By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Noting the rising cost of construction, the Port Authority of Guam will ask the 36th Guam Legislature to lift the funding cap on capital improvement projects that are financed through $71.44 million in revenue bonds.
"The port authority tried different avenues but has been unable to move forward with the projects due to the constraints in the law," port officials said.
The cap was set by Public Law 35-44, which authorizes the reprogramming of the port authority revenue bond proceeds and amending the capital improvement projects
A previous law, P.L. 34-70, later amended by P.L . 35-44, authorized the revenue bonds to finance certain capital improvements and to refinance all or a portion of outstanding loans of the Port Authority.
"However, the construction costs associated with the repairs exceeded those outlined in Public Laws 34-70 and 35-44 and the engineering cost estimates outlined in the revenue bond mandates obtained back in 2014 have always been severely underfunded," a press release from the port authority said.
At today's meeting, members of the port's Board of Directors said they did not want the port’s modernization program to be further delayed nor jeopardized as a result of the legislative funding caps strictly tied to the 2018 revenue bond funds outlined in P.L. 34-70 and P.L. 35-44
The board adopted a resolution authorizing the port's general manager, Rory Respicio, to coordinate with the Guam Economic Development Authority, the senators and Gov. Leon Guerrero on any possible legislative remedies to remove the funding caps associated with the project created by the revenue bond law.
P.L. 35-44 authorized the reprogramming of the revenue bond proceeds and allowed changes to the capital improvement projects.
Also at today's meeting, the board gave its nod to a settlement agreement that ended the port's nine-year court battle with former port police officer Eddie Castro, who was fired from his job.
Respicio advised the board that this was not a settlement, but the enforcement of the court orders.
Castro appealed his job termination with the Civil Service Commission. The commission upheld the port's action but voted to modify Castro’s job termination into a demotion to a “guard (unarmed)” position.
Former Port management and legal counsel spent years appealing and fighting the case throughout the courts and then on June 24, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of Castro.
The Supreme Court held that the trial court should have granted the port’s petition only in part, remanding the case to the CSC for correction of the appropriate action for employee’s “severest demotion.” The ruling vacated the Superior Court’s decision that upheld the CSC’s decision to terminate Castro.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court remanded the matter back to the Superior Court for further proceedings consistent with its Opinion and also remanded the matter to the Superior Court to determine attorney fees and costs.
On Dec. 23, 2021, the board adopted a resolution authorizing Respicio to enter into a stipulated judgment to resolve the litigation.
At today's meeting, the board agreed to satisfy the judgment with $208,370.94 in back wages, reinstatement of sick leave hours and annual leave hours owed, reasonable legal fees and to remit to Retirement Fund benefits owed to employees.