Transparency sought on lease of federal land marked for Guam hospital project
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
What are the terms under the forthcoming lease agreement between Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and the Navy for a piece of federal property in Mangilao?
Details of the lease contract must be made public, according to Guam senators.
The property in question refers to the site of the old sports complex known as Eagle's Field, where the administration hopes to build a new integrated medical campus to be known as the "21st Century Healthcare Center," which is estimated to cost $800 million.
In an interview with KUAM last month, Leon Guerrero said she expected the lease agreement to be sealed soon.
“The public has a right to know what they are being committed to for potentially 99 years or more, that in the end when bearing the burden of the costs, the people of Guam are satisfied with the product," according to Speaker Therese Terlaje.
The 37th Guam Legislature on Tuesday passed Terlaje's Bill 12-37 which would require legislative approval for the purchase or lease of property owned by the federal or foreign governments for terms in excess of five years.
Terlaje said the measure seeks to maintain consistency in local policies related to the purchase, lease, sublease and license of real property on Guam, and ensure transparency for these commitments made on behalf of the people of Guam.
She noted that the absence of a local statute regarding the lease of federally owned property risks incurring obligations without any public input and counteracts a transparent and consistent policy.
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At Tuesday's session, senators also passed companion legislation, Bill 13-37, which advocates transparency in the planning and execution of the proposed medical campus project.
Bill 13-37 would require representation on the 21st Century Healthcare Center Committee from the healthcare industry, the impacted Municipal Planning Councils, and the Guam legislature.
It would also mandate the application of open government law and public attendance to the committee's meetings.
Original landowners of Eagles Field and the surrounding properties attended the session to hear discussions on measures that could have impacts on the potential 99-year lease of the property from the federal government.
While much of the discussion centered around concerns about the medical campus, Terlaje’s bill seeks to close a gap for all property purchases or leases entered into by the government of Guam as well as ensure public access to the development of the proposed medical campus.
Terlaje said the legislature should "discuss and decide if the government will continue on the course that previous legislatures set for the demand for the return of land to the government of Guam and to original landowners or to allow some other process to be used that avoids a demand for the return of excess property. "
"This would be a huge policy shift that at the very least should be discussed by the people of Guam and the legislature, and the passage of Bill 12-37 would be the first step," Terlaje said.
The measures are being prepared for transmittal to Adelup.