Elimination of annuities for governor, lieutenant governor urged

Friday, 29 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

OPA: GovGuam can save between $1M to $2.9M in 20 years

IN ITS latest performance audit, the Office of Public Accountability recommended that legislation be introduced to eliminate the lifetime annuity for the governor and lieutenant governor,  effective the next gubernatorial election, which the OPA said can save the government between nearly $1 million and $2.9 million over the next 20 years.

According to the OPA, the lifetime annuity for the governor or lieutenant governor is equal to one half of his or her salary. Annuities for the governor have increased from $25,000 to $45,000 and will again increase to $65,000. Likewise, the lieutenant governor’s pension will increase from $22,500 to $42,500, and then to $55,000.

From 1975 through 2014, GovGuam paid out an estimated $24.1 million to 35 governors, lieutenant governors, widows, judges and senators as a result of special provisions in the law.

The report said due to these special provisions, costs are projected to reach $42.9 million at the end of the next 20 years.

According to the report, the special provisions for judges and senators have been eliminated. However, the lifetime annuity for governors and lieutenant governors continues.

“Without any effort to discontinue the special lifetime annuities afforded to governors and lieutenant governors at the completion of their terms, annuities are projected to increase at least $6.5 million in the next 20 years,” the report noted.

The OPA said that although the special annuity provision for judges was discontinued after September 1995, the government has to continue to pay $6.2 million in the next 20 years for judges who were eligible to receive the special annuities prior to the change in statute.

Amended

During the same year, the law was amended to discontinue the option for senators to accrue retirement credit based on the salary of the Department of Administration director. However, OPA said an estimated $6.2 million will continue to be paid to those senators who were eligible under the special provision prior to the law change.

Title 4 of the Guam Code Annotated (GCA) § 8172(a) provides that any person who is elected governor or lieutenant governor may retire following the completion of his term of office and shall be compensated an annual pension during the remainder of his life in an amount equal to and not to exceed 50 percent of the annual salary at the time he or she retires.

The report is part of the OPA’s Annual Audit Work Plan and was conducted as a follow-up to the recommendation made in OPA Report No. 11-01, Austerity Plan and Government of Guam Cost Reduction and Revenue Enhancement Pursuant to Executive Order 2011-01.

The objective of the report was to calculate the cost of lifetime annuities afforded through special provisions as of the end of calendar year 2014 and to project the impact of these special provisions for the next 20 years.



Chief judge decides not to go with GovGuam's plan


Posted: May 29, 2015 KUAM


GovGuam won't be out of federal receivership at the year's end. In an order out of the District Court, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood cites GovGuam's history of negligence in maintaining a solid waste system and agrees not to go with GovGuam's financing plan. GovGuam's proposal included cuts to improvements of Dero Road, permanent closure of the Dededo Transfer Station, removal of safety enhancements to Route 4, and the establishment of a separate trust account for the Ordot Dump post-closure.


The judge instead opted to go with Gershman, Brickner & Bratton's financing plan which proposes funding the project through debt service reimbursement.




Entrance to Maga’håga Highway now open to motorists

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE initial phase of the highly anticipated Tiyan Parkway was opened to the motoring public yesterday.

The road entrance located on Route 8 in Maite will be known as Maga’håga Highway.

According to the Department of Public Works, construction of the highway entrance is the first phase of the long-awaited project formerly billed as the Tiyan Parkway.

The initial phase cost the government of Guam $8 million. The second phase that will complete the project will cost some $20 million.

The newly opened roadway allows motorists to enter Tiyan on Route 8 across from Cars Plus in Maite and access Sunset Boulevard to Route 10A, Airport Road.

Motorists can then proceed to Route 1, Marine Corps Drive, or head toward the Route 16 underpass to Harmon, Dededo or Barrigada.

Motorists are advised that two other entrances to Tiyan will be closed.

“The roads entering Tiyan from Route 8 at the Maite Mobil/McDonald’s intersection and the other intersection west of that entrance will be permanently closed to traffic,” DPW stated.

Motorists are asked to be aware and cautious of the new traffic route. Motorists who travel the area will have to be cognizant of the new traffic light that permits vehicle flow onto Maga’håga Highway from Route 8 in Maite.

The next phase will bridge Sunset Boulevard and connect to Route 10A at the Home Depot traffic light.

Bicycle lanes

Once completed, the five-lane highway will be among the first newly constructed roadways on Guam to boast bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both south and northbound lanes.

In March, DPW Director Glenn Leon Guerrero told the Variety that for 2015, DPW is targeting nine projects worth approximately $40 million as listed in its 2030 master plan.

Since 2008, DPW has completed 32 projects and spent approximately $120 million on roadway repairs and construction. Public Works is operating on a four-year cycle where portions of the 2030 plan are broken down over four fiscal years.

The current cycle ends in September, Leon Guerrero said.

Among the nine projects targeted for implementation this year include the completion of the first phase of the Maga’håga Highway.

Ypao Road in Tamuning, which Leon Guerrero described as dangerous, is included in the plan.

The road, which had a pedestrian fatality last year, will be upgraded to make it safer for pedestrians.

The Ypao Road design will likely include adding a stairway from lower Tumon up the hill overlooking Tumon Bay, rather than forcing pedestrians to walk up the narrow, winding road, as is the case now.

Route 3 will also receive upgrades at the Route 1 intersection, and will be widened in other areas along the road, he said. Department of Defense funding will help pay for Route 3 upgrades because the new U.S. Marine Corps base will be located along Route 3, Leon Guerrero said.

Other projects include renovating bridges in Inarajan, repairing Route 10A, the remaining section of Cross Island Road, Route 5, and spot repairs along Route 4 and Route 1.

And in accordance with Public Law 32-53, Leon Guerrero said two other roads, Roy T. Damian Street in Toto and the flood-prone Chalan Lumasu in Dededo, were to be repaired as part of an effort to mitigate flooding.

Leon Guerrero said DPW has also been communicating with village mayors to determine the top two or three roads most in need of repair in each village.

DPW will receive $2 million approved by Gov. Eddie Calvo to help repair roads in each village, which will be available in fiscal 2016.

The mayors were asked to submit the list of road repairs they wanted to prioritize by the end of March.

 

Power surcharge hike approved

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CCU-approved hike lower than initial GPA proposal

THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities last night authorized the Guam Power Authority to file its Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) proposal with the Public Utilities Commission after proposing a change that would result in an increase of 6.8 percent of the total bill, or $13.63 per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month.

The new figures reflect a change to the initial proposal presented by the power authority during a recent CCU work session this month. The first proposal reflected an increase of 7.63 percent to the total bill, or $15.29 a month for the 1,000 kw residential customer.

During the work session, GPA said that projections may change, thus the figures in the resolution may be updated to reflect the most current forward fuel prices.

GPA has until June 15 to file the proposed change with the PUC.

Initially, GPA suggested an increase from $.102054 per kWh to $.117347 per kWh for the period Aug. 1 to Jan. 31, 2016, representing a 15 percent increase in the LEAC factor.

Last night, GPA presented a reduced increase to the LEAC factor, proposing an adjustment from $.102054 per kWh to $.115688 per kWh for the period of Aug. 1 to Jan. 31, 2016.

Should the PUC approve the proposed LEAC factor, the rate increase will take effect in August.

GPA is allowed to recover its fuel costs and related costs through the LEAC factor which is reset every six months.

Past reductions

In January, the PUC issued an order authorizing a reduction in residential customers' fuel surcharge rate from $0.146666 per kWh to $0.102054 per kWh.

With the approved adjustment, residential customers utilizing an average of 1,000 kWh per month saw an 18.2 percent decrease in their total bill, or savings of about $45 per month.

Previously, in November 2014, the PUC approved a decrease from $0.176441 per kWh to $0.146666 per kWh, or a 16.88 percent decrease in the LEAC factor.

GPA said the worldwide cost of fuel has been volatile in recent years and more noticeably so in recent months.

According to the power authority, the increase in LEAC is necessary to recover the increasing price of fuel and the forecasted fuel handling costs.

GPA said the market price of fuel in the initial filing for the current period was projected to be $60.94 per barrel for the six-month period ending July 31. The current projection for the same period is now $65.55 per barrel. Meanwhile, the projected price of fuel for the period ending Jan. 31, 2016 is $68.60 per barrel.

               

MRE solar power systems to include battery storage

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

MRE) –  New solar energy storage systems will soon be available to Guam residents, enabling them to store the excess power produced by solar systems. The feature will make customers less dependent on the Guam Power Authority grid.

Micronesia Renewable Energy Inc. will make the PowerUp Max storage system available as part of its solar service agreement. The system will contain batteries that store the excess power generated by solar power systems to be used by customers when they need it. As opposed to feeding the solar power back to the grid, an inverter/charger will operate in non-export mode striving to always handle a home’s energy needs with either solar or battery energy. In the event of a power outage, a switch in the inverter/charger automatically isolates the home from the electric grid to prevent the stored energy from feeding back into the power lines, so customers can then use the excess solar energy stored in the batteries as backup.

“We are continuously striving to provide the residents of Guam with comprehensive energy systems that fulfill their power needs,” said Jeff Voacolo, chief operating officer of Micronesia Renewable Energy. “These new solar energy storage systems will make certain that customers are able to achieve more intelligent power consumption, additional savings and increased reliability.”

The storage system will be available to Guam residents by early June. PowerUp Max will be covered by a warranty package, which includes system maintenance, repairs and 24/7 monitoring.

Micronesia Renewable Energy, Inc. is a privately held operating company, specializing in the development, design, and engineering, procurement and construction of renewable energy infrastructure, and alternative energy solutions.


    

IHOP to generate 150 new jobs

Monday, 25 May 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

AS THE construction of the first IHOP on Guam nears completion, owners of the franchise have begun the search to fill 150 positions, including those of hosts, cashiers, servers, server assistants, kitchen staff and stewards.

Interested individuals are encouraged to apply at Photo Town Plaza in Tamuning between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Richard Hart, president of Apple Pacific, said the restaurant will likely open sometime in July. “We are very excited to finally bring one of the most sought after U.S. franchises to Guam. IHOP has been a mainstay in communities across the U.S. for more than 50 years and we cannot wait to show the people of Guam why IHOP is the most exciting thing to happen to food in Guam for a long time,” Hart said.

IHOP General Manager Breeanalyn Meno will lead the IHOP Guam team. Meno has been training in the Philippines for 2 1/2 months, gearing up to bring the IHOP vision to the island, Hart said.

“As we approach July we will be able to provide an exact date as to when we will open so people can plan to enjoy IHOP right here in their own community in a facility designed for the people of Guam to appreciate,” Hart said.

The Tamuning facility is 5,300 square feet and will have capacity to seat 234 customers, according to Hart. The building, owned by CAM5 Properties, will also have space for three additional tenants and there is still space available, Hart said.

Hart said he expects the IHOP facility itself to be of note. “Our landlord, CAM5 Properties, has been working diligently with 5M Construction and they have both done an excellent job at bringing a one-of-a-kind building that will certainly become a landmark in Tamuning,” Hart said.

Hart also said the owners are set on taking on Tumon and are actively looking for the right site in the tourist district to develop, though they are not at this point able to disclose information about more IHOP locations.

Hart has been in the restaurant business for more than 25 years. He used to be the managing partner of Outback Steakhouse in Tumon and has held various positions at other restaurants on island.

Both IHOP and Applebee’s restaurant brands operate under Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar and International House of Pancakes, respectively, and are subsidiaries of DinEquity Inc. of Glendale, California. Both are popular, family-oriented casual dining restaurants.

There are more than 1,560 IHOP restaurants in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

More than 1,990 Applebee's restaurants are operating in 49 states, 15 countries and Puerto Rico. Applebee's employs approximately 28,000 workers companywide and has annual sales of $4.7 billion, according to the company website.


GWA to replace 37 water lines

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Estimated cost at roughly $13 million

THE Guam Waterworks Authority plans to replace 37 water lines, estimating a preliminary cost of $13.87 million for the project.

Mark Miller, GWA interim general manager, reported the waterworks authority’s plans during a recent work session with the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

Miller said for this particular phase, GWA took a look at the system and prioritized the replacement. He said the identified 37 water lines represent a good portion of the island’s water system. “It is not just isolated in one area,” he said.

During the work session, CCU member Simon Sanchez said he is glad that GWA will soon be embarking on the line replacement project, noting that funds had been allocated for this specific purpose.

Sanchez said rate increases and bond borrowings were organized to justify utilization of funds for capital improvement such as the line replacement project.

According to GWA, with phase 2 of its line replacement project winding down and phase 3 in progress, its engineering and operations division have identified the next group of water lines in need of replacement.

The lines range in size from 2 to 8 inches.

GWA intends to put phase 4 of the line replacement project out for bid in June. Funding for the project will come from both the system development charge and capital improvement project bond funds.

GWA’s line replacement project involves upgrades and replacement of existing old and leaking waterlines with new pipes to reduce water loss in the potable water system.

In 2013, GWA launched its "Better Water, Better Lives" campaign – which requires the water utility to source out $450 million to fund much needed capital improvement projects or CIPs.

These CIPs include overhauling and rebuilding the southern wastewater system, as well as line improvements, repairs or replacement of GWA water tanks all over the island.

Guam has about 700 miles of water lines, according to GWA.

       

Brooks talks about transparency, accountability in government

Friday, 22 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

AT THE 12th Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants Conference yesterday, Public Auditor Doris Brooks recalled the government of Guam’s highs and lows in its effort toward ensuring transparency and accountability in government functions.

“We often see these words joined together. Transparency is part and parcel of accountability. You cannot be transparent unless you are accountable and you cannot be accountable unless you are transparent,” she said.

Quoting Stephen Covey, the late educator and author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” she said "accountability breeds responsibility."

“To me, those three words sum up what we as CPAs (certified public accountants) are about. We want responsibility and accountability in government,” Brooks said.

Brooks added that the Office of Public Accountability has set goals that will keep it on course to accountability and transparency, including issuing all financial audits within six months, rather than nine months, as required by statute.

Another transparency initiative is the posting of unaudited quarterly financial statements and staffing patterns online.

“Just a few weeks ago, for the very first time ever, the Department of Administration issued an unaudited financial statement for FY 2014. That's when we learned that the preliminary deficit is $60 million,” she said. “This is an initiative that I have been advocating for several years. Heretofore the annual financial audit was the only official release of the government's financial statements and condition.”

‘Read only’

Brooks said the Guam Legislature now has "read only" access to the Department of Administration’s accounting records via the AS 400 system.

Brooks also proudly noted another piece of accountability reporting – the annual Citizen-Centric Report – which is a requirement for all government agencies.

Brooks said when she first took office in January 2001, the vast majority of government financial audits were a year to several years behind. “Our biggest department – the Department of Education – was deemed unauditable,” she said. At that time, GDOE had not been audited in four years.

Aside from that, the OPA could not access tax records to determine the reasonableness of tax liabilities and the fixed assets ledger only reflected assets acquired since 1987.

From a compliance perspective, Brooks said there were cumulative questioned costs totaling about $51 million.

“Very few people had heard or seen a performance audit. Looking back to 2001, GovGuam was not accountable, much less transparent,” she said.

Fast forward to today, Brooks said nearly all 2013 financial audits were issued within nine months after the fiscal year, and half were issued within six months after the end of the fiscal year. “There were no opinion qualifications. In fact, we have had no opinion qualifications since FY 2007,” she said.

PICPA

Francis Ricamora, co-chairman of the PICPA-Metro Manila Region, said the national organization has been organizing conferences for CPAs in different locations for the past few years. They decided to hold the current conference on Guam, which he described as similar to the Philippines but with an American ambience.

More than 100 people flew in from Manila for the conference. Participants include CPAs in government and private practice.

He said the primary goal is to expose participants to different perspectives. “We are pretty much done with the ASEAN perspective. It would be a refreshing view of the role of CPAs and the role of Filipino CPAs from the point of view of the east. Second, for participants to know the latest trends,” he said.

Ricamora said the theme focuses on the role of Filipino CPAs in globalization. “This is a venue where we can check if we have the qualities. Or if we can adapt to the changing trends in global business,” he added.

The theme of the conference is “Globalization and the Filipino CPA: Are We Ready?”

 

The Chinese army just informed everyone that the internet means war

Business Insider

By Linette Lopez 9 hours ago

May 20, 2015

 

In a chilling memo released on Wednesday, the People's Liberation Army, or PLA, informed the world that, at least on the internet, China is at war.

The memo is called "Cybersovereignty Symbolizes National Sovereignty."

"The internet has become the main battlefront for struggle in the ideological area," it said.

"With the existence of the network, the ideological front has been completely thrown open ... National security has become an important component part of our country’s overall security 'chessboard.' It may be said that without cybersecurity, there is no national security."

So what, exactly, does that mean?

It means there are enemies everywhere, and they come from Westerners creeping across borders through the net, polluting China with threatening ideas (emphasis added):

Western hostile forces and a small number of "ideological traitors" in our country use the network, and relying on computers, mobile phones and other such information terminals, maliciously attack our Party, blacken the leaders who founded the New China, vilify our heroes, and arouse mistaken thinking trends of historical nihilism, with the ultimate goal of using "universal values" to mislead us, using "constitutional democracy" to throw us into turmoil, use "colour revolutions" to overthrow us, use negative public opinion and rumours to oppose us, and use "de-partification and depoliticization of the military" to upset us.

And who likes being upset?

This comes at a time when the Chinese government pledged to make a "massive investment to improve Internet services," according state media arm Xinhua News. The numbers are impressive: $70 billion committed to the internet for 2015, over $112 billion in 2016 and 2017. The money will improve broadband speeds and expand 4G access.

So process this for a second: If China expands the internet, it will be a HUGE internet, and naturally an internet of things, as we say.

The things that it will not have, though, are any "ideological traitors," or anyone opposed to the Communist Party, or anyone applauding "universal values" and "constitutional democracy" — anything having to do with Western ideas.

To the PLA, this is open war. To the Communist Party, it follows the ideological framework of its new face — Xi Jinping.

 

Since he took office in 2012, Xi has been trying to build a new sense of Chinese identity, one that sees all of modern life through the lens of nationalistic "Chinese characteristics." That goes from things like capitalism to, of course, the internet.

Collectively, these two contradictory headlines — the PLA's war and the expansion of the internet — fall into this framework, and serve as a blueprint for the way the Chinese will understand and use the internet for as long as President Xi is in power (that's looking like it could be a while).

Of course, this "war" isn't new. It's just a regular old idea war being fought on the internet, a new front. The PLA admits it, and points out that it was the West who taught China how to fight this way during the Cold War. Not just in the USSR either, in South America and in Northern Africa.

This is an online public opinion battle with glints and flashes of cold steel and numerous opportunities to make a kill. Back in the day, to tackle the Soviet Union, one method Western hostile forces adopted was online infiltration in the ideological area. Afterwards, in the Southern Alliance, and a number of countries in Southwest Asia, and North Africa, they played the same tricks...

If hearts are won, there is gladness, if hearts are lost, there is failure. A regime’s disintegration often begins in the ideological area, political upheaval and regime change can happen in the space of a night, but ideological evolution is a long-term process. If the ideological front is broken, other fronts will become difficult to hold.

We're assuming the PLA believes this goes both ways. That Western ideas could break them, and perhaps vice versa.

 

Will free trade talks have any bearing on Guam?

Posted: May 20, 2015      By Ken Quintanilla    KUAM

While people from around the world are on island this week for meetings related to the Transpacific Partnership, just how much of the negotiations for a free trade agreement will impact Guam?

Changes in the economy continue overseas and Guam aren't necessarily exempt from the impact. "I would say the biggest event happening right now is the Japanese market is drying up - their economy has not responded as expected to the devaluation of the Yen," noted Bank of Guam senior vice president and chief economist Joseph Bradley. He said because the industry is not growing in Japan nor are jobs or income as expected, the people of Japan are looking at any dollar-based economy as being a very expensive place to visit. He provided these details to the Rotary Club of Northern Guam.

"It means visitor arrivals from Japan, which peaked at 86% 30 years ago, are down to 58% now, so they've fallen almost 30% in terms of market share," he detailed.

Fortunately Bradley says Guam's tourism numbers were picked up by other countries like Korea and China. And while other global events are out of our control, Guam currently plays a role, albeit as the host for recent meetings, related to negotiations of a free trade agreement as part of the Transpacific Partnership. "I think the impacts in Guam would be fairly minor," he announced. "I think one of the most important things for Guam is the trade and services provisions that are expected in this new trade agreement."

What can come out of the TPP, he says, is possibly several high end service industries from the Americas setting up offices on Guam in order to remain on us soil enjoying all the US amenities. Details meanwhile have been limited on the meetings and Bradley says rightfully so, saying, "I think it's important that in a negotiating situation that these meetings be closed so people can be more frank and candid and not worry about the camera looking over their shoulder at what they're doing, and I think also this is a delicate enough politically that it's important that before they have an agreement gel that they be able to try all sorts of options that may not be popular in a standalone basis, but may come together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a very good trade agreement."

He says along with the tourism and military defense industry, a possible third industry could be created with what comes of the TPP.

Utilities to consolidate system control centers in Fadian

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

To manage future storm monitoring, recovery efforts

THE Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority plan to consolidate their system control centers at the Gloria B. Nelson Public Service Building in Fadian as part of a plan to manage future storm/typhoon monitoring and recovery efforts in one place, according to Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman Joey Duenas.

In an interview with the Variety, Duenas said the commission has been working with both utilities to further improve their control and monitoring systems.

GPA’s Power Systems Control Center, currently housed in Cabras, manages, monitors and controls the utility's islandwide power system. The center also maintains GPA's energy management system, supervisory control and data acquisition system, as well as other control and monitoring equipment.

“Those operations will be moving to the new building. What is already up in the new building is the GWA dispatch center, which controls water and wastewater facilities. We are putting in new equipment so both the power system control center and GWA dispatch will be in one place,” Duenas said.

Duenas stressed that by having both GPA and GWA centers in the Fadian building, personnel will be able to better manage the process of storm preparation, monitoring and recovery.

He also said both utilities did well during the post-Dolphin recovery work. “I believe GPA and GWA have done a pretty good job. I think they are going to do better as we continue to make improvements,” he added.

Recovery

As of early morning yesterday, GPA reported that it has restored power to 49,484 customers with only 2,655 left without power.

This figure corresponds to 95 percent of the power authority’s total customer population.

GPA also reported that they continued restoration efforts in areas with major damage. Work crews were deployed in the following areas:

  • Chalan Mayot, Yigo to Las Palmas, Dededo

  • Emsley Rosario St., Yigo to Mogfog Area, Dededo

  • Chalan Emsley, Yigo to Hemlani Apt. Area, Harmon

  • S. Villagomez St., Mangilao to Chalan Okso, Dededo

  • Toves Road Area to Kenney Café, Mangilao

  • (Around Old Trinity) to As Lucas, Talofofo

    Pocket outages

    In addition, GPA said crews also continue to work on smaller pocket outages throughout the island.

    GPA and GWA said in a release that their objectives in the post typhoon-Dolphin period include ensuring all water wells are on island power and able to provide water continuously.

    The utilities also plan to address no- to low-water pressures throughout the island as reservoir levels rise. They also want to energize all schools and pocket areas with major damages.



GWA to file for 16.5 percent water rate increase in June


Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam Waterworks Authority will be filing its annual true-up next month, which proposes a 16.5 percent increase to current rates.


The increase is part of the five-year rate plan endorsed by the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and approved by the Public Utilities Commission in October 2013.

GWA reported the planned rate increase at the CCU work session yesterday. The waterworks authority has until June 1 to submit a final projection.

Every year, GWA's proposed water rate increases are double-checked by the CCU in a true-up review to make sure the figures are still on track. The current proposed figures, although already reflected in the five-year rate plan, will also be subject to PUC review.

The waterworks authority projected the 16.5 percent increase for the next fiscal year. If approved, the increase would take effect on Oct 1.

As outlined in its five-year rate plan, GWA said it needs to raise water rates from fiscal 2014 to 2018 to fund much-needed capital improvement projects.

Joey Duenas, CCU chairman, said the waterworks authority is sticking to the rate increase projected in the already approved five-year plan.

“The PUC still has to review and say we agree that the numbers are still good. What you projected as revenue, as debt service, all of that is still good and 16.5 is the number,” he said.

Duenas emphasized that the figures and financials submitted by GWA will be thoroughly looked at by the PUC and its consultants before a final figure is determined.

“As PUC reviews the financials provided by GWA, they may come back and say we disagree and we make these recommendations,” he said.

GWA has to file the final projected figures by June.

“If we want to change anything, we have to adopt a resolution before the date of the filing,” Duenas said.

During its last filing, GWA submitted a 17.4 percent water rate increase, with basic and lifeline residential customers seeing an increase of $2.80 in their bill in December 2014.

GWA proposed an increase for fiscal 2015 of 14.5 percent but it was compressed at a rate of 17.4 percent. The GWA petition for the water rate increase was supposed to take effect around October 2014.

Court order

A 2011 amended court order requires GWA to complete more than $300 million worth of capital improvement projects starting in 2013.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in its Significant Findings for Water and Wastewater Report, also identified additional projects which could cost GWA approximately $130 million.

According to PUC documents, the rate plan was to pay off debt service for the bonds issued to comply with the order.

When the utility first submitted its five-year rate request, GWA had proposed a 67 percent aggregate rate increase spread out over five years.

The current proposed rate increase corresponds to the third year of the plan submitted by GWA.



Post-typhoon preliminary crop damage assessments begin

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TOMMY and Maria Sapp lost most of their hard crop harvests during Typhoon Dolphin’s visit to the island Friday.

“We’re devastated – we lost about 85 percent of our fruits that are in season,” said Barrigada farmer Tommy Sapp. “Our livelihood – it’s almost all gone,” added his wife, Maria Sapp.

The Sapps told the Variety that many of their fruit trees were leaning or uprooted, including an avocado tree that fell on their home during the storm. The Sapps’ hard crop trees include several varieties of mango trees, star apple and mountain apple trees, avocado, jackfruit, lemmai and banana trees. As well, they have melons, peppers and other seasonal or soft crop varieties of fruits and vegetables.

The couple managed to salvage fruit that fell and what remained on the fallen trees. Since Saturday, they’ve held a post-storm clearance sale. “We’re trying to make do and so we’re selling $1 a pound mix and match if you want. This is it for this season,” Tommy Sapp said.

According to Matthew Sablan, acting director of the Department of Agriculture, assessments by his team began yesterday and will continue over the next several days.

Department of Agriculture files show there are currently 486 registered farmers, but the number is lower when only considering active farmers whose sole livelihood is based on their annual productions such as the Sapps.

Priceless

“The loss is priceless,” said Tommy Sapp, when asked how much revenue he may have lost. “I can’t even begin to estimate or put a number on the damage.”

Sablan said that is part of the ongoing assessments. “We have to conduct a preliminary crop damage assessment,” he said. “From there, we can contribute to the overall economic damage assessment.”

Sablan said it was too soon to state what assistance, if any, might be had from the department. Sablan said his records indicate there are at least 78 active farmers whose livelihood is derived solely from agriculture.

In November, the government of Guam paid out $387,432.66 to 65 farmers who filed for compensation for crops damaged by Tropical Storm Halong, according to Variety files.

Farmers also received government compensation for crop loss in 2013 after weather associated with Tropical Storm Francisco destroyed crops.

Tommy Sapp said it would be wonderful if any assistance could be had by folks like him, but he’s not waiting.

“Farmers need to support each other, even though we’re an independent bunch. To keep my stand operating, I guess I’ll buy local from other farmers,” Tommy Sapp said. “Otherwise, we’ll probably have to pack it up – and I don’t want to go that route.”

Representatives on island for Transpacific Partnership

Posted: May 19, 2015 By Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

While there's been a veil of secrecy surrounding the event, KUAM News has learned that several individuals are on Guam this week to participate in meetings related to the Transpacific Partnership. It's making headlines across the globe and our island is playing a key role. That's because the island is hosting meetings this week related to the TPP.

The TPP is a free trade agreement that's currently under negotiation between 12 different countries around the world. While negotiations are expected to take place in the Philippines next week, earlier this month local leaders like Governor Eddie Calvo had confirmed meetings would actually be held here before hand. "But with that, I would like to see this as an opportunity for leaders as myself or other Guam leaders to meet with these negotiations particularly with the us trade negotiations when they come to Guam, if not for policy but just a sign of respect," he said.

While details have been limited here at home, a recent Japan Times article does state that chief negotiators were on Guam starting this past weekend on this US-led Pacific Free Trade Initiative. While prospects of the ten-day session are unclear, the article notes working group meetings on intellectual property and other areas will take place as well as various gatherings of small groups of the countries engaged in the negotiations.

KUAM News in the meantime did run into individuals from the TPP both at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa and the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort who were seen wearing nametags attached to purple lanyards reading "Transpacific Partnership." Individuals manning the outside of the meetings were mum on details and several security officers were on hand.

People who appeared to be in attendance didn't offer much information as well including one representative from Canada who says she was only providing background support.

While several Government of Guam agencies say they have no involvement, Chief of Police Fred Bordallo did confirm GPD received communication from the US Secret Service on added support and information sharing related to the TPP. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's office say they have not received any updates on the meetings but notes the US trade representative is trying to accommodate her office's request for a meeting along with working with the Governor's Office to bring local leaders to the table.

In the meantime, ministerial talks in the Philippines are set to take place between May 26-28.

  

Save Tumon from runoff project

Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:00am

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

THE Guam Economic Development Authority is attempting to commission a project which could ultimately destroy Tumon Bay as the prime driver of our economy.

Well over a million visitors a year grace our island, largely because they want to bask on a pristine beach within a reasonable distance of home. Tumon Bay provides just such a destination, and is the focal point of a booming economy.

GEDA is looking for a solution to occasional street flooding in the tourist district, which is a fine idea. The solution presented, though, has environmental and economic disaster written all over it. Incredibly, they propose to collect storm water runoff – complete with motor oil and other contaminants – directly into a ponding basin which would then be discharged into the center of our treasured bay.

Imagine the word of mouth circulating in Japan after tourists find themselves snorkeling not through a paradise, but through a hellish layer of brown, oil-tainted water. Consider the impact on the marine preserves from oil and other contaminants deposited during the several days to a week required for the bay to exchange the runoff for ocean water.

Promoters claim the chances of pollution are slim. The odds are greater than zero, and cannot be risked. This is an unbelievably bad idea which should be immediately discarded, before we kill the golden goose that is Tumon Bay.

Kelly Fitzpatrick,
Ipan

               

Dolphin Upgraded to Typhoon

Posted: May 13, 2015 kuam

Tropical Storm Dolphin is now a Typhoon and according to the National Weather Service winds are now clocked at 75 miles per hour. Guam and Rota remain under a typhoon watch which means we can expect winds of 74mph and greater within 48 hours. Tinian and Saipan meanwhile remain under a tropical storm watch. According to the 11am NWS advisory Typhoon Dolphin is located about 805 miles east-southeast of Guam. It is moving west-northwest at 9 miles per hour. The closest point of approach to Guam is Friday.

 

Researchers for answers about angel hair alga bloom

Posted: May 12, 2015 By Isa Baza  KUAM

Scientists are working to uncover the mystery behind what local fishermen are calling the "angel hair alga bloom". An algal bloom that began in 2012 has now engulfed the eastern coast of Guam. Tom Schils is a ficologist at the University of Guam.

"And that really, that's an outbreak that started...it's a phenomenon basically of an outbreak of green algae that started in 2012. It was contained to Pago Bay at the time," he explained. The bloom then spread all the way south to Cocos Island. "And that's when fisherman particularly got very, very worried about the phenomenon because they couldn't cast their nets anymore. Propellers got stuck in basically the floating alga all over the place," he added.

While at first the alga blooms only occurred during the summer months, they now span year-long, and have even spread west all the way to Bile Bay. "Just recently we also noticed it in luminal reef, which is just a little bit north of the harbor," noted Schils.

The alga is referred to as chaetomorpha, and scientists know very little about it. In fact, the only record of the alga dates back to 1968, and its reappearance has left researchers perplexed. "First of all," Schils continued, "we're focusing on the identity and collaborating with some researchers from New Zealand and Belgium."

He'll then try to find out what caused the outbreak, saying, "Why does this alga suddenly appear on our reefs in such mass quantities and why is the geographical footprint of this alga increasing?"

Some potential causes might be that it is an invasive species, that it resulted from overfishing, or that it is related to recent anomalies of warm ocean temperatures. And while the causes are unknown, so are the potential impacts, with Schil saying, "Will the smothering, basically will they overgrow other reef organisms, or will they create anoxic situations? We really don't have a good handle on it."

However the alga is edible and is already being consumed by local fishermen. Schils said he and his team will continue to study the occurrence until they are able to literally untangle the mystery of the angel hair alga bloom.

Guam gets clean energy grant

Posted: May 13, 2015 12:41 PM  By Sabrina Salas Mantanane  KUAM

Guam gets a portion of a $2.3 million Department of the Interior grant for various clean energy and energy efficiency projects in the insular areas.  According to Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia'aina $500,000 will fund a solar project at the Guam Memorial Hospital. GMH will be installing a 100 kilowatt rooftop photo-voltaic power system. The hospital estimates the project will result in energy cost savings of close to $89,000 every year.

 

GPA seeks surcharge hike

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CCU to tackle resolution

EFFECTIVE Aug. 1, Guam Power Authority residential customers using up to 1,000 kilowatt hours may have their power bills increase by 7.63 percent of their total bill, or an average of about $15.29 a month, should the initial resolution proposed by GPA to adjust the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) be approved.

The Consolidated Commission on Utilities will be having a work session to tackle resolution 2015-31, which authorizes GPA management to petition the Public Utilities Commission to allow the change in the LEAC.

In its proposal, GPA said that projections may change, thus the figures in the resolution may be updated to reflect the most current forward fuel prices.

If the CCU authorizes GPA to file the adjustment, it still has to go through the PUC for approval.

In its initial proposal, GPA is suggesting an increase of from $.102054 per kWh to $.117347 per kWh for the period Aug. 1, to Jan. 31, 2016, representing a 15 percent increase in the LEAC factor.

In January, the PUC released an order authorizing a reduction in residential customers' fuel surcharge rate from $0.146666 per kWh to $0.102054 per kWh.

With the approved adjustment, residential customers utilizing an average of 1,000 kWh per month saw an 18.2 percent decrease in their total bill, or savings of around $45 per month.

Prior to this, the PUC in November approved a decrease from $0.176441 per kWh to $0.146666 per kWh or a 16.88 percent decrease in the LEAC factor.

Volatile market

GPA is allowed to recover its fuel costs and related costs under the LEAC factor which is reset and trued up every six months.

In the resolution, GPA said the worldwide cost of fuel has been very volatile in recent years and more noticeably so in recent months. Moreover, the spot-market price for fuel has seen an increase in recent months that compelled GPA to file a petition for increased rates.

During GPA’s initial filing for the current period, the power authority projected the market price of fuel at $60.94 per barrel for the six-month period ending July 31.

However, the current projection for the same period has been raised to $65.84 per bbl. In addition, GPA expects the price of fuel for the period ending Jan. 31, 2016 to increase to $68.04 per bbl.

According to the power authority, the increase is necessary to recover the increasing price of fuel and the forecasted fuel handling costs.

The deadline for the next LEAC filing is June 15.

 

Approaching storm postpones Micronesia Island Fair

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

The annual Guam Micronesia Island Fair, which showcases the unique indigenous cultural practices of Guam’s neighbors in Micronesia, had to be postponed due to the approach of Tropical Storm Dolphin that is projected to increase to typhoon strength by Thursday and affect Guam by week’s end. Variety file photo

THIS weekend’s Guam Micronesia Island Fair became the first casualty of the approaching Tropical Storm Dolphin that is projected to increase to typhoon strength by Thursday and affect Guam by week’s end.

Joshua Tyquiengco, spokesman for the Guam Visitors Bureau, said that due to anticipated weather surrounding Tropical Storm Dolphin, "the Guam Micronesia Island Fair, previously scheduled for this weekend (May 15 to 17), has been postponed.”

Tyquiengco said it was too soon to peg a new date for the event. He said GVB took into consideration the safety and the conditions in light of the storm forecast, even in the event the storm passes.  “There will be winds and rain,” he said.

“Once a new date is determined, we will notify the public,” Tyquiengco said. “There are a lot of moving parts to this event. We have to coordinate with a host of issues, vendors, exhibitors. We will be making an announcement of the new dates, so stay tuned.”

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, weather forecasters with the National Weather Service said Tropical Storm Dolphin was moving north-northwest at 8 mph and projected to continue west-northwest overnight.

Forecasters expect the storm to continue on a west to west-northwest track that takes it well north of Chuuk on Wednesday and in the general direction of Guam on Thursday and Friday with maximum sustained winds to increase in excess of 45 mph.

“Tropical Storm Dolphin is expected to intensify slowly over the next few days and is forecast to become a typhoon on Thursday. Tropical storm-force winds extend out up to 140 miles southwest of the center ... and up to 100 miles elsewhere,” the weather service stated.

Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense urged residents in the meantime to prepare for the possible arrival of the storm in the coming week.