GovGuam Didn’t Budget For Required Solid Waste Projects

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GovGuam Didn’t Budget For Required Solid Waste Projects Could be short millions of dollars next fiscal year

By Michelle Conerly

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 26, 2014) – The government of Guam could be short millions of dollars next fiscal year because the past administration failed to take into account the funding needed for court-ordered solid waste projects, according to Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz.

The U.S. District Court of Guam yesterday held a quarterly status hearing on the efforts to close the Ordot dump and operate the newly built sanitary landfill.

David Manning, spokesman for court-appointed solid waste receiver Gershman, Brickner, & Bratton, yesterday told the court there isn't enough money to fund a handful of projects related to, but not identified, in the consent decree.

The company was appointed by the District Court of Guam in 2008 to close the Ordot dump and open the Layon Landfill after GovGuam missed court-ordered deadlines to complete the projects.

The dump must be closed because it is environmentally hazardous. It no longer accepts waste, but must be capped and monitored.

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood yesterday said the unfunded projects were required by the government of Guam after the consent decree was signed and after a bond to pay for the projects already was floated.

GovGuam borrowed $202 million in bond money to carry out the requirements outlined in the consent decree.

The unfunded projects consist of upgrades to the residential transfer stations, improvements to Dero Road, and Route 4 safety enhancements.

Collectively, these will cost GovGuam an additional $19.9 million.

Manning also said another $30 million worth of projects to be completed over the course of many years also need to be funded, which include post-closure costs for the dump, the construction of a new cell at Layon, and the closure of the existing cells one and two.

Cruz, D-Piti, yesterday in court questioned why the additional cost of these projects wasn't anticipated before the funding for the consent decree was secured.

"Why didn't we anticipate the costs of closing (cells) one and two and opening a third one as part of the first bond?" Cruz said after the hearing.

Two options

Manning during the hearing outlined two funding options.

Either GovGuam can fund the projects on its own, or the receiver will continue to divert money initially intended to repay bonds toward the additional projects.

Manning said the receiver already started diverting the funding last month.

The federal receiver's office pays $375,000 a month, or about $4.5 million every year, to help pay off the $15.6 million owed annually to pay the debt service.

The rest of the funding to pay the bond debt comes from Section 30 funds, Cruz said yesterday in a phone interview.

Cruz said government operations rely on the receiver's reimbursement, and without the help, Section 30 funds will have to be utilized to pay the entire amount, leaving the government of Guam short millions of dollars that could go to schools, police officers, or other government entities.

He said he's sending the status report presented in court yesterday to the Office of Finance and Budget, led by Sen. Ben Pagelinan, D-Barrigada, in the next few days.

Rawlen Mantanona, legal counsel for the government of Guam, said he can't comment on what the administration will do next because it's a policy issue. He did say that he'll be filing documents with the District Court of Guam, addressing those concerns, in the upcoming weeks.

Troy Torres, communications director for the governor's office, said the administration is still considering its options and shares Cruz's budget concerns.

A site visit to the Ordot Dump is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. today. Tydingco-Gatewood also scheduled a continuation of yesterday's hearing for 8:30 a.m. Friday.

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