GUAM SENATOR WASHES HANDS AS HOMEOWNERS STRUGGLE

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 27) – Moving to the Gill Baza subdivision in Yigo on northern Guam was an affordable option for 63-year-old Justina Hartman, who said she was tired of dealing with inflexible landlords and rising apartment rent for 10 years.

However, it has not been a perfect solution. Bad roads make it difficult for her grandchildren to get to the bus stop on rainy days. Buses can't make it into the subdivision to pick them up, so the children must walk down a dirt road to the nearest paved road each morning. They missed school yesterday.

The bad roads also mean she doesn't have trash collection service, and children yesterday afternoon were rolling a garbage can down the road to dump trash into the jungle.

The situation worsened this week after the Guam Environmental Protection Agency cited Hartman and dozens of other residents for inadequate sewer systems, asking them to correct the environmental violation or leave within 60 days.

Two families in the subdivision already have filed lawsuits against the developer.

Government officials have said developer Cyfred is responsible for installing a sewer system and maintaining roads in the subdivision, but company officials have not done that, claiming the government agreed to install a sewer system and is legally responsible for maintaining the roads.

Hartman, who is originally from Chuuk, moved to the subdivision in June 2000, into a wood-and-tin home built by her husband at the time. The seclusion also was something she appreciated, she said, because she did not want her grandchildren exposed to bad influences.

"I really want somebody to help me to stay," Hartman said. "If I have to leave, I have to get my money back. ... If I do not have money, where will I go?"

Cyfred Vice President Jesse Lujan, a Republican senator in the Guam Legislature, on Wednesday said the residents in the subdivision hold the deeds to the land and the "government needs to work with individual landowners" to resolve the sewer issue.

He also said that if the government were willing to deliver coral to the area, residents could provide the labor to spread it on the roads.

[PIR editor’s note: Lujan owns several US$45,000 lots in the subdivision, according to financial documents on file at the Guam Election Commission, and also has a 10-percent ownership of Cyfred Inc., the company that developed the subdivision. That ownership is worth about US$1.7 million, Lujan reported (read the story).]

Hartman said she does not recall the developer ever making any promises about a sewer system.

"They did not tell me to dig a septic tank, but I (dug) a septic tank on my place because I need to use a toilet - that is what everybody needs," she said. "I know that is against the law, but what can I do?"

The environmental agency has also issued violation notices to long-time residents in the area not affiliated with the subdivision.

Fred Arriola, who resides in his sister's house on land between the Gill Baza and "Zero-Down" subdivisions, said the family has been asked to move. Arriola said their house has been there for about 15 years, long before anything was built in the area across the road.

Their home has power from lines that were around before the house was built, Arriola said, and a septic tank for sewage. There never has been running water at the house, he said, so he brings it from a tank at the village mayor's office every day. Like others in the area, Arriola does not have a phone line, and the family relies on cellular phones.

"We spent a lot of money for this area," Arriola said, and if the government wants them out, it needs to pay them for the house and the land.

Some residents already have taken the issue to court. Attorney Wayson Wong, who represents two families in the subdivision, said he expects a trial date will be set soon in Judge Anita Sukola's courtroom.

Wong said Cyfred is being sued for unfair and deceptive practices because the development plan requires the company to install a sewer system and it never was done.

Wong said one of his clients, the Abalos family, has moved out and is suing to get its money back from Cyfred. His other client, the Sananaps, want a sewer system installed or a reduction in monthly payments to Cyfred.

Kini Sananap, who is represented by Wong, did not want to say much about the issue, other than he has spent a lot of time and money building a home and does not want to move out. His 15-year-old niece, Carisa Nelson, said the government or the developer should be held accountable for the problem. "Not us," she said.

Guam Environmental Protection Agency officials are scheduled to meet with affected residents in the subdivision at 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the violation notices and their options.

January 27, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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