Guam Government Prioritizes Dump Landowner Payments

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$25 million compensation awarded last year for Layon landfill

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 31, 2013) – The government of Guam's executive branch has prioritized the need to pay $25 million to a group of landowners over projects to stop the decades-old contamination from Ordot dump, a federal court order states.

Gov. Eddie Calvo's family is among landowners who stand to get paid the $25 million, so he assigned decisions related to the issue to Lt. Gov Ray Tenorio, federal court documents state.

The landowners, who include a Philippine billionaire and some of Guam's prominent families, were awarded a $25 million judgment by a local court in December last year to compensate them for 1.3 million square meters of land used to develop the Layon landfill.

GovGuam borrowed from the bond market to pay for the Ordot dump closure, build the Layon landfill and pay for upcoming projects to keep Ordot's waste from leaking into rivers and streams and, eventually, into the ocean.

District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood's order two days ago states a letter from the lieutenant governor in March "confirms the view that payment of the Layon condemnation case judgment is this administration's priority over the closure of the Ordot dump."

In a press release yesterday, the Office of the Attorney General, which represented the government of Guam on the dump closure issue, also mentioned the federal judge's reference to the governor's declared conflict of interest.

The governor's office and the local attorney general's office have had a breakdown in their relationship, the federal court notes. The governor's office has opted to be represented by a private law firm, Cabot Mantanona.

"The breakdown may have started from what the lieutenant governor perceived was reluctance on the part of the attorney general to agree with the release of bond proceeds to pay the $25 million judgment in the condemnation action," the federal judge's order states.

The federal judge states the environmental impact of the Ordot dump can't be ignored.

"The Ordot dump is a public nuisance. ... In addition to the leachate discharges into the Lonfit River, the Ordot dump also exposes the surrounding residents to the risk of fire from the uncollected landfill gas," Tydingco-Gatewood stated.

The governor's office responded that the site for the Layon landfill was selected years before Calvo became governor.

"The (District Court's) statement that the governor has a conflict of interest that necessitated his assigning the case to the lieutenant governor is simply a statement of well-known fact," said governor's legal counsel Sandra Miller. "However, the governor remains interested in the case because of the financial impact it will have on the ratepayers and the taxpayers of Guam."

Governor's chief policy adviser Arthur Clark said the governor's administration tried to "mediate the price of the condemnation downward."

"We are fighting the federal government on this so that the ratepayers aren't stuck with the cost of repaying the solid waste bonds and the liability to the Layon landowners. The trash fees are ridiculously high, and no one in that courtroom on the other side, to include the attorney general, seems to care about what this is doing to the average Guamanian," Clark said.

Oxford Properties, a Hong Kong Corporation; Calvo's Insurance Underwriters; Philippine billionaire Henry Sy; Jones and Guerrero Co.; Alfred and Diane Ysrael; Joaquin C. Arriola; Lee and Joan Holmes; Valencia Investments; Douglas Cushnie; and Young Chull Kim are the landowners named in the $25 million land condemnation judgment.

The judgment was above and beyond $3.4 million that had been deposited to pay the landowners, local court documents state. The remaining unpaid amount earns an annual interest of 6 percent, court documents state.

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