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By Mark-Alexander Peiper

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 1) - The Guam Power Authority is taking steps to try to ensure that taxpayers no longer foot the bill for streetlights that benefit private property.

Two days ago, the Office of the Attorney General indicted former Gov. Carl Gutierrez and former Department of Administration Director Clifford Guzman for allegedly authorizing government payment for the power bills of 2,435 private streetlights.

The indictments came nearly a month after former GPA General Manager Thelma Ann Perez was indicted on charges that she allegedly directed then-Department of Public Works Director Jesse Garcia to sign a letter and assume the debt incurred by private streetlights. That debt amounted to about $730,000 since 2001.

GPA spokesman Art Perez said an inventory of the island's entire transmission and distribution system is being taken to find out if there are other streetlights that are illegally being paid for by taxpayers.

The inventory will record streetlights, transformers and even cable TV attachments that are hooked to the power agency's poles. Perez estimated that it would take about six months to complete the inventory of the more than 15,000 streetlights islandwide.

Art Perez said he was unable to obtain information yesterday as to the status of the 2,435 private streetlights that the AG's office identified as having been paid for by Public Works.

Once the inventory of the streetlights is completed, the agency will create a system that differentiates private streetlights from public streetlights.

"What we want to do is improve our accountability and tracking and hopefully that helps us to resolve some of these issues," Art Perez said.

The power agency is working with Public Works to account for government-paid streetlights that are lighting up private properties.

Art Perez said private property owners can pay for streetlights on their property to avoid disconnection. Customers have visited the agency in the past few weeks to adopt streetlights near their homes, he noted.

The power bill for a standard residential streetlight costs about $22 per month, GPA General Manager John Benavente has said.

January 1, 2004

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