GUAM MUST ADDRESS ISLAND NEEDS BEFORE BUILDUP

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Sept. 17, 2010) - The record of decision on the military buildup is just days away, and on Wednesday it was announced that Japan will provide US$497.8 million for buildup-related projects.

In short, the buildup is set to go into full swing. That’s good news for Guam, as it will mean billions of dollars infused into the long-ailing local economy, as well as new jobs and economic opportunities. It also will translate into tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the local government on an annual basis, in the form of fees, taxes and Section 30 money.

But the buildup also will have a huge impact on government services because of an expected population boom of more than 40,000 people. A larger population will place a greater strain on agencies already facing problems -- shortages of police officers, a crowded prison, patients often waiting for beds at the hospital, a lack of prosecutors and social workers, among many others.

And most of these agencies seem unprepared for this population influx. While some of them have plans for what’s needed to bolster services, many of them don’t. And elected officials have yet to share with the public any plan for how to pay for the needed expansion of services, facilities and additional personnel.

The Legislature and administration have been critical of the environmental impact statement for the buildup. Both have repeatedly asked for more time for public comment and more federal funds to help pay for buildup-related impact.

So where are the detailed plans for what’s needed to ensure government services are adequate, and how much it will cost?

While the federal government should be expected to help Guam shoulder some of these costs, it can’t be responsible for all of it. For example, many of the local government’s services are substandard and inadequate for the current population. The buildup will exacerbate these problems, but won’t be the cause.

This community needs to have confidence that its government is ready for the buildup and its impact. We need to see what plans are in place and what they will cost, and what agencies and services still need to complete plans.

The buildup has started. There no longer is any time for elected and appointed government officials to put things off.

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