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By Jayvee Vallejera

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 8, 2002 – Saipan Tribune)---In the presence of his staff, special advisers and the media, Gov. Juan N. Babauta yesterday signed two grant documents that would give the CNMI a total of $13 million in federal funds.

Babauta said the two grants represent $11 million in Capital Improvement Program funds for fiscal year 2001-2002 and $2 million in Compact of Free Association Impact payments.

He said he received notification about the two grants last week from the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

Babauta said that, after a thorough discussion of the matter with Lt. Gov. Diego Benavente, they agreed to use the $2 million Compact Impact funds to finish the construction of Tinian High School.

"I know that we have critical needs across the Commonwealth but we felt that it is important that we commit all the $2 million to finish the high school on Tinian. We are committed to doing that. We have consulted with the Tinian Legislative Delegation and we will work toward completing that school," said Babauta.

The construction of Tinian High School had been snagged due to litigation. The matter has been settled, however, allowing resumption of construction.

The $11 million CIP grant, however, will be spent in accordance with Public Law 12-64, which was passed by the previous Tenorio administration.

That law identified several CIP projects amounting to $48.18 million, with $18.45 million earmarked for projects in Rota, $11.94 million for Tinian, and $17.79 million for Saipan.

Since Public Law 12-64 set no fiscal year limitations on the funds, lawmakers in the 12th Legislature inserted a provision, saying the projects can only be started once the money becomes available.

With the receipt of the $11 million, Babauta said they can now start implementing the projects as outlined in that law.

"The bulk of the $11 million will be used for the construction of a new Department of Public Health building and dialysis center and the Saipan adult prison facility, as well as a host of other projects," the Governor said.

It will be noted, though, that under Public Law 12-64, $23.37 million was set aside for the DPH building, dialysis center and the prison facility on Saipan. Since the CIP grant that Babauta signed amounted only to $11 million, both projects will still fall short by $12.37 million.

Fortunately, Public Law 12-64 contains a provision authorizing the Governor to source the needed amount from the unspent earnings resulting from the CIP Bond Authorization Act of 1999, or Public Law 11-102, which amounts to $10 million.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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