TAX-FUNDED ROADS PLANNED FOR GUAM SUBDIVISION

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 31) – Residents of the troubled Gill Baza subdivision in Yigo were supposed to get new roads beginning next month, but the road work likely will be pushed back until later this year so infrastructure problems there can be addressed, said Guam Department of Public Works Director Larry Perez.

The roads in the area are supposed to be maintained by developer Cyfred and not the government, the Department of Land Management determined in January 2004, but that changed late last year when lawmakers included road improvements to the subdivision as part of the fiscal 2006 budget.

The improvements, including about US$750,000 for the Gill Baza subdivision and a neighboring subdivision, will be paid for using US$24 million in unspent capital improvement money from the Territorial Highway Fund.

Cyfred Vice President Jesse Lujan, also a Republican senator in the Legislature, voted in favor of the budget bill. He said last week that he does not believe his vote for the project was a conflict of interest.

"Generally, the Department of Public Works would not have paved that road, just because it's a private developer's project," Perez said. "However, the Legislature has done this before, where they've authorized money to do certain things that are out of the normal scheme of things ... and the Department of Public Works would just carry it out."

But the project will be delayed because it does not make sense to pave roads then dig them up again to install infrastructure, he said.

The area is legally required to have a sewer system because of the small size of the lots, but developer Cyfred has proposed doubling the lot sizes rather than installing a sewer. Residents said they want a sewer system installed anyway, and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency intends to evict them in 60 days unless the sewage violations are corrected.

[PIR editor’s note: Cyfred Vice President Jesse Lujan has said that 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 (read related story).]

Perez said the Gill Baza roads are considered "phase one" priority projects, which begin next month, but he said the unresolved infrastructure issue is enough reason to push it back to "phase two," which begins six months from now.

Perez said once the roads in the Gill Baza subdivision are paved by Public Works, the government will maintain them.

"The fact that the Legislature authorizes us to use money to upgrade the road, in that very same breath ... it is a recognized government project and now the government is obliged to continue maintaining it on a going-forward basis," Perez said.

It's a slow, bumpy ride going into the subdivision, where many residents do not own the types of rugged vehicles appropriate for the roads. Compact Nissans and Toyotas are more common than trucks, and the strategy for crossing large puddles is to gun the engine.

School buses can't make it in, so students walk nearly a mile to the nearest paved road, where buses meet them. Trash trucks can't make it in as well, so household waste is dumped into the nearby jungle.

The government sometimes dumps a truckload of crushed coral near where Michael Yanfag lives in the subdivision, and Yanfag said he and other residents spread it around to fill some of the potholes in the subdivision's dirt roads.

The roads were okay when Yanfag, 22, and his family moved to the area seven years ago, he said, but they have progressively gotten worse, with almost no maintenance.

Yanfag, who said he drives in and out of the area at least a couple of times a day, said car repairs are an issue for residents.

"You start hearing sounds coming from your suspension. Your shock absorbers start going out," he said.

January 31, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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