of Nov. 30, there were 1,026 active employees at GMH, including personnel working at the Barrigada Skilled Nursing Unit.

GMH has not yet identified a replacement for Dr. Mohamad Alsabban, the physician in charge of the hospital’s laboratory. Alsabban’s position is one of the 229 vacant positions on the latest staffing pattern.

Three months ago, Alsabban resigned as the GMH pathologist, choosing instead to work for Guam Regional Medical City. Alsabban’s last day at the hospital was Aug. 22.

In September, the hospital administration and board members sought the services of former GMH pathologist Dr. Philip Dauterman. The hospital medical director, Dr. Jon Sidell, suggested Dauterman fill in as pathologist until the hospital is able to find Alsabban’s replacement.

Yesterday, June Perez, GMH public information officer, said she could not confirm if Dauterman had agreed to fill in temporarily as the GMH pathologist. Perez also said she could not confirm if a replacement for Alsabban had been hired as of yesterday, but did say she would follow up with the information today with hospital administration.

When Dauterman left GMH in 2013, the hospital risked losing its College of American Pathologist accreditation for its laboratory, according to Variety files. CAP has accredited the hospital since 1999.

Perez has said the hospital has contracts with other laboratories on Guam to help with lab services and other physicians on staff have been tapped to shoulder some of the extra workload brought on by Alsabban’s resignation.

 

Scientists make groundbreaking discovery in Marianas Trench

Posted: Dec 26, 2014  by Krystal Paco  KUAM

Guam - At only eight inches long, it may seem like a small discovery but for scientists, it's a big addition to what we know about the deepest part of the ocean.

"We were in the second deepest spot in the Mariana Trench called the Serena Deep and we made a brand new discovery. It's the deepest fish ever seen and it's a fish that had never been seen - a species that had never been seen," explained Linda Tatreau.

This is the footage caught earlier this month aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel, Falkor. On board serving as the educational outreach coordinator was Guam's own Tatreau.

Tatreau explains that unlike most trips to the Mariana Trench, this expedition didn't go straight to the bottom - to the challenger deep - the deepest part of the ocean floor.

Instead, this expedition was intended to gather the bigger picture.

"One of the scientists on the vessel said just going to the Challenger Deep is like trying to study Mount Everest but just looking at the tip. So you've got to study the whole thing," she said.

Landers with cameras were deployed from the surface and revealed this never before seen fish.

"This one was in about five miles deep and we didn't see it until we brought the lander back up to the surface and we have the film in the control van and we looked at the film and this fish comes through and it was totally unexpected and it just kind of glides through on these fins that are like totally angelic. It's about I think eight inches long and it had a head that was kind of like a cartoon dog. Nobody had ever seen a fish that looked anything like this before," she said.

According to Tatreau, this is the deepest any fish is expected to be found. But there's still so much unknown about the deep. In fact, more people have traveled to the moon than to bottom of the Mariana Trench.

"Most scientists will tell you we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean," she said.

At 16,000 pounds per square inch Tatreau compares the pressure below to that of ten elephants standing on top of your head.

"We know next to nothing about the Marianas Trench because you can see how hard it is to get there," she said.

To date, only three individuals have made it to the bottom.  In the 1960s, retired US Navy captain Don Walsh and late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard made the trip and most recently in 2012, Hollywood filmmaker and explorer James Cameron.

Although it's unknown when the next manned trip to the bottom of the blue will be, it's sure to be exciting.

"We know so very little about what's down there in the trench that every expedition that ever goes finds something new - something exciting," she said.

Navy awards $27M contract for extended base services

Monday, 22 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

NavFac Marianas) – On Dec. 19, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas awarded DZSP 21 LLC, $27.94 million under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract to exercise an option to extend services for base operations support services at Joint Region Marianas.

The work to be performed provides for general management and administration services, public safety, port operations, ordnance, supply material management, facility management, facility investment, electrical; wastewater, steam, water, base support vehicles and equipment, and environmental. After award of this option, the total cumulative contract value will be $854.08 million. Work will be performed at various installations in Guam, with work expected to be completed in April 2015. Fiscal 2015 working capital funds (Navy, Defense and transportation), fiscal 2015 operations and maintenance (Navy, Air Force, Army, Air National Guard and Defense agencies), fiscal 2015 family housing operation and maintenance (Navy), fiscal 2015 Defense Health Program, and fiscal 2015 Defense Commissary Agency account contract funding the amount of $23.26 million, are being obligated on this award and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas is the contracting unit.



Core Tech joint venture awarded $97M hangar project


Monday, 22 Dec 2014 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Department of Defense announced Dec. 18 that is has awarded the joint venture, Core Tech-AMEC-SKEC LLC, a $96.62 for a firm-fixed-price task order under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract for the construction of a hangar at Andersen Air Force Base.


The work to be performed provides for the construction of a reinforced concrete hangar consisting of an arched roof with a height at the center of the arch of approximately 75 feet. The facility is to be able to withstand 170 mph typhoon winds and meet all seismic zone 4 earthquake criteria. The project includes all utilities, site work, heating ventilation and air conditioning, communications, fire suppression system, pavements, parking and demolition. Work is expected to be completed by March 2017.

The task order was awarded under a $4 billion MACC awarded in May 2010. Core Tech-AMEC-SKEC LLC, is one of seven contractors awarded participation in that MACC which expires in May 2015.

Three proposals were received for the task order. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is the contracting unit.

Core Tech-AMEC-SKEC LLC, comprises Core Tech International of Guam, what is now AMEC Foster Wheeler PLC of the United Kingdom and SK Engineering & Construction Co. of Korea.



31 bills passed, appointees confirmed


Monday, 22 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


LESS than two weeks before the 32nd Guam Legislature closes, this week’s session culminated with a total of 31 bills passed, and members of 11 boards and commissions appointed.


However, the senators reverted two bills back to their respective committees, including substituted Bill 326, introduced by the late Sen. Vicente (ben) C. Pangelinan, the proposed legislation which would increase the net metering cap for nonresidential customers to 250 kilowatts.

The bills passed include amended Bill 332, introduced by Sen. Tina Muña Barnes. The measure provides for the building of the Rigålu House in Tamuning. Specifically, the bill allows an exchange of government owned property between the Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission for the site where the foster care facility will be built.

According to Adelup, building the Rigalu House is one of the 10 major projects Gov. Eddie Calvo laid out in his 10-Point Plan for 2014.

“My wife and I thank the nine senators who voted in support of the Rigalu House,” Calvo said. “This is the house that will shelter and comfort children, when they have to leave the abuse, violence, neglect and abandonment by their parents. Christine and I cannot think of a better Christmas gift. These nine senators are giving hope to children in bad situations, showing they care for our most vulnerable and will not leave them behind.”

Calvo continued, “I am disturbed by the vote on this matter, though. It is difficult to understand why any member of the Guam Legislature would vote against helping the most vulnerable of children: babies and kids who’ve been thrown away and hurt, believing no one loves them. I have seen the legislature pass laws of far less significant value and impact, yet this bill took over half the year to pass. Why? There was nothing controversial about this measure, but some residents who campaigned to keep the Rigalu House out of their backyard. This makes me question what some in elected office won’t do for the power of politics, when even the care of children in need can be sacrificed.”

According to the governor, his administration will continue pushing the campaign, noting that he wants the next legislature to be aware that “the campaign to lift up the most vulnerable in the community will grow only more bold and aggressive.”

Calvo said officials are now developing legislation to protect the unborn, and pursuing the development of assisted living communities for senior citizens.

Charter School funding

Senators also passed Bill 419, a measure introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, which seeks to amend a section authorizing funding for charter schools as set in the fiscal 2015 budget law.

The bill reiterates the funding provision allocating a $5,500-per-enrollee budget for the schools chartered by the Guam Academy Charter School Council during school year 2014-2015.

As amended, it increased the enrollment cap in the original version of the bill from 520 to 600 for Guahan Academy Charter School and from 250 to 358 for other schools chartered by the council, specifically, the iLearn Academy.

During session, Cruz said that “since it is the policy decision of the legislature to create the charter school then it must be funded,” adding that that the amount of money to support the charter schools is minimal. “The total for these two schools for the next six months is $1.2 million,” he said.

QC abeyance

Senators also passed Bill 416, which seeks to issue special tax-incentive Qualifying Certificates for the development of new hotel rooms but at the same time also enacts a temporary suspension on the issuance of other industry-specific QCs. The bill has received mixed support from the Guam Economic Development Authority.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez and also supports the Guam Visitors Bureau's goal of developing 1,600 new hotel rooms by introducing a special qualifying certificate specifically for that purpose and authorizing GEDA to issue the qualifying certificates.

Retroactive pay raises for senators released

Saturday, 20 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

San Nicolas donated his share to Sanctuary Inc.

RETROACTIVE pay raise payments authorized by P.L. 32-208 were paid out yesterday to members of the Guam Legislature.

Several senators reacted to the payout, including Sens. Michael San Nicolas and Frank Aguon. Both legislators introduced measures amending P.L. 32-208. While San Nicolas’ Bill 435 failed during a special session, Aguon’s Bill 436 will be tackled in a public hearing on Dec. 29.

San Nicolas donated his $14,403.36 retroactive payment to Sanctuary Inc.

“I’m very upset that these checks were rushed out to ‘beat the clock’ on the public hearing set for a bill that would have prevented this. After repeatedly saying we don’t have the money for this, I can only conclude that this was done because once it is paid it cannot be taken back,” San Nicolas said.

San Nicolas said Sanctuary once again was not paid by this government for its services to homeless and at-risk youth.

“Sanctuary is one of our many government vendors who have not been paid what they are due and when the government cannot pay its bills then its leaders should not be getting raises,” he added.

On Nov. 21, the legislature voted 10-1 to pass Bill 1 (8-S), now P.L. 32-208 in a special session called just the evening before by acting Gov. Ray Tenorio. The measure pushes for pay raises for elected officials and political appointees.

Critical programs

In April, the legislature unanimously voted to pass Bill 315 which appropriates $292,800 from the general fund to Sanctuary to sustain two of its critical youth programs.

San Nicolas introduced the bill to help the nonprofit service provider address a budget shortfall which placed the emergency youth shelter as well as the youth alcohol and drug rehabilitation program under threat of closure.

In the past, the nonprofit had implemented austerity measures that included layoffs, salary cuts and the closure of the homeless youth street outreach as well as the homeless youth transitional living program to keep the two programs afloat.

‘Should’ve been withheld’

Following the issuance of the senatorial retroactive pay, Aguon issued a statement saying the pay should have been held back. The senator recently introduced Bill 436, which seeks to remove senators from being covered under the salary rates set pursuant to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

“Although Bill No. 436-32 (LS) did not explicitly prohibit retroactive payments to senators, implicitly creates one considering the intent of the bill,” Aguon said. “Unfortunately, Public Law 32-208 allows for these retroactive payments but, in my opinion, retroactive payments to senators should have been withheld until such time action has been taken on Bill No. 436-32 (LS).”

A public hearing for the measure is scheduled for Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.

According to the senator’s office, once a committee report is submitted, Speaker Judith Won Pat can call for a session to discuss and essentially, vote on the bill.

The bill would then need to be immediately transmitted to the governor for his review and action.

On Jan. 5, the 32nd Guam Legislature adjourns sine die – meaning "without assigning a day for further hearing or session."

Sanctuary receives reimbursement after waiting for two months

Saturday, 20 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SANCTUARY Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps youth with drug and alcohol problems and offers an emergency youth shelter, was reimbursed $43,000 this week after two months of waiting on payments from the government of Guam.

Executive Director Millie Lujan said Sanctuary and the government have a contract for services and GovGuam did not reimburse the organization for the months of October and November until this week.

Lujan met with Gov. Eddie Calvo yesterday who assured her he would try to get payments to the organization in a more timely matter. Lujan also said Department of Administration officials told her November is normally a tough time for payments because the government waits on payments from vendors, hence the delay in Sanctuary’s reimbursements.

On Thursday, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said he learned Sanctuary had not been receiving reimbursements from the government, in addition to other agencies still awaiting outstanding payments.

Cruz said this information prompted him to change his mind about the pay raises for elected officials as per P.L. 208-32, opposing the salary hikes in light of unfulfilled government payments.

Yesterday, Sanctuary received a $14,000 donation from Sen. Michael San Nicolas. The money was part of the retroactive pay raises allowed in P.L. 208-32, which were distributed to senators and Cabinet members yesterday.

Donation

San Nicolas shared the donation on his Facebook profile, posting “$14,403.36 handed over to Sanctuary Inc.

“No raises for elected and appointed leaders while we still owe vendors and employees, and even then, only if the quality of life of our people truly reflects outstanding leadership, not just business as usual,” San Nicolas said.

Lujan said she found out about San Nicolas’ donation as she and other Sanctuary administrators were leaving the governor’s office. “We were ecstatic,” she said. “(San Nicolas) said he could not accept it because he didn’t think it was right.”

San Nicolas’ donation will go back into the program and be used to serve the youth undergoing their critical programs.

“We house them and feed them while they’re here so it’ll go to their basic needs,” Lujan said.

This is not the first time this year that Sanctuary had to wait for reimbursement of services. In February, the nonprofit group did not have enough funds to operate its drug and alcohol abuse program for the rest of fiscal 2014 and sought the program’s closure. Sanctuary serves about 250 youth in its drug and alcohol abuse treatment program each year and needed $320,000 to continue.

Sanctuary avoided closing its program with the passage of Bill 315 in April, which was introduced by San Nicolas and appropriated $292,800 for the nonprofit.


Guam bonds delivering best return in market


Saturday, 20 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


BONDS from Guam are delivering the best returns in the U.S. municipal market and may gain again next year, according to a recent article from Bloomberg L.P., a financial software, data and media company.


Investors look to Guam for tax-exempt debt and are “steering clear” of Puerto Rico, the report stated.

Guam obligations have earned 17.2 percent this year, compared with 9.1 percent for all municipal bonds, according to data from Barclays Plc, a major global financial provider. “At this pace, it would be the largest outperformance in at least 13 years,” Bloomberg reported.

Positive trending

John Miller, co-head of fixed income at Nuveen Asset Management, said Guam’s credit fundamentals look like they are trending positively.

Nuveen is the holder for bonds issued by the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority.

Bloomberg reported investors’ enthusiasm with Guam is in contrast to how they view Puerto Rico, its $73 billion debt and “soaring borrowing costs.” Puerto Rico’s economic health is the lowest it has been in 20 decades, compared to Guam’s rating.

Utility bonds

In September, GPA sold $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds to fund energy storage systems, system improvements and the first phase of GPA’s proposed energy conversion plan.

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. Former GPA General Manager Joaquin Flores said GPA was able to take advantage of favorable market conditions.

In 2013, the airport sold $247 million in new revenue bonds to restructure its 2003 debts and bankroll new capital improvement.

The refinancing and CIP bonds in New York sold in August 2013 in New York after 10 days of sales pitches to over 20 institutional investors.


Economist: $8.25 wage might up employment, affect welfare


Saturday, 20 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Joseph Bradley


THE minimum wage increase set to take effect in 12 days could increase employment rates slightly while also affecting welfare benefits for some residents, according to Joseph Bradley, Bank of Guam senior vice president, chief economist and business continuity officer.

In July, the governor signed Bill 316-32 which increased the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Bradley said while there is some disagreement as to how exactly the wage increase would affect the economy, he expects there will be some growth in employment.

“We should see an increase in employment, which seems kind of counter-intuitive, but when you start paying people who spend all their paychecks, start paying them more money, then the places where they buy things have to hire more people,” Bradley said.

Out of welfare

Further, Bradley said some people who earn $7.25 now are also receiving social welfare benefits. “Pushing up the minimum wage might actually raise their income, their household income to where they’re no longer eligible for those kinds of things,” he said.

Since the government of Guam pays for many welfare benefits with respect to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, this could mean less cost to the government while adding revenue through increased withholding and gross receipts taxes, Bradley said.

Bradley said the impact is based on about 25 years of research, but until he looks at the data from the first three months of next year, the true impact of the minimum wage is uncertain. “The jury is kind of out until I get the first quarter payroll employment statistics,” he said.

Higher wage

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, who authored Bill 316, said while $8.25 an hour was not what he originally proposed, he plans to try to raise the wage higher than that. Initially, Cruz proposed an increase of $10.10 an hour by 2017, with the minimum wage increasing each year. Sen. Aline Yamashita introduced a bill that would compel an independent economic study before another wage increase could become law, which Cruz said he supported.

When Cruz introduced the measure, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Guam Visitors Bureau and many employers opposed the idea, citing an increase in payroll costs that would force employers to increase their prices to balance expenses and possible mass layoffs.

“I believe people will realize the economic sky has not fallen, that working people have a little more money to make ends meet,” Cruz said. “I believe we can accomplish what my original bill intended.”

Cruz and Bradley agree that on Guam, $8.25 is not considered a “living wage.”

 


Cabinet members receive retroactive pay

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday announced that his Cabinet and staff were paid their salary increases pursuant to P.L. 32-208 as the final implementation of the Hay pay plan, “based on merit and progress.”

Under the law, elected officials and the governor’s Cabinet received salary increases retroactive to Jan. 15.

The governor stood by his earlier statements that his Cabinet deserved the raises. “My conscience is clear that the men and women of the Cabinet and my staff earned the pay they will begin to get,” Calvo said in a statement. “Even with these pay increases, we unfortunately are losing some good people to the private sector. I can’t blame them. The pay is better in the private sector.”

Department of Public Works Director Carl Dominguez and Guam Visitors Bureau General Manager Karl Pangelinan announced this month that they will not be returning to work in the government of Guam in the coming year, but are returning to work in the private sector.

Dominguez and Pangelinan, as well as other agency heads who may not continue in their positions in the next term, will receive the increased salaries because P.L. 32-208 includes retroactive pay for the past year at the higher rate.

Calvo said he made a promise in 2010, that only when the government’s finances were in order would the Hay plan and the government-wide salary increases be implemented.

In January, Calvo said he implemented the plan because the government had paid tax refunds, prioritized public schools, expanded the local hospital and wiped out the government’s budget deficit.

Promise

“After we did all these things, I kept most of my promise and implemented the Hay plan pay raises. The legislature told me to hold back on the pay adjustments for my Cabinet and the elected officials until after the election,” Calvo said in a statement. “And, so, today, here we are and I’m going to complete my promise.”

The raises for each department head are dependent on the Competitive Wage Act of 2014’s Executive Pay Plan. More than 60 directors, deputy directors, general managers and chiefs will receive a raise.

Accompanying Calvo’s statement were three infographics listing the current wages of the agency heads and Cabinet members in contrast to Calvo’s current salary as well as Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio’s salary and Department of Administrator Director Benita Manglona’s salary.

According to the infographic, Joseph Verga, Guam Memorial Hospital administrator; Jon Fernandez, education superintendent; Chuck Ada, airport general manager; Pangelinan; and Joanne Brown, general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, are paid more than $100,000 a year, which is more than Calvo’s current $90,000.

Bill rolling back senators’ pay hike to have public hearing

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ALTHOUGH Bill 436 did not make it onto the session agenda this week, the measure – which seeks to roll back the retroactive pay raises for senators that were included in the pay raise bill passed on Nov. 21 – will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.

The committee on general government operations made the announcement yesterday. Only Bill 436, which is most likely the last legislation to be introduced in the 32nd Guam Legislature, is on the agenda.

Sen. Frank Aguon had sought a waiver of public hearing after introducing the measure this week. It seeks to amend P.L. 32-208.

The bill removes only the senatorial salary increase. It still would allow for the governor, lieutenant governor, Cabinet members and the attorney general to retain their respective retroactive salary adjustments as set in law.

After introducing the measure, Aguon sent a request to Speaker Judith Won Pat to waive the public hearing requirement for the measure and add it to the current session agenda.

Aguon’s bill is the second measure introduced this month that seeks to repeal the retroactive pay raises for the members of the Guam Legislature on Nov. 21.

On Dec. 9, a special session was convened to discuss Bill 435, a measure seeking to repeal all of the recently passed retroactive Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees.

Bill 435 was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. It failed to gather enough votes to pass.

Letter

In the letter sent to the speaker, Aguon said that although he supports the spirit of Bill 435, a measure which seeks to stop salary increases for elected officials and Cabinet members by repealing P.L. 32-208, he did not support the bill in its entirety due in part to an amendment he introduced in Section 4 of the law.

With the introduction of Bill 436, Aguon said “in as much as I believe we, the senators, deserve the recommended salary increase, the people of Guam are far more deserving of safer communities, reliable public transportation, adequate roads, and most importantly, trust in their elected leaders to carry out their will for the betterment of our island’s future. In light of the polarizing issues concerning P.L. 32-208, I am requesting from all my colleagues to support this measure.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Eddie Calvo continued to defend the salary hikes provided by the new law.

In a special message released yesterday, Calvo said it is up to the lawmakers to decide whether senators now and in the future earn their salary increase.

But the governor said his conscience is clear that the men and women of the Cabinet and his staff earned their salary increase.

Half of consent decree road projects marked completed

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE government of Guam reported to the District Court of Guam on Wednesday that the Department of Public Works is continuing work to complete all road and bridge projects along Route 4 which affect the consent decree.

In the latest biweekly report filed with the U.S. District Court of Guam on Wednesday, GovGuam’s counsel Cabot Mantanona LLP indicated that of the six road and bridge projects identified critical to the closure of Ordot Dump, three of the projects have been marked completed while the rest are continuing to progress.

The following Route 4 projects along the transfer truck route to the Layon Landfill are considered critical elements in the ongoing operations of transfer trucks traveling to and from the landfill: the Ylig Bridge, the Togcha and Talofofo bridges, Route 4 Pågo Bay to Route 17, from the Togcha River to Ipan Beach Park, the As-Alonso Area of Route 4 and the Route 4 safety enhancements.

Three of the projects were marked completed including the Togcha and Talofofo bridges, Route 4 Pågo Bay to Route 17, and the Togcha River to Ipan Beach Park.

The construction of the Ylig Bridge is now 98 percent complete.

According to court documents, bid documents for the project were issued in August 2010 and the bid opened in October of the same year. The contract was executed in November 2010 and a notice to proceed was issued in the same month. The original target completion was November 2011, the current expected completion date for the project is March 2015.

Factors

According to the latest filing, the delays on the project were attributed to several factors including resolving waterline conflicts, subsurface pile conflicts, archeological data recovery, Ylig memorial site and perpetuation of existing property access.

Two other projects, according to the report, remain incomplete.

The As-Alonso area of Route 4 project needs a slope stability assessment, the report indicated. On Aug. 22, 2013 DPW responded to the receiver that Route 2 is the alternative access to Layon Landfill.

For the Route 4 safety enhancement project, it was indicated that it was on Sept. 17 when DPW transmitted the 25 percent conceptual plan cost estimate to Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the court-appointed solid waste receiver.

GEDA OKs resurfacing of tennis courts

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors yesterday approved $141,000 to resurface and restripe the Hagåtña tennis courts.

Board chairman E.J. Calvo said the tennis court project is part of the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) bond projects.

Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager, said the next step is for GEDA to prepare a notice of intent to award the project to Maeda Pacific, the company that won the bid.

Another bid to upgrade the Hagåtña pool will be prepared in the coming days, Mendiola said.

The projects are two of several funded by the HOT revenue limited obligation bond. The HOT bond project was established by P.L. 30-228.


    

Residents may be asked to vacate homes for pipeline project

Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SOME residents will need to leave their home for increments of up to eight hours so contractors can safely examine anomalies found underground as work to replace and upgrade the 15-mile fuel pipeline that runs from Piti to Andersen Air Force Base begins to move beyond military property.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas has already alerted about 200 residents of Yigo and Dededo about the possibility of intermittent evacuation next month.

Residents will be asked to vacate their homes for varying amounts of time for their safety as contractors investigate metals and possible unexploded ordnance detected underground, military officials said.

It is NavFac’s goal to provide advance notice to all residents who will be affected through door-to-door meetings with NavFac personnel, letters and posted signs.

Contractors will be scanning the underground area around the fuel pipeline for anomalies and based on what is found underground, a safety exclusion zone will be designated.

Residents whose homes are within the declared safety exclusion zone will be notified in person and on paper that their home falls within the safety exclusion zone.

Before contractors begin examining the anomalies underground, NavFac Marianas will inform the affected residents when contractors will examine the anomalies and when they should vacate their homes.

Multiple days

Lt. Commander Brian Schonefeld, the deputy resident officer in charge of construction for NavFac Marianas, said residents may be asked to vacate their homes for multiple days at a time, but it will only be for eight hours, at the most, each day.

As the project progresses, NavFac officials will work to alert the public at least a month in advance if their area is part of the safety exclusion zone.

Bill Austin, public affairs officer for NavFac and Dan Guerrero, community planner, have spoken to 200 northern residents between Potts Junction and Machananao Elementary School about vacating their homes next month. The residents have homes within the safety exclusion zone designated by the contractors who have scanned the area on Department of Defense property in Yigo. They have not yet begun scanning easements outside DoD property and will begin that process next month.

Austin said he and Guerrero have gone door-to-door with the letters explaining the construction work since November and most of the feedback has been positive. The eight-hour time frame is just a window for the contractors to work with and if the residents can return home before the eight-hour time frame is over, NavFac will let them know.

NavFac expects most eight-hour time frames to be during the day when people are already at work so vacating their home is not so inconvenient. The schedule, however, is dependent on the location of the safety exclusion zone and what will be investigated underground. Military leaders have met with community and government leaders to help determine the best time to investigate the anomalies.

“It just all depends on who’s in that immediate area. So you wouldn’t want to work weekends if there’s a church there. You wouldn’t want to work during the school day if there’s a school in the immediate area,” Schonefeld said. “So that’s where our partnership with the local leaders is key.”

Dededo gym

Schonefeld said Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares suggested opening the Dededo gym during the eight-hour time frames for residents who might not have a place to stay while they are asked to vacate their home.

The focus is on public safety, military officials said.

The pipeline project has been underway for about half a year on Department of Defense land and should be completed in 2016. The project is not connected to the military buildup, officials said. The pipeline is decades old and will be upgraded for improved fuel transfer capabilities.

Contractor Nova Group, Inc.-Underground Construction Inc., a Joint Venture of Napa, California was awarded the $52 million fixed-price contract to upgrade the fuel pipe last year.

NavFac officials encouraged residents who have questions about the project to visit the project’s website at www.upgradefuelpipeline.com. Questions can also be sent to the public affairs officer whose contact is listed on the website.

Guam Memorial Hospital urgent care unit not yet fully staffed

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Memorial Hospital Administrator Joseph Verga said the hospital is ready to open its urgent care unit but it is not yet fully staffed.

“We’re ready but we want to be more prepared,” Verga said. The hospital has a core group of doctors and nurses hired for the urgent care unit but it is still looking to hire some more.

Verga said the hospital hopes to open the urgent care unit next year, which gives GMH more time to adjust the scheduling and the urgent care pilot program. This time of the year is the busiest for the emergency department, Verga said, which is why the hospital wanted to delay the opening so as not to disrupt the emergency department by adding a new program during its busiest time.

GMH will use the time to get supplies and familiarize the staff with the new pilot program. “This will give us time for more tweaking,” Verga said.

As for the doctors who have been tapped to work in the urgent care center, Dr. Jon Sidell, medical director, said none of the doctors will be paid until the urgent care unit opens. The doctors that will work in urgent care already have privileges at GMH, Verga said.

Modified schedule

The pilot program is a modified schedule. The urgent care center will only be open during peak hours from 3 p.m. through midnight. GMH spokeswoman June Perez said last month that having the care center open during the peak hours will help alleviate the strain on the hospital’s emergency department.

The urgent care center has been in the works for more than a year, Verga said. Work on the facility began in January. The urgent care center was mandated by Public Law 32-60 and will receive patients with injuries or conditions that require immediate attention but are not serious enough to require emergency care.

Yesterday, Verga said the hospital still has not received all of the funds intended for GMH through Public Law 32-60, which designated gaming tax funds for the hospital. Verga said with Department of Administration Director Benita Manglona now serving as the interim chief financial officer at GMH, she will be able to help move the process along so GMH receives the funds.

A good fight

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Michael San Nicolas must have known that his effort to rescind the hefty, retroactive pay increases that legislators voted themselves would be futile. It was, after all, not even three weeks ago that the retroactive pay raise bill passed by a vote of 10 to 1. Surely, San Nicolas did not expect the members of the legislature to reverse themselves on something that is so in their self-interest. They weren’t ashamed to vote for the retroactive raise three weeks ago; why would they have been ashamed to vote the same way on Tuesday? Obviously they were not.

Nonetheless, San Nicolas introduced the rollback legislation and has vowed to introduce it again in the 33rd Guam Legislature. If that fails to pass, he said he will consider making introducing it as a voter referendum to be on the ballot in the 2016 election. 

We commend San Nicolas for his effort to set right the legislature’s actions and encourage him to pursue it.

After rejecting the raises for elected officials and unclassified employees earlier in the year with much fanfare, 17 days after the election the members of the legislature voted for the raises, which were made retroactive to Jan. 15. Legislators apparently knew that raising their salaries before the election would have hurt them at the polls. They likely assume the move will be forgotten by Nov. 8, 2016 – the date of the next election. We do not intend to allow that to happen, and apparently neither does San Nicolas.

On Tuesday, San Nicolas pointed out that legislative salaries had not been included in the Hay compensation study and senators were, as some contended, not obligated to approve and accept the raises – that make them the most highly paid state or territorial legislators, behind only those of California – in order to get value from the funds spent on the Hay study.

We also commend Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz for being the sole member of the legislature to reverse his position and vote in favor of San Nicolas’ bill.

We continue to believe that the governor, the lieutenant governor, the legislators, the attorney general and the more than 80 directors, deputy directors and other unclassified officials were paid well enough before Public Law 32-208, and that the money would be better spent subsidizing the mass transit system, paying hospital vendors, reopening the public library, repairing the schools, buying textbooks, providing adequate medical care and facilities at the Department of Corrections, fixing village roads, hiring more school aides, youth counselors and police officers, or just paying down the government’s massive debt.

We are hopeful that other senators come to see the retroactive raises as unacceptable and likewise support the next effort to rescind the Hay raises for elected (except the mayors) and unclassified officials.

 

The correct outcome for waste-to-energy

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Dennis Rodriguez took the correct action Friday when he ended the public hearing on the legislation that would ratify the waste-to-energy contract proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners. During the hearing it became clear that there were too many questions about the contract and its impact on the community that remained unanswered and Rodriguez stated that he could not and would not move the bill out of committee. Apparently, his legislative colleagues agreed with Rodriguez’s decision.

A couple of questions remain that warrant residents’ attention.

The community had raised a number of issues about the project, and residents appeared ready to object to the project based on the potential impact on the environment, on government finances and its financial feasibility. But among the significant questions raised at the hearing was how it happened that the contract was before the legislature for ratification.

The hearing began with testimony from Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco, on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General, stating that contract negotiation was a function of the executive branch of government, and the legislation appeared to violate the separation of powers provision of the Organic Act. He said if the bill passed, it would face legal challenges on that and other grounds.

During the hearing, it became apparent that the contract was submitted to the legislature solely in order to meet the conditions of the mediated settlement of a $20 million lawsuit filed by GRRP against the government. A memorandum of understanding, it was disclosed during the hearing, that constituted the settlement required that the contract be submitted to the legislature for either a ratification or denial by vote, or the passage of 120 days with no action.

During the hearing, neither the Guam Economic Development Authority nor the governor’s office would endorse the contract. Both offices had been party to the court-ordered mediation. The proposed contract had been sent to the legislature by GEDA. The governor’s office was not initially even represented at the hearing, until, at Rodriguez’s apparent request, the governor’s attorney Sandra Miller testified at the afternoon session.

We were encouraged to hear Miller testify that Gov. Eddie Calvo had yet to be convinced that the waste-to-energy project was environmentally sound, legal under Guam law and economically feasible. She said he would not sign the contract if he were not convinced it met those standards.

Attorney Tom Fisher, representing GEDA, said it appeared that GRRP accepted the settlement proposal that the contract be ratified by the legislature because it believed it could “muster the votes” to get it passed by senators.

Commenters on the Variety website have observed, accurately we believe, that the only support for the waste-to-energy contract appeared to come from those affiliated with GRRP. So the community is left to wonder why GRRP believed the proposal would pass the legislature despite community opposition and despite the questions left unanswered by the proposal.

  • Mathew 2 days ago

    There is support for it, editors. They, the legislators, are just feigning to be listening to the so-called public input. And, the Gov. will go along with it once the support from Hessler begins to gel. It is one big cabal.



Calvo urges senators to vote on Bill 332 for Rigålu House


Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


ADELUP) – Gov. Eddie Calvo has urged the legislature to vote to Bill 332, which provides for the building of the Rigålu House in Tamuning.

“It is the most vulnerable of our children are who are at stake. It’s our job, as elected leaders, as adults, as family-oriented Guamanians to protect them and to ensure that in these most difficult of times in their young lives they are getting a safe place to sleep at night,” Calvo said.

“I am urging Vice Speaker BJ Cruz, with the support of our social workers and Tamuning residents and mayor, to place Bill 332-32 on the upcoming legislative session agenda,” the governor added.

Earlier this year, the governor’s office, with the help of Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, submitted Bill 332 for consideration in the legislature.

“The social workers of Guam, the Tamuning mayor, and Tamuning residents have submitted letters and petitions showing their support,” the governor stated.

Calvo said about 200 Tamuning residents signed a petition, giving their generous support for the building of a foster home in their village.

In her letter to the Vice Speaker, Mayor Louise Rivera held a special meeting with the Tamuning municipal planning council rendering a majority vote to support Bill 332.

“I also humbly ask for you and your colleagues to pass the bill for the sake of the unfortunate children on Guam who deserve respectful care during a traumatic period in their young lives. The foster care home in Tamuning would be a valuable and respectful addition to our village,” the mayor stated.

In addition, social workers had a similar petition signed by nearly 100 individuals, reiterating the need for a temporary shelter.


Report highlights bleak finances at GMH

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A REPORT from the Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General published on Dec. 10 expresses concern that Guam Memorial Hospital’s cash flow is negative and its reimbursement rates and fee schedules “are out of date.”

The inspector general evaluated the hospital in light of a projected population increase of 80,000 people including the relocated U.S. Marines and their families. “GMHA’s financial situation may jeopardize future medical needs of the citizens of Guam,” the report stated.

Most of the weaknesses found at the hospital were related to GMH’s inability to generate revenue and without adequate income the hospital cannot upgrade its infrastructure, maintain and replace supplies or equipment or recruit necessary staff, the report said.

Quality health care services will be at risk for the people of Guam until actions are taken to collect revenue and secure funding for the hospital, the report stated.

The findings in the report highlight ongoing financial problems with the hospital including fees that have not kept pace with rising costs and lack of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government, rising vendor costs and an inefficient collection of accounts receivable.

DOI suggested GMH increase its fees and while GMH replied that a proposed increased fee schedule was sent to the Guam Legislature, the schedule has not yet been implemented. GMH has had the same fees since the early 1990s despite rising costs.

Lost

As for reimbursements, the hospital reported that it lost $22 million from operations because government and local health insurance companies did not adequately reimburse the hospital. Federal reimbursements were also lacking and the hospital has hired a consultant to help find a solution.

During DOI’s review of the hospital’s operations, the federal government found GMH owed $22 million to vendors on accounts that were long overdue and continuously increasing.

Additionally, the hospital’s primary vendors refuse to extend credit which forces the hospital to find other suppliers who tend to charge more for supplies, the report stated. This leads to GMH paying nearly double for some supplies and services, according to the report.

The hospital also still relies on outdated paper billing and does not currently accept online payment for services at the hospital. If the hospital was to move to paperless billing, it could save on paper and postage costs, DOI wrote in its report.

The hospital also had 14 capital improvement projects that do not have approved funding. The projects total $5.7 million.

DOI also acknowledged that the new private hospital, Guam Regional Medical City, poses another challenge. “A new private hospital is currently under construction and, once it opens, might exacerbate GMHA’s financial challenges by drawing away some of its self-paying and insured customers,” the report said.

The Department of Interior offered eight suggestions to the hospital after the department evaluated GMH and noted that seven of the suggestions were resolved but not implemented and the final suggestion remained unresolved.

DOI suggested GMH review its fee schedule on a regular basis and make adjustments when necessary to make sure costs are covered. The hospital has not yet implemented a new fee schedule but GMH officials told DOI that they contracted a company to analyze the hospital's charge master and expect the company's report this month. The charge master is a list of procedures billable to patients or their health care providers.

The inspector general acknowledged the contractor’s work but asked GMH whether the fee schedule will be reviewed and adjusted regularly as a matter of policy in the future.

 Mathew 8 hours ago

  • Those proposed fee increases will increase health insurance premiums in some form, way or shape. You don't expect the Calvo family, among other elitists, to eat that, do you? It is not so much what the market will bear. It is what the Calvos will bear as the Calvos are the market makers in the closed, opaque private sector on Guam.

  

Minimum wage economic impact statement bill moved to 3rd reading

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

BILL 376, a measure introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita to require the completion of an independent economic impact statement relative to the minimum wage on Guam, progressed to the third reading file during the Guam Legislature’s session yesterday.

The bill would require the Department of Labor 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.

After funding for the study was initially questioned, Yamashita proffered an amendment during session identifying a funding source.

The senator suggested that DOL, in collaboration with the Guam Economic Development Authority, identify the resources necessary to fund the study.

Sen. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas also proffered an amendment that DOL work with the University of Guam to determine the study parameters.

Yamashita said the study would provide "hard, concrete data" on the true impact of the minimum wage increase to the community.

"So we are not just looking at national sights and speculating, but you can then say ... based on our study here on Guam, this is what has happened," she said.

Yamashita also said the study should detail the impact of the wage increase on small businesses, their employees, and their budgets.

San Nicolas suggested the study also include the impact of the increase on the welfare system, in terms of dollar amounts as well as reduction in numbers of people on public assistance.

Multiplier effects

San Nicolas said the impact of a minimum wage increase on the money velocity on Guam – including relevant multiplier effects and subsequent economic benefits, if any – should also be considered in developing the parameters of the study.

"One of the points that I raised is we do have some industries that export a lot of their profits. ... As we increase the minimum wage, we do have more of those dollars going into the pocketbooks of our people, who then spend it into the local economy. That creates a money velocity environment where dollars are circulating locally as opposed to profits being exported off-island," he said.

In July, the legislature passed what is now P.L. 32-178, a compromise measure, which will increase the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $8.25 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2015. It had originally been proposed that the minimum wage be raised to $10.10 an hour.

    

New pay raise rollback bill

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Frank Aguon has introduced a bill amending Public Law 32-208 and removing senators from being covered under the salary rates set pursuant to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

Aguon introduced Bill 436 yesterday afternoon while the legislature was in session.

The senator's bill is the second measure introduced this month that seeks to repeal the retroactive pay raises for the members of the Guam Legislature that was passed on Nov. 21.

On Dec. 9, a special session was convened to discuss a measure seeking to repeal the recently passed retroactive Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees.

Bill 435 was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. It failed to gather enough votes.

On Nov. 21, the legislature voted 10-1 to pass Bill 1 (8-S), now Public Law 32-208 in special session called just the evening before by acting Gov. Ray Tenorio.

Under the new law, the governor’s salary increased by $40,000; the lieutenant governor will receive an extra $25,000; and each member of the Guam Legislature is set to receive a raise of around $20,000.

Additionally, the attorney general will receive a $19,000 salary hike and all members of the governor’s Cabinet are set to receive significant increases.

The raises were effective retroactively from Jan. 15.

Gov. Eddie Calvo first proposed the Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees in his official transmittal of the Hay Plan to the legislature in January.

Opposition

The move to raise the salaries of elected officials and political appointees, and to do so retroactively, has faced opposition from the community.

After the enactment of P.L. 32-208, a group started a petition on change.org opposing the pay hike. Many of those who expressed opposition wrote that the pay raises are without justification, unaffordable and “ridiculous.”

But the governor has said the pay hikes for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 should be supported.

Calvo said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

San Nicolas, the senator who originally opposed the pay raises, said if the increase in salary and retro pay for the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, political appointees and others are repealed, around $4 million would be saved this fiscal year.

According to San Nicolas, the $4 million is a significant amount that could be used for several major village roads repairs, could more than double the public transit budget, or could be used to renovate public schools such as Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School.

The senator has vowed to continue opposing the pay raises in the next legislature.

 

Inspector general finds deficiencies in Rev and Tax collections

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • IN A September 2014 report, the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General discovered that the Department of Revenue and Taxation followed inadequate procedures when identifying contractors subject to the business privilege tax and did not collect all the taxes the government of Guam was owed.

    There were holes in DRT’s procedures, including not using a complete list of federal contractors when identifying which businesses are subject to the business privilege tax and the department did not follow through with established processes when collecting. The lack of follow-through added to the government’s problem of possible lost revenue, the report stated.

    According to the inspector general, a possible $414,414 is owed to the government in business privilege taxes. At least six contractors had no record at DRT showing they paid the 4 percent business privilege tax for contracted jobs.

    The Department of Interior recommended Guam resolve whether or not those taxes are owed, in addition to developing and implementing a collection procedure for business privilege taxes and expanding their information sources so that DRT can identify all federal and local contractors who may be subject to the business privilege tax.

    Important

    It’s important for DRT to collect all the taxes that it’s owed in order to pay down GovGuam’s $1 billion long-term debt, the inspector general wrote. “By failing to address longstanding tax collection deficiencies, such as the case with (business privilege tax), Guam has been deprived of the revenues it desperately needs to fund public education, health, safety and other programs for its people,” the report stated.

    The report was sent to Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina, and Gov. Eddie Calvo. Calvo responded to the report and said he agrees that taxes should be collected in full.

    Calvo also said he has introduced legislation to hire counsel to pursue companies not paying taxes, adding that the Department of Revenue and Taxation has been “constrained by both manpower and time.”

    DOI also noted that the inefficiencies found last year at DRT were similar to conditions discovered almost 20 years ago, based on previous Interior reports. In 2008, DOI reported that DRT was losing at least $23.5 million in taxes every year.

    The DOI evaluation spanned about three months, from March 2013 through May 2013. Interior officials visited DRT, the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Bureau of Statistics and Plans and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marinas and interviewed DRT staff and staff from the Office of Public Accountability. The evaluation, the inspector general wrote, was performed in accordance with the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation as put for by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

 

Pangelinan resigns as GVB chief

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (GVB) – The Guam Visitors Bureau board of directors announced yesterday the resignation of Karl Pangelinan as general manager effective Jan. 31, 2015 following which Deputy General Manager Nathan Denight will serve as acting general manager.

“Karl’s dedication and marketing acumen have served the bureau well and have helped to guide tourism to new heights,” said Mark Baldyga, chairman of the board of GVB. “The board accepted his resignation and offered their appreciation for his outstanding work and contributions.”

Pangelinan said: "I cannot thank Gov. (Eddie) Calvo enough for this invaluable opportunity to serve the people of Guam and the tourism industry for the past two years. The fine people at GVB and in the industry have made this stint extremely fulfilling as a professional.  I will stay on through the end of January to ensure a smooth transition to the next leader of this organization. With the governor's vision and the expertise at the board level, GVB is in very capable hands and I expect even more success to be realized in the coming years.  As for me personally, I've not been shy about my intention to go back to the private sector. It's where my roots are and I'm extremely thrilled about the opportunities ahead of for me."

Baldyga said “Karl has been a great asset at the bureau. We are fortunate to have great depth in capable, seasoned leadership and an outstanding board that brings decades of industry experience.  We remain focused on executing the Tourism 2020 plan as we wish Karl the very best and look forward to continued growth in the island’s leading industry.”

 

Archaeological sites discovered

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

USFW) – On Nov. 12, Mike Carson, associate professor of archaeology at the University of Guam, visited the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian Point. While exploring the eastern part of the refuge with refuge maintenance worker Brian Leon Guerrero, they came across an ancient latte village complex site that has yet to be studied.

The site is part of what Hans Hornbostel described in the 1920s as a large expanse covered with "dense latte" around the northern end of Guam. The specific latte sets, however, were not formally mapped, recorded or excavated. Later islandwide surveys continued into the 1960s, acknowledging that the Ritidian area contained several latte sets but lacked proper documentation.

“This is exciting news to the refuge staff and all those concerned with Guam's cultural resources,” said Joseph Schwagerl, refuge manager. Carson led Schwagerl and staff to the site the following day where a small clearing and markings were set. This ancient village site includes eight to 10 latte sets.

The cultural midden deposits are visible at each latte set and in adjacent areas. At least one of the midden deposits, outside the footprint of any latte house, is curious because it apparently consists almost entirely of burned material without visible artifacts.

The site offers an excellent opportunity to observe and appreciate the layout of a latte village complex. The relationships among the different latte can be studied through detailed site recordings, measurements and discoveries of controlled excavations. Depending on the material findings, new questions may be addressed in regards to the ancient social life of the latte village.

Because of its location, northeast of the refuge’s administration building, this area is not frequented by staff or researchers.

“This comes as a complete surprise, because we thought we knew where every sacred and significant cultural site was on the refuge,” said Emily Sablan, park ranger.

This find is significant and plans are underway to submit a revised application, previously submitted to the State Historical Preservation Office, for this site to be included for listing in the National Register of Historical places. Visits to the site will be available at a later date and inquiries may be directed by calling 355-5096/5097 or submitting written inquires on the refuge website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/guam/.

 

Proposed incinerator near heritage preserve

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE site for the proposed waste-to-energy facility is near Guam's first heritage preserve – one reason why the Guam Preservation Trust expressed opposition to the now-moot Bill 433.

The proposed legislation sought to approve the WTE project proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners and ratify the settlement agreement between the group, GovGuam and the Guam Economic Development Authority.

According to the trust, the development would result in changing the integrity of the area and adversely affect Guam’s traditional cultural properties.

The trust was deeded 175 acres of land in the municipality of Piti and Santa Rita known as Atantano. According to the trust, it has designated the site as Guam’s first heritage preserve, to be known as the Atantano Heritage Preserve, as the property contains multiple cultural, natural and historic resources that have the potential to increase the knowledge of Guam’s history and heritage.

Moreover, the trust is designating the Atantano Heritage Preserve to promote the conservation and protection of the environmental footprint for the community.

Incomprehensible

“The notion of entertaining a proposal for a waste-to-energy facility next to what will be a heritage preserve seems completely incomprehensible,” said Joe Quinata, Guam Preservation Trust’s chief program officer. “We have called upon our island communities to help us stand with affirmation to conserve and preserve our cultural and natural heritage.”

According to the trust, it is its vision and mission to preserve, promote and protect Guam’s historic sites, culture and heritage through education, advocacy and community involvement.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, the chairman of the legislative committee on economic development, has decided not to report out Bill 433.

“I am going to take the prerogative as chairman of the committee to say that I will not move forward with this bill. This bill will not move forward in this term. It won’t be reported out,” he said.

Rodriguez made the announcement at the tail end of the public hearing for the measure on Friday. Members of the community who were in attendance applauded the decision.

 

‘Guam airport under investigation for Star Marianas issue’


Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY ALEXIE VILLEGAS ZOTOMAYOR | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • SAIPAN – The Guam International Airport Authority is under investigation.

    A letter from the Federal Aviation Administration director of airport compliance and management analysis Randall S. Fiertz to Star Marianas Air counsel Jason Goldstein of Richards & Associates on Nov. 13 confirms this.

    A copy of the letter was received by the airport’s counsel Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLC last Nov. 21.

    “I understand that on Sept. 16 you contacted FAA’s Western-Pacific Region Airports division requesting an investigation. That investigation is both recent and ongoing,” Fiertz told Goldstein.

    Fiertz said the “investigation process initiated by the Western Pacific Region, in accordance with 14 CFR Part 13, presumptively provides a reasonable prospect for resolution.”

    Star Marianas Air sought a formal Part 16 investigation as well which FAA dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 14 CFR §16.27 or incomplete complaint.

    Under 14 CFR §16.27, “If a complaint is not dismissed pursuant to § 16.25 of this part, but is deficient as to one or more of the requirements set forth in § 16.21 or § 16.23(b), the Director will dismiss the complaint within 20 days after receiving it. Dismissal will be without prejudice to the refiling of the complaint after amendment to correct the deficiency. The Director’s dismissal will include the reasons for the dismissal.”

    Fiertz explained to Goldstein that pursuant to 14 CFR §16.21, before filing a Part 16 complaint, a person directly and substantially affected by the alleged noncompliance must engage in good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally with those individuals or entities believed responsible for the noncompliance.

    Firtz said, “A complaint under this part will not be considered unless it certifies that (1) the complainant has made substantial and reasonable good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally prior to filing the complaint; and (2) there is no reasonable prospect for practical and timely resolution of the dispute.

    Elevated

    Last Sept. 16, Star Marianas Air through its chairman Robert Christian elevated the issue to FAA seeking an investigation of the Guam International Airport Authority for breach of grant assurances.

    Star Marianas Air has been attempting to provide scheduled and charter flights between the Northern Marianas and Guam; however, it claims to have hit roadblocks with its application to do so.

    According to the regional carrier, GIAA has leased the commuter terminal designated on the airport layout plan to United Airlines Human Resources and continues to deny SMA the use of the commuter passenger building for its aeronautical use.

    Star Marianas Air claims the airport is using the space for non-aeronautical purposes, which is a breach of grant assurances.

    The airline said that GIAA has breached Grant Assurance 22, Grant Assurance 23 and Grant Assurance 24 which in effect prevents SMA from having airside access to the Guam airport terminal.

    Grant Assurance 22 is on economic nondiscrimination which requires the airport sponsor to make its airport available for public use “without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities.”

    Grant Assurance 23 pertains to exclusive rights whereby it will permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any person providing, or intending to provide, aeronautical services to the public.

    Grant Assurance 24 covers fee and rental structure which requires the airport sponsor to assure that it will maintain a fee and rental structure for the facilities and services at the airport which will make the airport as self-sustaining as possible under the circumstances existing at a particular airport.

    Further on the Part 16 investigation request by SMA, FAA said that for a Part 13 informal investigation to be elevated to Part 16, certification as cited in 14 CFR §16.21(b)is required.

    Description

    The certification, Variety learned, must include a description of the party’s efforts to obtain informal resolution but shall not include information on monetary or other settlement offers made but not agreed upon in writing by all parties.

    Efforts to seek an informal resolution must be recent and with pertinent documentation.

    Fiertz, in response to SMA, wrote, “Your pleading does not indicate why the informal Part 13 resolution process offers no such prospect, or why FAA should commence the Part 16 process while the informal Part 13 process is ongoing.”

    In an interview, Star Marianas Air Inc. president Shaun Christian confirmed to Variety that an informal investigation is ongoing.

    “We have been informed that the FAA is investigating our informal complaint, but we do not have any feedback from them on how the investigation is going or how long it will take,” he said.

    “To date, we have received no formal timeframe from the GIAA when they will have a location available for us that allows self-access / self-handling of our aircraft and customers consistent with the size and scope of our operation,” he said.

    Hopeful

    He said they remain hopeful that SMA will receive feedback from them “in the near future that puts a definitive timeframe on when we can begin using the airport without being required to contract third party ground handlers at a substantial cost.”

    But if the FAA investigation drags on too long, Christian said they may consider their legal options.

    “At this point we are considering our legal options if the FAA’s investigation drags on too long or if the Guam Airport does not provide us with a location to operate from, including possibly filing a lawsuit in federal court against them. Hopefully this won’t be necessary and the FAA and the GIAA will work together to bring the airport into compliance with its regulatory requirements as a recipient of Federal Airport Improvement funds,” said Christian.

    SMA’s efforts to offer scheduled flights to Guam have been ongoing for the last two years.

    For its Guam-Rota-Saipan flights, Star Marianas Air is planning to use five passenger planes and seven cargo planes. It plans to use five nine-passenger aircraft, PA-31-350, Piper Super Chieftain and seven cargo planes.

    They intend to provide the traveling public with an alternative to Cape Air.

     


     

Real property revaluation behind deadline

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CORNERSTONE Valuation Guam is unable to complete the real property revaluation of local properties on time, prompting Department of Revenue and Taxation Director John Camacho to request an extension from the Guam Legislature.

“Our vendor that’s doing the revaluation for the entire island, that involves taxable and nontaxable property,” Camacho said. “There was a delay of the project for the taxable (property). It was supposed to be done by Aug. 30 so we can meet the time periods for releasing the preliminary notice and so forth.”

However, Cornerstone Valuation Guam failed to meet the deadline but Camacho said the revaluation will be completed by the end of the year.

In March, Adelup announced Cornerstone Valuation Guam would be reappraising and performing a “mass revaluation” of the island’s property, which had not been done on Guam for 20 years.

Once the reappraisal and revaluation is complete, the island can update its real property tax system, codes and collection data to reflect up-to-date values of properties.

With the revaluation process delayed, the other deadlines for the appeals and board approvals are pushed back. DRT looked to Guam lawmakers to extend the deadline for the revaluation process.

Camacho said he testified at the legislature in support of Sen. Michael Limtiaco’s Bill 413-32 which would extend deadlines and lower the statute of limitations on property tax payments from 30 years to 10 years.

If the bill becomes law, the first installment of taxes for 2014 real property tax assessment are to be paid on or before April 20, 2015 and the second installment on or before May 20, 2015. By June 2015, the department will publish the list delinquent of delinquent taxpayers and get back to regular deadlines for 2015 property assessments after that, Camacho said.

The deadlines will only apply for 2014 real property tax year only.

Camacho said he hopes the legislature will vote on the measure this month.

 

Hospital to upgrade revenue data system

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Memorial Hospital is working to integrate the revenue part of its new system software installed on Oct. 11. At last week’s board meeting, Vincent Quichocho, administrator for the hospital’s information technology division, said the hospital is still working to integrate the revenue portion of the new system before moving on to upgrade its general finance accounting system.

The hospital plans to upgrade its general finance accounting system and its clinical system next year but it is still ironing out problems with the revenue cycle system.

“We still have open issues, most of them are being worked on. We’re addressing them daily with our software vendors NTT Data,” Quichocho said.

Joseph Verga, hospital administrator, said the vendor would need to send a team back to Guam to train hospital staff to use the new system after the holidays have passed. Representatives from NTT Data were on Guam for three weeks after the Oct. 11 installation and also conducted web training months prior to switching to the new system, Quichocho said.

The reports generated by the new system have too much data that employees have to sift through and most of the time the employees are looking for specific information. This, in turn, slows the employee’s progress.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Benita Manglona said inputting information into the new system takes more time than it did with the old system. “There are some major challenges with the system that need to be addressed,” she said.

Manglona also said she thought the representatives from NTT Data left too soon and should have stayed longer when they were on Guam to train the staff.

“There’s been problems with this vendor, I’m not happy with this vendor,” Verga said. “We’ll get through it; it’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we had hoped.”

Manglona said the way the new revenue system was implemented was different from the way other system conversions were done. Instead of running both systems parallel while training staff to learn the new system, the old system was shut down and the new system was put in place.

Verga said the hospital might have to backtrack and run both systems for a smoother conversion.

Alongside upgrading the revenue system, Verga said the hospital was upgrading the clinical system and that it was important to stick to the timeframe when upgrading the clinical system for GMH.

Upgrading the clinical software would qualify GMH for $1.3 million in incentive payments from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service through the Electronic Health Records program.

Quichocho said the IT department will work on an implementation schedule for the clinical system upgrade and this week the hospital has a conference call with NTT Data to discuss this upgrade.

One of the bigger challenges GMH will have with implementing the clinical system upgrade is finding physicians to work on the implementation team. Some physicians who were slated to lead the effort with this program a year and a half ago are no longer working at GMH, Quichocho said.

        

Food stamp participants highest in five years; benefits drop

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Food prices also increased

THE number of people receiving assistance under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) on Guam is the highest it has been in five years, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP, or food stamps, is a federal program that offers eligible, low-income individuals and families assistance with food purchases.

While the number of people on Guam receiving SNAP benefits is at its peak, the amount given to each person has dropped an average of $25 per person.

In September 2013, there were 46,694 people on Guam receiving an average of $216 in SNAP benefits for food purchases, USDA data showed. Guam and Hawaii received the highest amount of average monthly benefits per person in fiscal 2013.

However, data from September 2014 showed 47,321 people on Guam received an average of $191 in SNAP benefits.

In addition to the average drop in benefits, food prices on Guam have increased, as indicated in the local consumer price index (CPI).

According to the latest CPI report, overall prices for food increased about 5.6 percent in the third quarter of 2014 compared to the third quarter of 2013. The CPI report is generated quarterly by the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans.

During the third quarter of 2014, egg prices jumped 9.3 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to the report.

Likewise, cereals and cereal products, including rice during the third quarter of 2014 were 22 percent higher than the same time period in 2013. In contrast, other food products like fats and oils and alcoholic beverages were priced lower this year, compared to last year.

The consumer price index report shows the price index for all food items between January 2013 and September 2014 grew 8 percent. Since December 2007, all food item prices climbed 37 percent through September 2014.

The drop in food stamp benefits is due to the cut in the nation’s food stamp budget for this year. In February, Congress passed a bill that cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits for the nation, which also affected Guam.

Over the last five years, USDA data showed a steady increase in the average number of individuals who receive SNAP benefits on Guam, from 36,926 individuals in 2009 to more than 47,000 in 2014.

The consumer price index is a measure of the average change in prices over time of goods and services purchased by households of families and single persons living alone, according to the report. It is measured from a total 165 items in eight major groups and covers price indexes of food, housing, transportation, medical care and others.

Mathew

As the macro economic numbers began to look good for investors over the last five years causing them to invest in Guam bonds, ironically, the number of folks on food assistance, among other types of assistance, has increased, not decreased. Why the dichotomy? Macro numbers are aggregate numbers that do not necessarily reflect the state of the economic health of the island's families. So, you could be on welfare and still contribute to the overall economy as welfare is a federal transfer program, for the most part, and therefore, an investment on Guam by another entity, Uncle Fed. (No wonder there is no movement on self-determination.) At the rate this divergence of economic health between the macro and micro components are occurring, it will take about 50 years to 'imagine Guam' being in a better place for working class families.

 

Real property revaluation behind deadline

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CORNERSTONE Valuation Guam is unable to complete the real property revaluation of local properties on time, prompting Department of Revenue and Taxation Director John Camacho to request an extension from the Guam Legislature.

“Our vendor that’s doing the revaluation for the entire island, that involves taxable and nontaxable property,” Camacho said. “There was a delay of the project for the taxable (property). It was supposed to be done by Aug. 30 so we can meet the time periods for releasing the preliminary notice and so forth.”

However, Cornerstone Valuation Guam failed to meet the deadline but Camacho said the revaluation will be completed by the end of the year.

In March, Adelup announced Cornerstone Valuation Guam would be reappraising and performing a “mass revaluation” of the island’s property, which had not been done on Guam for 20 years.

Once the reappraisal and revaluation is complete, the island can update its real property tax system, codes and collection data to reflect up-to-date values of properties.

With the revaluation process delayed, the other deadlines for the appeals and board approvals are pushed back. DRT looked to Guam lawmakers to extend the deadline for the revaluation process.

Camacho said he testified at the legislature in support of Sen. Michael Limtiaco’s Bill 413-32 which would extend deadlines and lower the statute of limitations on property tax payments from 30 years to 10 years.

If the bill becomes law, the first installment of taxes for 2014 real property tax assessment are to be paid on or before April 20, 2015 and the second installment on or before May 20, 2015. By June 2015, the department will publish the list delinquent of delinquent taxpayers and get back to regular deadlines for 2015 property assessments after that, Camacho said.

The deadlines will only apply for 2014 real property tax year only.

Camacho said he hopes the legislature will vote on the measure this month.

 

  

USS Fort Worth arrives

Posted: Dec 11, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - The USS Forth Worth made its first visit to Guam this morning as part its maiden 16-month rotational deployment in support of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance.

Building on its USS Freedom's inaugural 10-month deployment from March to December 2013, Fort Worth will expand LCS operations in the region to include visiting more ports, engaging regional navies during exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and expanding LCS capabilities with tools like the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter.

According to a release, Fort Worth will train with the Republic of Korea Navy in exercise Foal Eagle and will join multinational ships at Singapore's Changi Naval Base for the International Maritime Defence Exhibition.

Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs Office Lt. Tim Gorman says there are about 100 sailors aboard the USS Forth Worth. While he could not disclose how long the USS Fort Worth will be on Guam, he says their visit is an opportunity to refuel and restock on supplies and get some downtime in Guam before they head to Singapore.

$40M reconstruction renovation for Emerald Oceanview OK’d

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

NEW investment may be coming to Guam to the tune of $40 million following the approval of the permit application for the reconstruction of the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium.

Carl Dominguez, director of the Department of Public Works, told Variety yesterday that the agency has approved the application filed by Core Tech International, the owners of the property.

Under the newly-approved permit, the developer has 90 days from approval of the permit to start the project.

Dominguez said that in the event the developer is not ready for this startup date, DPW can provide the company an extension of 90 days which must be filed before the first 90-day original start date for the project. By law, a developer can be provided up to three extensions consecutively only, each with a 90-day window.

The director said that the $40 million overall construction cost will specifically be used in the reconstruction and renovation of the existing four towers on the Cliffside next to Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning.

In September, Core Tech picked up the permit application from DPW. As a process, planning and designs for the proposed project have to be turned in to the agency’s engineers for assessment and review.

Dominguez told Variety that on the newly-approved design, there were certain modifications which he labeled as “minor changes” from the original design that was proposed years back.

DPW is the agency that issues building permits for all government and private sector projects. Clearances also have to be obtained from other agencies. Once these agencies have cleared the applicant, DPW grants the permit.

New design

The director said that under the project’s new design, the current four towers will not go any higher and the new investment will specifically be utilized in its full construction and renovating all of them.

Dominguez said that the $40 million “new money” is a key investment for Guam and DPW welcomes this substantial infusion of funds to the government.

Under the original Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium plan, the project was to include four condominium towers and 20 villa-type luxury homes in Tamuning. Two towers were to be 15 stories while the other two towers were to be 18 stories.

In 2007, DPW issued the building permit for the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium project. However, when the project stopped construction in June 2010, it didn’t request an extension of its building permit.

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 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.

 

USEPA: Recycling favored over waste-to-energy method

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • Calvo urges legislature to carefully examine WTE contract

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorities say recycling is a preferred method of solid waste management over waste-to-energy methods.

    “Recycling and composting is definitely preferred over waste-to-energy under USEPA’s solid waste management hierarchy,” said Timonie Hood, staff member of EPA Region 9, who works with solid waste and recycling programs.

    Recent legislation introduced by Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, Bill 433-32, seeks to approve a waste-to-energy facility for Guam proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners.

    A public hearing for the controversial legislation will be held today.

    GRRP project consultant David Sablan addressed the Mayors’ Council of Guam last week seeking the council’s support for Muña-Barnes’ bill. Sablan told mayors that the waste-to-energy facility would be economically sound and environmentally friendly and that USEPA had approved the plans for the facility.

    But USEPA Press Officer Dean Higuchi told Variety that EPA Region 9 is not aware of any approvals provided on the subject of waste-to-energy plans. “Neither USEPA’s solid waste nor air management programs approved any such plans,” Higuchi said.

    Further, waste-to-energy facilities are considered one of the least preferred solid waste management practices.

    Hood said recycling conserves more energy than waste-to-energy facilities produce, even when transportation is factored into the equation.

    Extended

    The life of natural resources is extended through recycling efforts. “Recycling extends the life of our natural resources by turning them into new products,” Hood said. “For example, office paper can be made into recycled copy paper instead of cutting down trees.”

    Aluminum cans can be made into new cans or used for baseball bats or airplane parts, Hood added.

    The island is “making incredible recycling progress,” Hood said. Guam’s annual recycling rate jumped from 18 percent in 2011 to 32 percent in 2013, before islandwide curbside recycling was implemented, she said, adding that using recycled materials reduces pressure to expand forestry and mining production, which can damage the environment.

    On Wednesday, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman Simon Sanchez told mayors that the waste-to-energy contract proposed by GRRP was a risky contract and said the money the government would spend on the facility would be better spent on recycling efforts.

    Gov. Eddie Calvo said the Guam Legislature should look at all the cards on the table when considering the waste-to-energy contract.

    “Let’s look at the environmental issues and the science and then the economics. We already are in a situation where we have a lot that’s going to be on the plate of ratepayers because of the overspending on Layon (Landfill) and the closure of (Ordot Dump),” Calvo said. “There’s no doubt the receiver has overspent. ... With that, we can’t afford to make further mistakes that can have an impact on the environment or the ratepayer.”

 

Asan residents reject statue

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN A heated village meeting held last night at the Asan Mayor’s Office, residents vehemently objected to the statue of famous Filipino revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini that was recently put up in the village.

Philippine Consul General Marciano de Borja attempted to assuage residents by sharing the reasons behind putting up the statue of Mabini, but residents continued to speak over de Borja. The consul general said Asan was where detainees, including the exiled Mabini, were held in the early 1900s, which is why the village is a place of significance in Mabini’s history.

De Borja said he went through the proper government channels and the project was permitted by the Asan mayor, the Department of Public Works and the Mayors’ Council of Guam.

Lifelong Asan resident Leslie San Nicolas, 61, however, said the statue should not have been put in place without the input of the community. “You know our mayor and the (municipal council), you should be ashamed of yourself,” San Nicolas said. “You’re going to build a Mabini? Who is Mabini? I don’t care if he’s an exiled Filipino guy. But, hey, let us decide.”

Members of the Philippine Consulate presented about Mabini’s life to the impassioned crowd, explaining that this year would be the 150th anniversary of Mabini’s birth and that the government officials of Guam approved the project.

Emotional crowd

Asan Mayor Margaret Blas attempted to speak to the emotional crowd and said another meeting will be held to discuss the village’s concerns.

The statue is funded through donations from various Filipino organizations on Guam and not through government funds, according to de Borja.

The statue is a life-size granite sculpture of Mabini, only the third in the world to exist and the first one to be put up outside of the Philippines. The statue itself cost $7,000, while the pedestal built on government property next to the mayor’s office cost about $13,000.

Fred Aguon, 72, said he is part of the Chamorro organization Taotaomo’na Native Rights. Although he is a resident of Malesso, Aguon attended last night’s meeting. He said he did not want the statue of Mabini but thought that a statue of a reputable Asan resident should be put up instead.

Many of the residents that spoke last night were concerned about the lack of community input about the statue of a Filipino leader. Instead, residents suggested that other Chamorro leaders’ statues be erected in the village.

Three police officers were present at last night’s meeting to ensure the crowd did not get out of hand and despite the nearly two-hour meeting, residents walked away without a feeling of resolution.

Immediately after the meeting, Blas met with the municipal council to digest the community’s input and decide whether to hold another meeting.

The statue is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at the statue site.

De Borja said he did not think the issue would cause arguments among the community and said it was the wish of the consul to strengthen ties between the village and the Philippines with the statue.

De Borja told Variety that he was approached last week while at the statue site by angered Asan resident Joe Jesus who yelled at the consul general and said the statue should be taken down.

 

  • MLK 4 hours ago

    Racism is alive and well on Guam

    ARTLAFFER 3 hours ago

    How about moving Ricky's statute from Adelupe to the newly built pedestal in Asan? Then the people of Asan will get the likeness of a Chamorro leader upon which to gaze...a man who, the day he was slated to leave Guam to enter prison in the States, chained himself to the statute of another Chamorro leader and shot himself in the head.
    Erecting the Mabini statute on the pedestal at Adelupe would more accurately reflect Guam' s values.

    Mathew 6 hours ago

    Napoleon Bonaparte: The only thing that is stopping the poor from killing the rich is religion. So, thank the Spanish for bringing in organized religion and a "statue culture."

    Yigo76 7 hours ago

    Solutions: Put the statue on a private citizen's lot or move the statue to a predominantly Filipino village.

    taotaomona 8 hours ago

    The people of Asan have spoken. Biba!!

  

GMH trauma center proposed

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DR. Hilary Chollet, who was hired as a general surgeon in October at Guam Memorial Hospital, is proposing that the hospital be designated as a trauma center.

Chollet spoke to hospital board members at their meeting on Wednesday about the trauma center designation that Chollet is planning to gain for the hospital. The trauma care designation will be authorized by the American College of Surgeons.

Joseph Verga, GMH administrator, said he is very excited and wholeheartedly supports the idea.

Chollet said he successfully set up three trauma centers in the United States mainland. There are four types of trauma centers, levels 1 through 4. The trauma centers Chollet had set up were all level 2 trauma centers, which is what he plans to set up at GMH.

“Near as I can tell, in Guam you have about 1,000 trauma cases a year. That’s a small number but ... it’s a big deal. It’s a life-changer,” Chollet said. “More money in trauma is lost than in heart disease and cancer because in large part, it hits our young people and they’re disabled and not able to work, and for society to take care of them for years, and years, and years ... it’s a big deal.”

The goal is to take good care of a trauma patient and get the patient back to work, Chollet said.

Chollet said he noticed some areas of improvement for Guam in order to have an efficient trauma center, including having EMTs call the emergency room to determine the patient’s status as soon as EMTs arrive on the scene.

Ideally

Chollet said, ideally, a trauma center would need a nurse for the right side of a patient, the left side of a patient, an emergency room doctor, trauma surgeon and a CAT scan technician in addition to alerting the operating room to have the whole hospital on alert when a trauma patient comes to GMH. “That’s the kind of resources you have to throw at people to have them survive,” he said.

“In terms of infrastructure, a couple nice things have taken place,” Chollet said. A chapter of the American College of Surgeons come will come to Guam and allow Chollet to bring together a committee. From there, the rules and infrastructure will be developed.

Chollet said he expects by next September the American College of Surgeons will consult with GMH and about a year after that they will visit to verify if GMH can become a trauma center.

Chollet said that GMH will have to have zero deficiencies in order for it to become a trauma center.



Power rates may go down again


Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


CCU OKs further LEAC reduction

THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities last night endorsed a Guam Power Authority resolution further reducing the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) starting February 2015.


CCU chairman Simon Sanchez said this could generate another 10.29 percent savings to power ratepayers, on top of the 10.99 percent savings produced by a prior adjustment to the LEAC ordered by the Public Utilities Commission in November.

Should the PUC approve the new LEAC adjustment, power ratepayers will see a significant combined reduction of at least 21 percent by Feb. 1, 2015.

Last November, the LEAC was adjusted from $0.176441 per kilowatt-hour to $0.146666/kWh, resulting in a 10.99 percent decrease in the total bill of a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kWh per month, or savings of around $29.77 per month.

For the new filing, GPA determined that the LEAC factor for secondary voltage service customers will need to be decreased from $0.14666/kWh to $0.121461/kWh for the period of Feb. 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015.

The change in the LEAC factor would result in a decrease of 10.29 percent of the total bill or $25.21 per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month.

Additional reduction

Sanchez said the new filing is an additional reduction on top of the LEAC rate decrease that occurred last Nov. 1.

"The total bill went down by almost 11 percent in November. Subject to PUC approval, it will go down to at least another 10.29 percent in Feb. 1. That decrease will hold all the way to end of July," Sanchez said, adding, "The good news is, this new reduction will hold during the whole six months until the next LEAC adjustment period.”

The next adjustment period will be in Aug. 1, 2015.

Sanchez said the combined reduction will continue at least until the end of July next year.

"So the reduction from Nov. 1 continues. On top of that, you will have a reduction in February next year. The total reduction – around 21 percent on the total bill – stays in place at least until the end of July 2015," Sanchez said.

The LEAC rate represents the fuel surcharge that GPA periodically adjusts every six months, based on world oil prices.

According to GPA, the worldwide cost of fuel has been very volatile in recent years and more noticeably in recent months.

Moreover, the spot market price for fuel has seen a reduction in recent months that compelled GPA to file a petition for an interim reduction.



‘USEPA did not issue any approval on waste-to-energy plan’

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DESPITE assurances by the Guam Resource Recovery Partners (GRRP) that it has received approval for its waste-to-energy facility, one local resident yesterday said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not issued any approval on the WTE plan.

Santa Rita resident Ken Leon Guerrero, who has been opposing the planned construction of the WTE facility for seven years now, said he has sought clarification from the USEPA on the matter.  Yesterday morning, Leon Guerrero said federal representatives responded to his inquiry via phone and email. During a presentation at the Rotary Club of Northern Guam, Leon Guerrero told the group that representatives from the federal agency informed him that they were not aware of any approvals given to the proposed WTE project.

GRRP representative David Sablan earlier told the Mayors’ Council of Guam that the emissions from the planned WTE facility are “the second cleanest smoke” and that plans for the facility have already been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Leon Guerrero, USEPA gave the following response to his inquiry: “USEPA Region 9 is not aware of any approvals we provided on the subject WTE plans. In particular, neither USEPA’s solid waste nor air management programs approved any such plans.”

No financial plan

In an interview with Variety, Philip J. Flores, chairman of the board of directors of Guahan Waste Control, said there has been no financial study or independent study done on the WTE plan proposed by GRRP, except for the studies released by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. and consultant William Whitman.

“They have produced no financials to show how much it would cost to build and to operate. They don't even have an operator,” Flores said.

The Whitman study estimates a minimum capital cost of $249,450,000 while GBB estimates $234 million.

However, Flores said the amount could even be much higher.

"They do not have anybody in their team who has done this before. They even said they need to find somebody who could do this. If they are going to find somebody to do this, then they really do not know how much this is going to cost," Flores said.

Bill 433, which was recently introduced to ratify the settlement agreement and approve the WTE contract, estimates the project will involve new investments totaling more than $200 million.

Flores said GRRP has been releasing estimates, but so far, “they have yet to show a firm financial model.”

He added there are several other financial concerns, specifically on the implications to Guam's debt burden with the opening of the WTE facility.

"Layon will still have to operate. It is not going to close down and you still have to pay the debt on it. We owe over a hundred million dollars on this and we still have to pay that debt," he said.

Flores added, "If you build the WTE facility at another $200 million, now you have $400 million worth of facilities to take care of. It cost us $171 per ton to take care of one facility and the closure of Ordot. How much is it going to cost per ton to take care of two facilities and the closure of Ordot?"

"Tipping fees have to go up. When GRRP says that tipping fees are going down, they are absolutely trying to fool the public," he added, citing figures from both GBB and the Whitman study.

Once the facility becomes operational, the GBB study estimates that current rates of $171.60 could increase to $399.17 per ton. Meanwhile, the Whitman study estimates an increase of up to $430 per ton.

Flores said customers will have to pay almost $70 a month for residential trash pickup and $400 per ton for commercial trash disposal to recover the debt service the government of Guam will incur if the agreement materializes.

No new facilities

In 2000, there were around 110 WTE plants in the U.S., according to Flores, citing a magazine article. The number has decreased to 84 with the closure of several plants.

"There has not been a new WTE plant in the U.S. built during the last 20 years," Flores stressed.


Dominguez stepping down as Department of Public Works director

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DEPARTMENT of Public Works Director Carl Dominguez said his last day as DPW director will be at the end of this month.

“I intend to return to the private sector,” Dominguez said. “The governor will formally announce my resignation and replacement when he is ready to. I’m leaving DPW because I want a change of pace.”

Dominuguez was appointed director in January 2013, according to a statement from the Office of the Governor. Dominguez served as DPW deputy director under former DPW Director Joanne Brown since January 2011.

When Brown left to take the helm as general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, Calvo appointed Dominguez to replace Brown as

director.

Under his tenure, Dominguez oversaw completion of various DPW roadway projects, including the widening of Route 4, completion of the Agana Bridge and work on Route 17.

Dominguez was also in charge at the start of many other large DPW projects, including the Tiyan Parkway project, the Pigua bridge and Inarajan bridge rehabilitation.

Prior to joining DPW, Dominguez was the facilities manager for Continental Micronesia airline.

Interim commuter terminal project ongoing, airport assures

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • STAR Marianas Air’s wait to operate on Guam may be a little longer because the site identified to become the Guam airport’s interim commuter terminal for the airline and other interested parties has not yet been constructed or renovated for use.

    The A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority said yesterday that inspection of the proposed interim commuter terminal is still ongoing, and once plans are approved by the regulatory agencies, construction and renovation of the facility will be bid out.

    “It is important to note that a critical piece of making this facility possible lies with the Guam Customs and Quarantine, and (the Department of) Agriculture – in particular regard to the inspection area and its operation and allocation of resources to process arriving passengers and cargo,” said Rolenda Faasuamalie, GIAA marketing administrator and spokeswoman for the agency.

    GIAA has identified the Yellow Cargo Building as the target facility as a multipurpose building. Although there are no federal inspection requirements, the airport has been working with Guam Customs and Quarantine on its criteria and to designate the Yellow Cargo Building as an inspection facility under its mandate.

    Yesterday, Faasuamalie told Variety the project is ongoing in consultation with parties of interest to ensure all concerns are addressed. She added the facility plan is still in development.

    “Once the proposed inspection area has been approved by the regulatory parties, GIAA will consult with Star Marianas and other operators on the common-use facility,” she said.

    According to Faasuamalie, GIAA will prepare a bid package for construction and renovation for the facility.

    Security

    Variety was earlier told that the airport’s commuter terminal was closed more than 10 years ago for security reasons by both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Guam Customs and Quarantine.

    GIAA decided not to revert the original 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.

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

    Once built, the space will be available for Star Marianas and other interested carriers utilizing specific aircraft types and will become a common-use facility.
    Under the Star Marianas proposal, daily operation will commence primarily for Guam-Rota service and Guam-Saipan service. It will utilize a Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft with eight-seat capacity. At present, Star Marianas’ operation on Guam is for cargo service only.


  

GVB backs Bill 416 but opposes qualifying certificate abeyance

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Visitors Bureau said it supports Bill 416 and its provision introducing a special tax-incentive qualifying certificate specifically for the development of 1,600 new hotel rooms.

However, the bureau opposes that part of the bill which provides for the abeyance of the QC program.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez introduced the measure which also seeks to enact a "General Industry Specific Qualifying Certificate" abeyance so that no new QC or QC renewals shall be approved until the Guam Economic Development Authority has developed industry-specific policies, regulations, criteria and measurable goals ensuring the appropriate stimulation of legitimate investment in new economic development.

During the public hearing for the measure, Karl Pangelinan, GVB general manager, said the QC program has been and continues to be an important tool for attracting new investment to Guam and developing new industries.

He said the current lack of hotel room inventory is hampering the goal of increasing tourism arrivals, noting that the Tourism 2020 master plan reveals a need for 1,600 more rooms to accommodate increased tourist arrivals. “We recognize GEDA’s board, management and staff for recognizing this opportunity and updating the QC program to effectively attract new hotel investment,” he said.

Pangelinan said that Asia’s tourism industry is booming and the cost of doing business on Guam is quite high relative to many parts of Asia. He said the new QC program is exactly the new tool that Guam needs to be competitive in this environment.

“GVB looks forward to marketing this program together with GEDA,” he said.

Road map

GVB launched its tourism 2020 plan in January. The plan sets a road map for achieving a shared vision for developing Guam as a world-class, first-tier resort destination of choice.

According to Pangelinan, the plan projects an aggressive but achievable goal of raising arrivals from 1.75 to 2 million by the year 2020, adding approximately 12,000 more jobs and $140 million in additional tax revenues.

Under the measure, a special QC would incentivize developers and assist GVB in achieving its 2020 target of building 1,600 new hotel rooms.

Each developer will be allowed a tax rebate, exemption and abatement in an amount equal to 10 percent of their total construction cost, which could be applied to one of the following:

  • 50 percent business privilege tax for 20 years as long as the tax credits are available at the point they are taken;

  • 75 percent income tax rebate for 20 years;

  • 100 percent real property tax abatement for 10 years, under certain conditions; or

  • 100 percent of use tax exemption with respect to the property used to construct, furnish and equip the new facility construction or substantial expansion of an existing building.

    Eligible developers will also be required to file their application for the special QC program prior to issuance of the hotel project building permit.

    

Ancient latte village discovered at Ritidian refuge

Posted: Dec 11, 2014 by Krystal Paco  KUAM


Guam - The US Fish and Wildlife Service is releasing information about the recent discovery of an ancient latte village complex site at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian.

University of Guam associate professor of archeology Dr. Mike Carson was exploring the eastern part of the refuge with maintenance worker Brian Leon Guerrero when they found the ancient village which includes eight to ten latte sets.

According to Park Ranger Emily Sablan this find is significant and plans are underway to submit a revised application, for the site to be included for listing in the National Register of Historical Places.

                            

 

Mayors’ Council shelves resolution on waste-to-energy facility

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • CCU chairman: Agreement risky

    YESTERDAY the five mayors that attended a special meeting to listen to opponents of Bill 433 decided it was best to take their time reviewing the pros and cons of the proposed waste-to-energy facility before drafting a resolution in support or against the project.

    Ordot-Chalan Pågo Mayor Jessy Gogue reiterated his sentiments last week asking acting Mayors’ Council of Guam President Mayor Carol Tayama to hold off on drafting a resolution reflecting the council’s position.

    “I asked that we delay it until such time that we look at this matter individually and come up with our own opinions,” Gogue said. “I appreciate the presenters coming today because it provides us with the flip side of the coin and I still contend that until we can collectively say we fully understand the issue, creating a resolution one way or another at this point in time, I think, is premature.”

    Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez presented at the Mayors’ Council of Guam yesterday along with Guahan Waste Control Chairman Phil Flores and Ken Leon Guerrero, a resident of Santa Rita. They oppose the waste-to-energy facility proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners.

    A smattering of mayors attended yesterday’s meeting, including Gogue, Tayama, Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao, Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares, Barrigada Mayor June Blas, Santa Rita Mayor Dale Alvarez and Asan-Maina Mayor Joanna Margaret Blas. Savares and Gumataotao left the meeting before Gogue suggested they delay a resolution about the bill and the WTE facility.

    Gumataotao suggested they prepare a resolution to stop the GRRP facility but Tayama pointed out that the council did not have a minimum number of members present to vote on Gumataotao’s proposal.

    Too risky

    Simon Sanchez spoke on behalf of the CCU and said the contract proposed by GRRP is too risky and the numbers do not add up.

    Sanchez said there is not enough information with reliable numbers from GRRP that adds up and if the numbers make sense on the solid waste side, it negatively affects the utilities side. Conversely, Sanchez said if the numbers make sense on the utilities side, then it negatively affects the solid waste data.

    “In either case, on the trash or power side, the net difference for all of us is that it goes up,” Sanchez said to the mayors. “Either your power bill’s going to go up or your tipping fees go down a little or not at all.”

    Sanchez said the money that would go into GRRP would be better put to use increasing recycling efforts and exporting the waste off-island through recycling efforts rather than keeping the waste on island.

    Sanchez also said the Guam Power Authority does not have a contract with GRRP for the electricity the WTE facility would generate. There are other unknowns that have not been made clear to key stakeholders, the CCU chairman said.

    “Even at GPA we don’t see the numbers,” he said. “We’re not sure of a lot of things and that should tell you something. We would never award a contract if we were unsure of all this stuff. It would be irresponsible.”

Chairman: Chamber opposes waste-to-energy legislation

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce has reiterated his group’s opposition to Bill 433, the controversial measure which seeks to approve the waste-to-energy project (WTE) proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners

According to Pete Sgro, chairman of the Guam Chamber, the group's board of directors unanimously voted to oppose Bill 433.

"This is the third consistent position that the chamber has objected to the GRRP contract," Sgro said.

The chamber represents more than 400 businesses that employ approximately 40,000 people. Although there are several reasons why the chamber opposes the WTE contract, Sgro said the main reason is the total lack of disclosure "on how much each and every one of our members and every taxpayer on Guam" will have to spend to fund the project.

"We are very disappointed that this bill is being introduced despite almost 20 years of objection by our community. The bill is about 300 pages, which is an artful way of discouraging anyone to read it. The bill itself, without all the distracting exhibits, is only six pages. Despite existing law that makes this contract void, the author cleverly inserts the language ‘notwithstanding any other law.’ This is another hidden agenda to repeal all existing laws that oppose this contract which I personally believe lacks full disclosure," Sgro said.

He added the contract guarantees a rate of return of 20 percent on an entire project that all tax payers will have to pay.

"Not one of our members have this luxury of basically no risk. Also, despite the mediation, GEDA never agreed to the contract and turned the matter to the legislature," Sgro said.

Sgro also wants to know exactly how much the project will cost the taxpayers of Guam. "The cost always is not disclosed nor is it disclosed by the sponsor of this bill. My members and 40,000 employees have the right to know and yet nobody seems to know the cost or does know the cost but is hiding it from the entire community," Sgro said.

As chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Sgro said he has a fiduciary duty to protect the chamber's membership. Sgro said he will testify against the measure during the bill's public hearing on Friday.

‘Pay raises deserved’

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday said the recent pay raises for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 was a move he supported, and he believes he and his appointees deserve a raise.

“I believe my people deserve a raise,” Calvo said. “I do believe I do deserve a raise but a raise that was not calculated by me but by a group that the government of Guam paid good money for.”

On Dec. 3, Simon Sanchez High School teacher Andre Baynum started circulating a petition online pleading with politicians to repeal the new law with respect to elected officials.

More than 800 people yesterday signed the petition as of 7 p.m. Baynum wrote that the law is “an affront to the general public on Guam who continue to endure substandard results on social and economical issues facing the island.”

Baynum told Variety he thought the pay raises are “unconscionable.”

Calvo, however, said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

The timing of the bill, Calvo said, was to ensure the issue was not politicized as it was in the beginning of the year. “Unfortunately, Sen. (Michael San Nicolas) has politicized the issue again.”

San Nicolas introduced a bill to repeal P.L. 32-208 on Tuesday but the measure failed to pass during Tuesday’s special session.

Not forgotten

Calvo said he has not forgotten about the other issues on Guam, including dilapidated roads and the condition of Guam Memorial Hospital. He said under his governance, he’s been able to repair roads, add police equipment, add police officers and improve conditions at the hospital.

“Rome was not built in a day,” Calvo said. “I’m seeing improvement and obviously we have to do a lot more but it also means as we improve, we pay the people the fair worth of their salt.”

All the government employees received wage increases according to the Hay Group’s study completed in 2010 and the elected officials were initially taken out at the beginning of this year. Calvo said he has been fighting for this raise since the beginning of the year and he advised the legislature in February not to tinker with the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

However, now that the act has been tinkered with, Calvo said continued tinkering will further cause inequities among government employees’ salaries. “My recommendation is this: If they’re going to continue to fool around and kill off the portions that we put back, then maybe we should consider everything,” Calvo said. “Then maybe we consider just taking everybody’s pay increase away and look at autonomous agencies and start from square one. I don’t think we should do it but in order to create harmony and equity, to ensure we don’t cause an imbalance.”

Calvo said he’ll donate his salary as he and his wife decide.

On retroactively paying the salaries, the governor also said they should have been paid since the beginning. “I think these hard-working government employees that were excluded in January were cheated,” he said.

Guam's diabetes statistic hits alarming rate

Posted: Dec 09, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Diabetes on island is a very serious problem. According to Public Health program coordinator Pat Luces in the last ten years we were averaging 10%, meaning one in every ten people has the disease. And in 2013 that number jumped to 14%.

"The most alarming thing is that we are seeing it hit our youth at a very young age we are them the youngest that we have with type two diabetes is five years old," he explained. Luces says that diabetes patients are getting younger and the contributing factors is obesity, adding, "The 8-year-old that we had which is about eight years ago when this person was diagnosed this person was about 150 pounds and so we got some big kids obese kids and that is the alarming issue," he said.

He says they are seeing a lot of young adults in their twenties already needing dialysis treatment, and the youngest individual with diabetes who has lost their sight is sixteen years old.  "We at the department the data is so alarming that you cannot address diabetes and NCDs such heart disease stroke and cancer and obesity at a later stage of their lives when they actually have the disease," he said.

Seeing such alarming numbers and the age of those afflicted younger the Public Health is focusing on education working with the Department of Education, UOG, GCC and the private schools to address these diseases. "We are going to address NCDs where we learn where we live and that's in our homes changing healthy behaviors in our home where we work we have the worksite wellness program where we play what is it that we do after our day at work or what is it that our kids do after school," he said.

Luces says physical activity is key to protecting against diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Rev and Tax to launch online pay option by end of the month

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

John Camacho

DEPARTMENT of Revenue of Taxation Director John Camacho said the online payment feature for taxpayers is still set to launch at the end of this month.

“Our vendor said it’s still going to be completed by the end of the year, so once that online payment is up, we’re going to also revive our online services which were put aside for a while,” Camacho said. “I’m trying to make sure we go back by the end of the year or first week of January to make sure these services are back on track again.”

The department’s website is able to handle electronic transactions such as vehicle registrations, business license renewals and electronic filings of income tax returns and gross receipt taxes but taxpayers have not had the option to pay online for about three years, since November 2011.

Camacho said the department did not have enough money to pay for the website feature which is why it was unavailable for so long.

By the end of the month, users can hope to process their payments electronically for taxes, business licenses and vehicle registrations.

DRT will continue to accept payments in person at the Treasurer of Guam or by mail.

In addition to restoring the online payment feature, the department is aggressively seeking to collect from taxpayers who owe the government.

Camacho said the collections branch is aggressively pursuing individuals who owe money and contacting them for payment.

The department is also open to working out a payment plan with those taxpayers that may not have the money readily available.

Bill seeks abeyance of GEDA Qualifying Certificate program

Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A MEASURE which seeks to issue special Qualifying Certificates for the development of new hotel rooms but at the same time also enacts a temporary suspension on the issuance of other industry-specific QCs has received mixed support from the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Bill 416, introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, seeks to enact a "General Industry Specific Qualifying Certificate" abeyance so that no new QC or QC renewals shall be approved and issued until such time as GEDA has developed industry-specific policies, regulations, criteria, and measurable goals ensuring the appropriate stimulation of legitimate investments in new economic development.

The QC abeyance provision shall not include industry-specific development projects already “satisfactorily” established on Guam, to ensure that the government does not unnecessarily waive needed revenues for an industry-specific category that already exists or is satisfactorily established.

The Rodriguez measure also supports the Guam Visitors Bureau's goal of developing 1,600 new hotel rooms by introducing a special qualifying certificate specifically for this purpose and authorizing GEDA to issue the qualifying certificates.

According to Rodriguez, the intent of the legislation is to amend the current statutes on QCs, not to close down the program.

"Our plan, moving forward, is to look at all the industries that we have on our books. What are the QCs that we have provided to investors? We want to see how we could re-establish or change the way things are. Right now, the QC program is open-ended," Rodriguez said.

Tighten

Rodriguez said the measure would tighten up the program and make it really attractive to investors. At the same time, it also seeks to ensure that the community benefits from the investments.

"Part of the bill establishes an abeyance of any future QCs moving forward. But we are not closing shop. We know that QCs are important but what we would like to do is look at all the different industries and look at what the real needs of the community are. What kind of investors do we need to bring in? From there, we can give the flexibility to GEDA to develop the process and develop a measurable formula," the senator said.

In a recent public hearing on the bill, Mana Silva-Taijeron, GEDA deputy administrator, provided testimony on behalf of administrator John Rios, saying that the development authority partially supports the measure.

However, they oppose an abeyance of the QC program.

"GEDA has testified in the past that the program is the single most unique investment tool that allows Guam to compete with Asian and U.S. domiciles. It has been a successful marketing program, enticing billions of dollars to Guam since its inception," she said.

Silva-Taijeron said that aside from creating jobs and other benefits, the QC program has helped GEDA's role in building a strong economy. "Any moratorium on Guam's investment tool would hamper our efforts to compete in the global market, to entice investments and to grow industries," she added.

She went on to say that without the QC program, GEDA would no longer be able to require companies to provide employment to local residents and ensure participation in training programs as well as support local community programs.

Incentive

Under the measure, a special QC would incentivize developers and assist GVB in achieving its 2020 target of building 1,600 new hotel rooms.

Each developer will be allowed a tax rebate, exemption and abatement in an amount equal to 10 percent of their total construction cost, which can be applied to either the following: a) 50 percent business privilege tax for 20 years as long as the tax credits are available at the point they are taken; b) 75 percent income tax rebate for 20 years; c) 100 percent real property tax abatement for 10 years, under certain conditions; or d) 100 percent of use tax exemption with respect to the property used to construct, furnish, and equip the new facility construction or substantial expansion of an existing building.

Eligible developers will also be required to file their application to the special QC program prior to issuance of the hotel project building permit.

‘WTE to affect recycling’

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Adverse impact to jobs seen

THE proposed waste-to-energy facility, once set up and operational, could impact the island's growing recycling industry causing the potential closure of facilities and loss of jobs, opponents of the plan warned.

The waste-to-energy, or energy-from-waste, contract is now awaiting ratification through Bill 433. The measure will be heard this Friday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. at the Guam Legislature.

The WTE process involves generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the incineration of waste.

Because of this, Robert “Bob” Perron, president and general manager of Guahan Waste Control, said WTE is normally in competition with recycling. Thus, he said there needs to be a very carefully crafted contract to allow these two opposing uses of the waste stream to co-exist.

"In this case, there is no carve-out for recycling. Recyclables would necessarily need to be burned to meet the volume demands of the incinerator. The problem you run into on Guam is that you have a small waste stream, too small to allow these two points of view to exist together," he said.

On Guam, Perron emphasized, "You'll either have recycling or incineration, not both.”

“We see the passing of the incinerator contract as the death of recycling on Guam. Incineration is not the highest and best use of recyclable material. When you recycle paper or cardboard, you will recycle the fiber numerous times, not just a one-time use like burning it,” Perron said.

More energy

He added that recreating products from raw material takes significantly more energy and use of precious natural resources than to reuse or remanufacture it using the recycled material.

Phil Flores, chairman of the Guahan Waste Control board of directors, said the WTE facility could shut down recycling companies on island, forcing a large number of people working in the industry to lose their jobs.

"These companies provide tax revenues to the government of Guam. These companies will no longer be around to pay taxes," he said.

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive list of around 10 companies accepting recyclable plastics, aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, and green waste. The bigger companies, such as Guahan Waste Control, employ more than 35 people.

Flores said recycling efforts have improved over the years. This year, Guam had a 28.13 percent recycling rate, according to GEPA.

"All of those efforts will go up in smoke should they decide to push through with the waste-to-energy contract," Flores said.

Provisions of the WTE contract require recyclables to be sent to the plant for burning. If the island is otherwise unable to deliver 110 percent of the guaranteed capacity, Flores said the WTE operator has the right to remove recyclables from the solid waste stream, which would otherwise be delivered to the recycling facilities.

Flores said the WTE contract makes it very clear that GovGuam must use its best efforts to deliver enough acceptable waste to the facility to meet the “guarantee capacity, even if they have to deliver waste that would otherwise be recycled.”

Moreover, Flores said a provision in the contract requires Guam to have a plan to deliver, at minimum, the guaranteed tonnage.

Flores said GEPA and the Guam Solid Waste Authority estimate between 258 to 260 tons of trash produced per day while GRRP estimates that the island produces 725 tons per day.

He said GRRP would require at least 300 tons of trash per day to feed the incinerator.

Analysis

According to an analysis by consultant William Whitman, the WTE contract could potentially monopolize all waste processing on island, including recycling.

"Under this contract, the government would give GRRP a right of first refusal to construct waste reduction, resource recovery and electric generation facilities during the 20-year service agreement," Whitman said.

He added that the cost of a WTE plant on Guam will be very high, emphasizing that WTE is already very expensive in any event but more so for a very small plant such as that proposed for Guam.

“The relatively high energy pricing will not offset the very high project cost," Whitman said.

Whitman said he believes the best alternative would be the reduction of waste landfilled through increased recycling – either at the source or through the processing of the waste – and possible composting of anaerobic digestion of organic waste.

He said a proper review and development of a long-term waste disposal plan would illustrate the relative merits of the alternatives.

Senators vote down salary raise rollback

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Michael San Nicolas

LEGISLATORS yesterday voted not to pass Bill 435-32, which sought to repeal the recently passed Hay pay increases and retroactive pay for elected officials and political appointees.

Acting Speaker Benjamin Cruz called the Guan Legislature into session at 4 p.m. after Sen. Michael San Nicolas introduced the bill yesterday.

San Nicolas earlier requested a session to be convened to immediately tackle the proposed legislation.

Of the 11 senators present, only San Nicolas and Cruz voted to pass the measure. Sens. Michael Limtiaco, Tina Muña-Barnes, and Speaker Judith Won Pat were excused from session.

During session, San Nicolas urged his colleagues to consider supporting the measure, noting that if the pay raise and retro pay for the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, political appointees and others are repealed, around $4 million would be saved this fiscal year.

According to San Nicolas, the $4 million is a significant amount that could be used for several major village roads repairs, could more than double the public transit budget, or could be used to renovate public schools such as Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School.

On Nov. 21, the legislature voted 10-1 to pass Bill 1 (8-S) in special session called just the evening before by acting Gov. Ray Tenorio. Tenorio signed the bill into a law on the afternoon of Nov. 21, a process that San Nicolas pointed out "took less than 24 hours without a public hearing and with little public notice." Sens. Dennis Rodriguez and San Nicolas were off-island at the time. Sen. Tom Ada was also absent from the session.

New law

Under the new law, the governor’s salary increased by $40,000, the lieutenant governor will receive an extra $25,000, and each member of the Guam Legislature is set to receive a raise of around $20,000. Additionally, the attorney general will receive a $19,000 salary hike and all members of the governor’s Cabinet are set to receive significant increases.

The raises were effective retroactively from Jan. 15.

Gov. Eddie Calvo first proposed the Hay Pay increases for elected officials and political appointees in his official transmittal of the Hay Plan to the legislature last January.

San Nicolas was the first to oppose the pay increase for elected officials and political appointees by introducing Bill 268-32, which halted the pay increase for elected officials and political appointees.  Bill 268-32 was subsequently passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor.

The late Sen. Ben Pangelinan then introduced the compromise measure, Bill 278-32, which contained the same removal of elected official and political appointee pay increases and was passed by the legislature and lapsed into law.

San Nicolas said Bill 1 (8-S), now Public Law 32-208, undoes his work and the work of the late Sen. Pangelinan in halting the governor's proposed pay raises for elected officials and political appointees.

After the passage of P.L. 32-208, San Nicolas said he looked into the possibility of legal action to stop the implementation of the pay increases. However, after an analysis that the legal options were uncertain, San Nicolas said he decided to pursue legislative action instead.

"If it was not responsible to pass this before an election, it's not responsible to pass it after an election. I was against this pay increase when it was first proposed in January and my position remains consistent," San Nicolas said in a statement released yesterday.

"The people have spoken on this issue and they have spoken loud and clear. These raises must be rescinded. It is fundamentally unfair to be able to vote yourself a pay increase. You have to ask your boss for that. My bosses are the people of Guam," San Nicolas said.

Reiterate

Just before session started, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio sent a letter to Cruz reiterating the administration’s support of Public Law 32-208.

"This administration has put a lot of effort into improving the island. We have paid tax refunds timely for four years, and two of those years we did it without borrowing. Also, each year we’ve been in office, we’ve gotten better at managing our finances so the wait for tax refunds is getting shorter each year. With the improved finances and financial management, we’re drawing more investors – creating a cycle of economic growth and continued improvement of our fiscal landscape," he said. "It’s time we stop playing politics – this was the reason we increased everyone else’s salaries before elected officials’ with the exception of mayors’ salaries. We need to recognize that even those public servants who are elected, or who are appointed, work hard and should be compensated accordingly.”

Amendments

During floor discussions, Sen. Brant McCreadie proffered an amendment removing political appointees, the governor, lieutenant governor and other elected officials from the pay raise repeal proposed by the measure.

But according to San Nicolas, this would lower the $4 million savings to $400,000, leaving 90 percent of the raises and retro payments intact.

“It is unconscionable that Sen. McCreadie would keep 90 percent of these raises and retro pay in Public Law 32-208 pay intact,” San Nicolas said.

During the session, several senators said the Hay Study recommended the salary increases.

However, San Nicolas said the Hay group made no recommendation for salary increases for senators and the recommended salary increases for other elected officials were actually lower than what was passed in the public law.

 

‘Renewable energy bill needs to pass before tax credits expire’

Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Workers install solar panels at the University of Guam. Renewable energy proponents on Guam said the introduction of Bill 431, the measure which amends current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools, would open Guam to more investment in the renewable energy industry.


THE introduction of Bill 431, the measure which amends current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools, would open Guam to more investment in the renewable energy industry.

However, Bill Hagen, a member of the Guam Renewable Energy Association, said the bill must be passed as quickly as possible because federal tax credits on renewable energy investments expire at the end of 2016.

"Allowing nine months for design, permitting and construction – that means that unless the contracts for GDOE's schools are in place and signed by March 2016 on Guam, GDOE and the industry will lose out," Hagen said.

In a statement sent to the Variety, Hagen said, "millions of dollars in off-island investment is always good for the island."

He said 40 to 50 percent of investment will be spent directly on Guam for labor, supplies, transportation, accommodations, ground transportation and payroll taxes.

"Then there is the local contract for the continuing monitoring and maintenance of the systems on GDOE's roofs and the (gross receipts tax) on the revenue received by the system owners," he said.

Hagen went on to say that Bill 431 "makes a statement."

"We care about not only Guam's environment but the planet's. It shows our students that there is a cleaner way to live and the power produced will be sold to Guam's schools for at least 20 percent less than current power rates. Also, a 25-year contract for power will fix the rates GDOE will pay for the next quarter of a century. Projected savings to GDOE over the life of these agreements is in the multiple tens of millions," he said.

Collaborated

GREA collaborated with the legislature on Bill 74, now Public Law 32-95, which allows the education department to enter into a renewable energy purchase agreement for a term of up to 25 years with a qualified provider.

Under the agreement, the qualified provider will be responsible for providing the power purchase agreement to cover no more than 80 percent of the power needs of GDOE schools, as well as administrative and ancillary buildings.

Hagen echoed GREA President Jeffery Voacolo’s position that Public Law 32-95 has been languishing for too long.

"On Nov. 27, 2013 we were invited to a public signing of what became Public Law 32-95 and we began to anticipate the (requests for proposal) for the various projects. There was some evidence of activity in February 2014, then everything stopped. What happened? We really don't know," he said.

After the enactment of Public Law 32-95 in November 2013, the General Services Agency released a request for information for interested bidders who wish to enter into a power purchase agreement for all GDOE schools, and administrative and ancillary buildings.

"In February there were off-island investors standing by waiting for the release of the RFPs which never came,” Hagen said. “These were serious and sophisticated investors who understood the renewable energy market and the power purchase agreement process."

He added there was a potential in early 2014 for tens of millions of dollars of off-island investment as well as the growth of jobs on Guam that would come from these investments. “Some of these investors are still available if this measure is successful in jumpstarting the procurement process," he said.

Procurement

Bill 431 strikes out the role of the General Services Agency and tasks GDOE with the procurement responsibilities originally assigned to GSA.

As proposed by the measure, the multi-step bid is to be conducted by GDOE instead of GSA, in accordance with the procurement laws and regulations of Guam. Instead of GSA, GDOE is to seek technical consultation from the Guam Power Authority in implementing the law.

The bill also allows GDOE to seek technical consultation from other entities such as the Guam Energy Office, Department of Public Works, and GREA.

Power rates drop as PUC ratifies GPA fuel surcharge cut


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/120314/puc_200_200.jpgThe Public Utilities Commission met on Monday night to discuss the order released by PUC Chairman Jeffrey Johnson earlier in November, recommending a further reduction of the LEAC rate proposed by GPA and thus increasing savings for residential power customers. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


THE Public Utilities Commission has ratified an order authorizing a further reduction of the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause rate initially proposed by the Guam Power Authority in October.

The LEAC rate represents the fuel surcharge that GPA periodically adjusts and trues up every six months, based on world oil prices.

The power authority filed a LEAC rate reduction after noting that the impact of lower fuel prices in the world market, in addition to other factors, has led to an unanticipated decrease in the LEAC factor for the remaining three months, starting from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2015.

The commission met Monday night to discuss the order released by PUC Chairman Jeffrey Johnson earlier in November, recommending a further reduction of the LEAC rate proposed by GPA and thus increasing savings for residential power customers.

The PUC order raised projected savings for residential power customers from the initial proposal of $27.67 to $29.77 per month. The savings had been reflected in power customers’ November billings.

In the original petition, filed Oct. 29 with the PUC, GPA requested that the current LEAC factor of $0.176441 per kwh for its civilian customers be decreased to $0.148767 per kwh effective for meters read on or after Nov. 1.

The original proposed change in the LEAC factor to $.148767 per kwh would result in a decrease of 10.21 percent in the total bill or $27.67 worth of savings per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month.

Lowered further

After a review of GPA's petition, PUC felt that the rate could be lowered even further.

According to the PUC order, aside from the LEAC adjustment request, the commission also allows the power authority to file for an adjustment of the LEAC factor during the six-month levelized period in the event that GPA has cumulative over-recovery of more than $2 million, or if the over-recovery balance is projected to exceed $2 million during the six-month levelized period."

Johnson also said, "While a LEAC reduction should be approved, GPA's over-recovery balance should be further reduced by $500,000, which will mean additional savings to the ratepayers."

As a result, GPA was asked to submit a revised LEAC calculation which indicated that for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kwh per month, the LEAC would be decreased from $0.176441 per kwh to $0.146666.

This reflects a 16.88 percent decrease in the LEAC factor.

Moreover, a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kwh per month will see a 10.99 percent decrease in the total bill or savings of around $29.77 per month

Although the commission did not formally meet prior to the release of the order in November, PUC legal counsel Frederick Horecky said its issuance was in accordance with the law which says that in emergency circumstances, the chairman or an authorized commissioner can act on behalf of the commission.

Moreover, various resolutions approved in the past have designated the chairman with this authority.

According to the PUC order, GPA's request for expeditious action on the LEAC rate reduction should be granted. "It is imperative that relief in the LEAC rate be granted to rate payers as soon as possible," the order said.

Not be prudent

The order further noted that ordinarily, the LEAC reduction request would be addressed by PUC’s seven commissioners at a duly scheduled regular meeting.

However, PUC said they could not await action by the full commission on Dec. 1, noting that doing so would not be prudent.

According to the order, GPA sought a LEAC reduction effective Nov. 1.

If action were to await a full commission meeting, the rates requested by GPA could not be implemented until December 2014 and might well require some form of rate compressions by the PUC to return the over-recovery to ratepayers for the months of November and December.

"Rate compressions are not a favored outcome, as ratepayer recovery would be delayed," the PUC order said.

There will be a public hearing for the measure on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. at the legislature hearing room.


Bill to ratify settlement, approval of waste-to-energy contract


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A BILL introduced this week seeks to approve the waste-to-energy project (WTE) proffered by Guam Resource Recovery Partners and also to ratify the settlement agreement between the group, GovGuam, and the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 433.

According to the measure, the WTE project will involve new investments totaling more than $200 million.

Moreover, the measure states that aside from the generation of a new and reliable source of renewable energy, the project would create new and sustainable jobs in the solid waste management industry and in other industries such as construction and maintenance.

The bill also claims the project would increase indirect economic activity, expand the tax base, and lead to other project benefits, including protecting the environment by reducing the volume of solid waste land-filled on Guam by 90 percent – thus extending the life of the landfill depository by disposing of ash residue than solid waste.

According to the measure, it is in the best interest of the government of Guam and the people of Guam for GovGuam to approve the WTE contract.

Opposition

However, the WTE project, in the past, had received opposition from the community.

More than three decades has passed since GEDA and the government of Guam entered into a license with international Energy Enterprise Inc. The license required IEEI to arrange for the financing, construction, and operation of a waste-to-energy facility.

In 1989, Guam Power Inc. purchased the license and it was amended the following year. Both licenses grant GRRP "an exclusive right to develop, finance, design, construct, and operate" a WTE facility.

Seven years later, GovGuam, GEDA and GRRP executed a Solid Waste Construction and Services Agreement.

In 2000, two plaintiffs filed suit, challenging the validity of the 1996 contract. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the Superior Court granted GRRP's motion.

In March 2008, after the Guam Supreme Court decision was issued, GRRP requested that GEDA and GovGuam resume negotiations to replace the 1996 contract.

On Nov. 6, 2009, GRRP filed a government claim seeking $20,000,000 in damages for GovGuam’s and GEDA's alleged breach of the licenses. The government denied the claim on April 16, 2010.
GRRP filed an action with the Superior Court of Guam based on its government claim.

According to the bill, the parties to the government claim action entered into court-ordered mediation.  As a result of the mediation, the parties entered into a memorandum of understanding settling the government claim action subject to the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions.

Pursuant to the MOU, the parties negotiated a contract for the financing, construction, and operation of a waste-to-energy facility.

The government, GEDA, and GRRP agreed that the WTE project is subject to legislative review and approval.

GEDA sent a letter informing the legislature that the agency has fulfilled efforts to satisfy the terms and conditions of the MOU.

The MOU was discussed in two board meetings on June and July this year and was approved without the need for a formal resolution.

An informational hearing was convened by the legislative committee on economic development in June during which GRRP's proposal was met with more questions.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, committee chair, said he felt GEDA essentially “threw the ball at the legislature's court,” referring to two letters sent by GEDA on the matter.

In the agency’s letter to the legislature, GEDA stressed the contract is "subject to the approval of the legislature as Guam's policymaking body."

The draft contract further states that the GRRP proposal requires legislative policy and direction.


War survivors’ foundation to host commemorative events


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


  •  (GWSMF) – On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the island of Guam was forever changed when Japanese planes dropped bombs on Sumay village. Seventy-three years later, members of the community continue to piece together the stories of their loved ones to understand their history and honor those who survived this horrendous war. 

    The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation will be hosting a series of events at the beginning of December to remember the beginning of the war and pay tribute to all who suffered during the World War II occupation of Guam.

    Book signing

    On Friday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Coast360 Federal Credit Union in Maite, island residents will have the opportunity to purchase the foundation’s book, “Real Faces: Guam’s World War II Survivors,” and have survivors featured in the publication sign their copies. The books cost $70 each, but as an added bonus for Coast360 members, the books can be purchased at a discounted rate.

    Memorial Mass

    On Monday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 a.m. at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña, the foundation will host a Mass in honor of all those who suffered and died during Guam’s World War II occupation.

    This will be the fifth consecutive year the foundation has worked with the Archdiocese of Hagåtña to host the memorial Mass. Along with honoring our survivors, the Mass serves as an opportunity for the island’s man’åmko to complete a Mass that was abruptly ended more than 70 years ago when enemy forces attacked Sumay.

    Unveiling

    The foundation will also be unveiling a traveling memorial featuring the names of 15,891 Chamorros who lived through, died, or suffered during the war on Guam.

    The exhibit, entitled “Guam’s Wall of Strength: Names Never Forgotten,” opens Monday, Dec. 8, at 9 a.m. in the Agana Shopping Center’s exhibit showroom on the second floor opposite the entrance to Pay-Less Supermarket. The wall will remain on display for the public to view from Dec. 8 through Dec. 14.

    “It is amazing how many names I recognize on the wall,” said Frank Blas Jr., the foundation president. “Many of them have passed on since the war, but I can still recall their faces and the memories they shared with me. Some of my relatives on the wall were never able to share their experience, but I can only imagine how strong they were to have survived the war.”

    The foundation worked in collaboration with the National Park Service, which will also be contributing a World War II display to the exhibit.


New leadership takes over charter school


Posted: Dec 03, 2014  by Krystal Paco  KUAM

Guam - The Guahan Academy Charter School has a new face on campus.

As of Monday, Mary Mafnas started her job as the school's new principal.

According to charter school council chair Rosa Paloma, Mafnas is a longtime educator, a retired DOE principal, and a former charter school council member which makes her the perfect candidate for the position.

GACS has been without leadership for the last month following the board's decision to remove Donna Dwiggins as principal and the resignation of assistant principal Arlene Sayco.



New GVB marketing rep in China

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GVB) – The Guam Visitors Bureau announced yesterday the appointment of Travel Link Marketing to provide destination marketing and representation services throughout China beginning Dec. 1.

“We are excited to represent the Guam Visitors Bureau in the China market," said Brenda He, general manager of TLM. "We appreciate the trust placed in us, and the team will work diligently and enthusiastically to secure many wins for Guam."

As GVB’s marketing representative office, TLM will be responsible for:

  • Aggressively promoting Guam to expatriates, affluent experienced Chinese travelers, corporate travelers for leisure and MICE, as well as wedding couples and honeymooners, and education travelers.

  • Encouraging more cost-effective joint promotion opportunities with leading travel agencies, airlines, foreign chambers of commerce, international expos as well as other special groups to maintain Guam awareness.

  • Working closely with airlines for charter flights and new route development.

  • Increasing visitors from mainland China to Guam.

    Established in China in 2005, TLM now has branch offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

    The marketing company has built up an extensive network with thousands of tour operators and media outlets throughout China. TLM also owns Travel Link Daily, a well-recognized online travel trade publication.

    "We are excited to partner with TLM. China has become an important market for Guam and it has tremendous growth potential. With the commitment and expertise of TLM, we’re confident that we will be able to further cultivate this emerging market for Guam," said Karl Pangelinan, GVB general manager.

    Korean media reps to spread good news about Guam tourism

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Visitors Bureau and United Airlines sponsored four media representatives from various outlets that cater to the Korean travelers with the hope that the media representatives will spread the word about travel opportunities in Guam.

    GVB estimates that the three-day Thanksgiving trip will generate news about Guam that will reach about 262,000 followers of the Lonely Planet Korea, Tour de Monde, AB-ROAD, Singles and Grazia publications and companies. The bureau estimates to gain about $49,000 worth of media exposure generated from this tour.

    Yeri Cha from Tour de Monde, Anna Lee from Lonely Planet Korea, Mina Shim from AB-ROAD, Jina An from Singles magazine and Hyunmin Kim from the Grazia magazine met with Guam authorities yesterday at an informal meet-and-greet event.

    Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, GVB acting General Manager Nathan Denight and United Airlines Managing Director Sam Shinohara said they were pleased with the familiarization tour and thanked the representatives for agreeing to take the tour.

    The Korean tourism market has grown significantly over the years, Denight said. Between fiscal 2011 and 2014, the market has grown from about 150,000 annual visitors to about 300,000 he said.

    Shinohara said it’s the fastest growing market and is a key market for United and GVB alike.

    Shopping

    An, from Singles magazine, said the group visited many of the shopping malls on Guam and some tourist attractions during their stay. For her readership, An said she would focus on the shopping opportunities available on the island. Soo Yeon Kim, United Airlines employee, translated for some of the visitors, including An.

    Kim, from Grazia, also said she would showcase the shopping opportunities for Korean travelers interested in the island.

    The familiarization tour coincided with Black Friday sales and the Shop Guam festival ongoing over the weekend.

    “The return rate (for Korean visitors) is not as high in Japan, but we’re really catching steam in Korea,” Denight said. "Koreans are really an active people, they enjoy the beach and water sports so I would say they’re really outdoorsy."

    Sometimes, Korean baseball teams choose to train on Guam during the winter and Denight said GVB is working with the Korean professional baseball league to advertise Guam soon.

    Cruz works on Compact-impact money

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz, chairman of the government operations committee of the Guam Legislature, has asked the U.S. Department of Interior for a Compact-impact funding offset in the form of debt relief or the repurposing of $100 million in unused federal monies held by Compact states.

    Cruz sent the request to DOI Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther P. Kia’aina who visited Guam in October and publicly acknowledged the inadequate Compact-impact funding received by Guam and other affected jurisdictions.

    “Your acknowledgement of our claim to ‘reimbursement’ – which I personally applaud – is a clear departure from the previously stated policy of DOI in these matters,” Cruz said in a letter to Kia’aina, referring to a federal report issued three years ago that highlighted DOI’s objection to Guam’s use of the term Compact-impact “reimbursement” as the term implies that such costs should be returned to the local government in full.

    “I am heartened that the Senate has confirmed an assistant secretary for insular affairs with enough political courage to advocate an issue for which we have been seeking recompense for many years,” Cruz said.

    “In light of the recent change in DOI policy you so ably articulated this October and the earnestness with which I believe your public remarks were made,” Cruz said, alluding to reported statements in which Kia’aina mentioned the option of debt relief as compensation for inadequate Compact funding, “the people of Guam need to know when we can expect a DOI request that would allow the offset of amounts Guam may owe to the federal government for the Make Work Pay tax credit program.”

    Timely

    With the beginning of the fiscal year 2016 federal budget process quickly approaching, Cruz said DOI’s issuance of the request preceded by its recent policy shift is especially timely. Alternatively, Cruz said another good place to start would be the implied repurposing of $100 million in unused federal monies presently held by the Compact states.

    “Because, in your words, ‘the federal government should no longer be using the lack of (reporting) uniformity among the jurisdictions against them,’ I see no reason that a request for a substantive DOI action on Compact reimbursements cannot be met,” Cruz said.

    Cruz is also pressing for a DOI budget item that will fund the full reimbursement of costs associated with Compact migration incurred by Guam and other affected jurisdictions.

    ‘DRT denying access to hotel taxation data’

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    THE Office of Public Accountability has released an audit report on the hotel occupancy tax, but lamented that they were denied access to the data needed for the report due to the Department of Revenue and Taxation’s interpretation of the law protecting taxpayer confidentiality.

    According to Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks, as a result, OPA could not verify the hotel occupancy tax data’s completeness, reliability and accuracy.

    In the report, Brooks noted that based on discussions with DRT and some members of the 32nd Guam Legislature, OPA recommended that the legislature clarify the law to allow OPA full access to taxpayer returns and other information in the conduct of audits and reviews of local Guam taxes, consistent with the duties outlined by law.

    The public auditor noted in the report that the office has no assurance whether occupancy tax filings, payments and collections were in compliance with P.L. 32-068 for the six years 2008 to 2013.

    Hotels are required to collect the occupancy tax, file with DRT and pay at the Treasurer of Guam on a monthly basis. The payments are then deposited into the Tourist Attraction Fund and recorded by the Department of Administration. Hotel occupancy taxes are assessed at 11 percent.

    According to Brooks, DRT, DOA and the Treasurer of Guam provided only redacted hotel occupancy tax data.

    Coded names

    The report further noted that DRT's Taxpayer Service Division provided data for hotel occupancy tax filings with “hotel” code names, while the department's Tax Enforcement Division provided a summary of hotel occupancy tax accounts receivable with “taxpayer” code names.

    According to OPA, the redacted information made it difficult, if not impractical, to perform data analyses.

    Citing both data sets as examples, the report said the "data did not specify whether the code names represented the hotel or other lodging facility or taxpayer. Moreover, it did not specify whether the reported amounts were based on the establishment or taxpayer and used code names that could not be matched between taxpayers and the establishment.

    Findings

    Despite these difficulties, OPA reported the following findings:

  • As of May, five taxpayers owed a cumulative balance of $3 million in hotel occupancy tax from 2002 to 2013, with outstanding balances from $120,000 to $1.6 million. However, OPA noted that the accuracy in the receivables could not be verified. Moreover, the report said that DRT has not seized properties since the 1990s.

  • DRT does not have a comprehensive list of all hotels subject to the hotel occupancy tax. According to OPA, staff attempted to verify the 38 hotels listed in the data provided by DRT against other listings from DRT enforcement division, Bureau of Statistics and Plans, Guam Visitors Bureau and the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association.

  • $2.2 million in hotel occupancy tax exemptions claimed by eight taxpayers in 2008 and 2013 could not be verified. According to OPA, there were missing exemption schedules and the amounts on amended returns were not reflected on the database provided; and

  • Between 2008 and 2013, taxes due for 10 taxpayers were inaccurately assessed at the hotel occupancy tax rate of 10 percent. According to OPA, DRT determined that at least one taxpayer should have been assessed at the 11 percent rate and others at the 4 percent GRT tax rate.

    System

    The OPA report also noted that DRT and DOA’s AS400 systems have not interfaced since 2011. This contributed to major delays during the TAF and government of Guam financial audits of fiscal 2012 and 2013.

    "In FY 2013, DRT and the Treasurer of Guam’s systems interfaced incorrectly and resulted in the creation of a $64 million suspense account, which had an adjusting entry as high as $1.1 billion. DOA and DRT subsequently reconciled to $270,000 as of June 2014. As of report issuance, DRT continues to manually input tax returns in the AS400," the OPA report noted.

    Renewable energy group backs Bill 431

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Utilizing renewable energy such as solar energy would also reduce pollutants that affect the island by cutting down on the amount of energy produced by fossil fuels. Variety file photo

THE Guam Renewable Energy Association has expressed support for Bill 431, the measure introduced in the Guam Legislature by Speaker Judith Won Pat, which would amend current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools.

Jeffrey Voacolo, GREA president, outlined the group's official position on the new bill, saying P.L. 32-95 has languished for too long.

The law allows GDOE to enter into one or more power purchase agreements to purchase solar energy from qualified providers for not more than 25 years. Under the agreement, the qualified provider will be responsible for providing the agreement to cover no more than 80 percent of the power needs of GDOE schools, as well as administrative and ancillary buildings.

Moreover, it provides an exemption for GDOE-leased schools, allowing the department to explore plans to pursue renewable energy projects at its leased schools. Won Pat and Sens. Aline Yamashita and Tina Muña-Barnes introduced the legislation.

After the enactment of P.L. 32-95 in November 2013, the General Services Agency released a request for information for interested bidders who wish to enter into a power purchase agreement for all GDOE schools, and administrative and ancillary buildings.

"Signed into law over one year ago, the process to move GDOE to the use of less expensive renewable energy has been bogged down and this new legislation is exactly what is needed to jumpstart what can be a wonderful benefit to Guam’s schools, Guam’s economy and Guam’s environment," Voacolo said. "Fully implemented, your action will bring tens of millions of dollars to Guam as off-island investors recognize the benefit of investing in Guam."

‘Where the money belongs’

With the millions of dollars saved annually, the savings will be going back to the school system "where the money belongs," he said.

Moreover, according to Voacolo, the economy of Guam will be greatly enhanced by training more personnel into the new industry, adding tax revenues as well as enhancing business to business commerce.

Utilizing renewables "would also reduce pollutants that affect the island by reducing the amount of energy produced by fossil fuel," he said.

"In the past five years, members of the Guam Renewable Energy Association have installed almost 200 photovoltaic systems identical in design, and some in size, to the systems which will be needed to power up Guam’s schools with environmentally safe renewable energy.  As an industry, we are ready and fully capable of meeting this challenge," he said.

Bill 431 strikes out the role of the General Services Agency and tasks GDOE with the procurement responsibilities originally assigned to GSA.

As proposed by the measure, the multi-step bid is to be conducted by GDOE instead of GSA, in accordance with the procurement laws and regulations of Guam. Moreover, instead of GSA, GDOE is to seek technical consultation from the Guam Power Authority in implementing the law.

The bill also allows GDOE to seek technical consultation from other entities such as the Guam Energy Office, Department of Public Works and GREA.

Inactive bank accounts transferred to GovGuam

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • LOCAL banks yesterday published a list of bank account holders whose checking or savings accounts have been inactive for a number of years, informing the account holders that if the accounts are not reactivated the funds will be escheated, or turned over to the government of Guam.

    According to P.L. 18-37, if a checking account is inactive for two years or a savings account is inactive for 10 years, the balance of the dormant account is transferred to the Treasurer of Guam.

    Banks publish notices of the dormant accounts with balances that are eligible to be transferred to the government. These notices are published twice a year, at the tail-end of every year on Nov. 1 and Dec 1.

    Philip Flores, president of the Guam Bankers’ Association and president of BankPacific, said usually about half of the account holders who have dormant accounts will return to BankPacific to reactivate their accounts. The other accounts, however, are turned over to the Treasurer of Guam. The amounts vary, Flores said.

    “Usually the amounts aren’t that much but sometimes the amounts are very large,” he said. “We’ve had customers that have $50,000, $60,000 ... somehow they’ve lost track of the funds they have there.”

    Flores said account holders are also entitled to reclaim their balances that have already been transferred to the government. Flores said individuals who have discovered that their money was turned over to GovGuam could file with the Department of Revenue and Taxation to reclaim the money.

    “You can go to Rev and Tax and redeem your money but I don’t know how often that happens,” Flores said.

    Funds from the dormant accounts are transferred in January of the new year.

    Last year, under P.L. 32-036, $1.4 million from unclaimed and dormant bank account funds were transferred to the Guam Housing Corp.’s Housing Trust Fund to be used specifically for the First-Time Homeowner Assistance Program.

    Banks consider accounts that are inactive for two years as dormant. After the designated number of years under dormancy for a checking or savings account, the balances are at risk of being turned over, Flores said. While they are considered dormant, it is under a higher security and account holders may have to go through additional procedures to reopen those accounts. Before the balances are transferred to the government, banks are required to send written notice to the account holder that the money is at risk of being turned over before Oct. 1 of every year.