HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — About 400 vehicles were removed from the Swamp Road and Hahasu Drive area of Dededo during cleanups triggered by a surge of dengue cases in 2019. Now, the number of abandoned vehicles in that area is nearly double the number removed, according to Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares.
This is certainly not the only area where abandoned vehicles are found in the largest village on Guam, the mayor said. The Dededo Mayor’s Office has removed 200 cars from village through purchase orders funded by the Recycling Revolving Fund. But at $250 per disposal, the office has hit a $50,000 cap on junk vehicles this year.
This RRF cap is found in the fiscal year 2022 budget law. The Mayors’ Council of Guam is authorized to issue up to $50,000 in purchase orders per village per recyclable item, as permitted in the fiscal year 2022 Islandwide Cleanup Program between the MCOG and Guam Environmental Protection Agency. That means villages can get up to $50,000 in purchase orders for abandoned vehicles, up to $50,000 to address tires, up to $50,000 for white goods, and so on.
But the villages have different needs, and larger villages such as Dededo can quickly reach caps for categories such as junk vehicles.
Fortunately, for Dededo, the village was issued another $50,000 from American Rescue Plan funding. But that can address only 200 more junk vehicles.
Moreover, MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan stated that once Dededo uses the $50,000, he won’t be able to issue more purchase orders for the village using ARP funds until next fiscal year. Sablan reiterated the challenge that $50,000 is the maximum that can be issued for an item category from any specific funding source for a fiscal year.
And that’s why mayors are seeking to lift the cap.
MCOG President Jesse Alig, the mayor of Piti, said the mayors continue to work with the Legislature to remove caps in order for larger villages to dispose of more trash.
In February, Speaker Therese Terlaje introduced a measure to remove procurement caps for Recycling Revolving Fund moneys appropriated or allotted to the MCOG. The measure, Bill 252-36, was referred to the Legislature’s committee on appropriations, but has not had a public hearing.
Sablan said he sent a letter recently to Sen. Joe San Agustin, who heads the appropriations committee, to see if he can schedule a public hearing.
“The bill is only for FY22, and FY22 ends in September. So if it doesn’t go through, … we’re stuck at the $50,000 cap,” Sablan said. “That’s why I mentioned to Sen. San Agustin that either schedule a public hearing or, when it does come to the floor, amend the legislation to include FY23.”
In Dededo, the number of junk vehicles can escalate as people take in cars to use for repair parts, Savares said.
“They bring 10 cars in to get one car running,” she said. The cars then end up lining the road, even if the people doing this were just trying to make extra money, particularly during the pandemic years, Savares said.
Cleanup of these vehicles shouldn’t be the responsibility of the mayors, she added.
“It should be the responsibility of the mechanic, not the government,” Savares said.
The island’s image did come up as something to note during the recent Guam Travel and Tourism Association forum, where officials discussed the recovery of the tourism industry.
“I think today we had some important takeaways we need to recognize,” GTTA research committee director Jay Merrill said near the conclusion of the forum. “The first is we can all see the light growing brighter at the end of the tunnel. Both markets (Japan and Korea) are increasing…. We also heard that there are a lot of fundamental things we need to concentrate on to make sure the experience is going to be ready.”
According to Merrill, dilapidated buildings and neglected roads need to be made “attractive.”
“We need to make sure we’ve got the grass cut, we’ve got all of the things going to be necessary to flavor and also to create the impression that we want,” he said.