By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The government of Guam needs to present a clear blueprint to justify its plan to use federal funds for the proposed construction of a new hospital, said Rep. Michael San Nicolas, Guam's delegate to Congress.
"It is vital that we get this project right, and weigh out the realistic timelines and processes it will take to execute a project of that scope appropriately, with the immediate ongoing need to address pandemic related struggles in our community now," San Nicolas said.
On Jan. 6, the U.S. Treasury issued a 437-page final rule on the use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds allocated to local governments. Under the rule, projects that cost more than $10 million require significant justification to include details on the use of funds and options for other funding mechanisms.
"The Treasury's guidance makes it very plain that our local government needs to do just that in its deployment of ARP federal funds," San Nicolas said.
"As we seek to tackle the need for a new hospital on Guam we have routinely advocated for thorough planning and funding transparency for the project, as any use of ARP funds for a new hospital directly reduces the availability of those funds to provide further pandemic related economic relief to our people and businesses," he added.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ 2019 study, building a new hospital that will replace Guam Memorial Hospital is estimated to cost $743 million.
Speaking before the Rotary Club Northern Guam in October last year, GMH administrator Lilian Perez-Posadas, said the costs of the construction have gone up since the study was released, necessitating adjustments to the cost estimate, which is now placed at $800 million.
Officials are proposing to build the new hospital at Eagles' Field, a property in Mangilao owned by the Navy.
San Nicolas, however, noted that the planning process has not seen any progress since Guam officials met with officials of the Army Corps of Engineers last fall.
"Nearly six months ago we advocated for engaging the Army Corps of Engineers with federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior to do a charrette to properly plan and cost out our hospital solution and that has not happened; now, with this guidance from Treasury, we can expect due diligence of that caliber to be done if ARP funds are to be used," he said.
"Today we still have essential workers uncompensated, a tourism economy unready, no local solution for our unemployed with the expiration of PUA, and an overall economic outlook that remains uncertain, all of which remain unresolved with available ARP funding," San Nicolas said.