Guam Lawmakers Consider Bill To Demolish Old Admin. Building

admin's picture

Opponents want Guerrero Building renovated instead of razed

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 1, 2015) – Lawmakers yesterday wrapped up deliberations on a bill that, if enacted, would authorize the demolition of the Manuel F.L. Guerrero Administration Building. It was moved forward so senators can vote on the measure and several others this afternoon.

During the session, several amendments were made to Democratic Sen. Rory Respicio's heavily discussed measure, Bill 32-33. The bill has nearly divided the legislative body into two camps.

The intent of the measure is to allow Gov. Eddie Calvo to raze the former administration building in Hagåtña, keeping in line with the efforts of the Hagåtña Restoration and Redevelopment Authority to revitalize the capital district.

The building was constructed in the 1950s and was used to house government agencies and gubernatorial administrations, including the late Gov. Manuel F.L. Guerrero, for whom the building was named.

The bill originally was co-sponsored by Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, and Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao. But according to a memorandum to the clerk of the Legislature signed by the speaker on April 29, Won Pat asked that she be removed from the bill.

"After careful consideration of all the points of view that have been expressed in the round-table discussions (and) public hearings concerning Bill 32-33, ... I am kindly requesting that I be removed as a co-sponsor of Bill 32-33," Won Pat wrote.

She also cited the letter from Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, who wrote to his colleagues on Tuesday, urging them to move the bill back to committee. Cruz has been the measure's most vocal opponent. He believes the building should be renovated.

Bill financing

Initially, the bill would have authorized Calvo to use funds in the Hotel Occupancy Tax Bond Law, which is money earmarked for the other capital district redevelopment projects.

In an effort to safeguard those funds and the Hagåtña restoration plans, Cruz proposed an amendment late Wednesday afternoon meant to regulate the use of the funds.

When senators resumed discussions on the bill yesterday morning, Respicio agreed with the intent of Cruz's amendment. All language regarding the Hotel Occupancy Tax Bond Law was removed from the legislation.

An amendment proposed by Respicio would have given the governor transfer authority of government funds to finance the demolition, which is estimated to cost about $600,000, according to the bill's author.

However, the amendment spurred a lengthy dialogue, and at times contentious debate, on the issue of appropriations, such as the necessity to place a cap on the proposed expenditure and where the funds would come from.

"The concern that I have though is how do we ensure that these funds do not transfer from the agencies that are charged with providing education, health care and public safety?" asked Sen. Tom Ada, D-Tamuning.

While the lawmakers worked at addressing that issue, Cruz noted a 1999 statute -- the Fiscal Accountability Act-- that requires any bill that has an effect on revenues and expenditures of government funds to "identify a specific funding source for which funds are, in fact, available."

"This is an appropriation and we probably should get testimony on the record during a committee on the whole for how much this is going to cost us," Cruz advised.

"My last comment was not just rhetorical," Cruz later added when senators carried on with discussions. "We need to put it on the record. ... I'm worried about the speed in which we're moving."

Administration called

Eventually, Barnes, who was acting speaker during deliberations, ruled to push back the discussion until the afternoon so they could call down the administration's representative, former Sen. Chris Duenas, and acting Department of Administration Director Anthony Blaz to answer questions regarding the availability of funds.

Duenas told senators the government of Guam's available funds could pay for the demolition of the building, but there isn't enough money to renovate the building.

Renovations could cost between $17 million to $25 million, according to Respicio.

"So we either demolish it with the funds we do have available or we restore it with funds we don't have available?" Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, asked.

"That's an accurate statement," Duenas replied.

Under the current version of the bill, money from the Guam Preservation Trust would be used to flatten the building, replacing it with landscaping such as grass, trees, ground lighting, walkways, park benches and other park amenities for the public.

The bill also calls for the enactment of a commemorative monument within the demolition site that honors Guerrero.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment