Governor abandons Eagles Field lease
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero today backed out of the proposed lease for Eagles Field, accusing the Guam legislature of blocking her plan to build a new medical campus on the Navy-owned property.
The governor's office said Leon Guerrero will not request the Navy for another extension of the deadline to sign the lease, which is due today.
"Unfortunately, the island of Guam has lost out on a beneficial opportunity to lease over 100 acres of federal property for the use of the people of Guam," states a press release from the governor's office.
"Now that the offer of federal assistance has been rejected by the Guam Legislature, we expect the Department of the Navy to resume its plans to develop the property for military operations," the governor said.
The original deadline for the lease execution was April 14. The Joint Region Marianas agreed to extend the deadline to April 30, in response to the governor's request, which was prompted by a legal opinion issued March 31 by Attorney General Douglas Moylan.
Moylan declined to sign the lease, questioning the chief executive's authority to enter into a property lease deal without legislative approval.
“Based on numerous comments made by lawmakers both in the media and on the session floor, it’s obvious that any further attempts to lease the Eagles Field property would be fruitless,” the governor said.
The Navy has notified the local government that the property would be used for defense purposes if the lease was not signed accordingly.
“Although the lease offer is expiring, I remain committed to building a medical complex to ensure the people of Guam have the highest quality health care available,” she added.
Reversing its previous vote, the 37th Guam Legislature last week overrode the governor's veto of Bill 12-37. Now a public law, the measure mandates the governor to submit the 99-year lease to the legislature for review and approval.
Reacting to the administration's announcement today, Speaker Therese Terlaje said the governor misunderstood the legislature's intent.
"The new law simply ensures that any proposal be fully disclosed and vetted by the Legislature and the people of Guam," Terlaje said. "The legislature has never presented an offer of any federal assistance to reject, so if there is an offer, Bill 12-37 ensures that it will be disclosed to the public."'
The speaker stressed that the legislature did not reject the proposed lease.
"No member of the legislature disagrees that Guam needs a new hospital. Similarly, none of us here today pose as obstructionists to building one," the speaker said in a letter to Leon Guerrero.
"The 37th Guam Legislature has united in our commitment to hear the voices of the people which includes original landowners, healthcare experts, and families in our community," Terlaje added.
She noted that several sectors have raised questions that the legislature was not able to answer.
"Even after the attorney general of Guam stated that legislative approval was needed, we made efforts to call on you and your administration to provide further information to make our best assessment, in addition to the multiple oversight hearings already held by the Committee on Health, Land, Justice and Culture, which were good faith attempts at fact-finding," Terlaje said.
Terlaje reiterated her plea for the governor to "work in earnest" with the legislative body to produce an outcome "that is truly best for Guam."
Terlaje's committee will hold a hearing to determine the viability of alternative new hospital sites.
"We hope for full disclosure of any federal assistance that is available depending on site choice and other relevant details," the speaker said.