Nearly $1 million was spent on design plans for a new building to house the operations of the Department of Land Management and other agencies – plans that may no longer be usable, according to DLM Director Joseph Borja.
“Over at Land Management, we have this stack of beautiful plans that we spent $984,346 (for), but will probably not be used because they’re outdated,” the director told lawmakers during a budget hearing last week.
Borja was reading out a series of responses written to Sen. Telo Taitague, who had asked about a DLM construction fund and the status of the DLM building construction project.
The plans for the building are more than a decade old.
Sen. Chris Duenas signed off on the proposal in 2010, back when he served as director to the agency. According to Duenas, the main reason construction didn’t begin during his time at DLM is because the government needed to acquire additional lots for the project.
The building is proposed to be located on the empty lot across from the Julale Shopping Center in Hagatna. Duenas said additional lots were needed to fulfill certain requirements, but these were on private property, and negotiations with the owner were not finalized before he left the agency. Negotiations were completed a couple of years ago, Duenas said, recalling a roundtable hearing involving DLM.
The other issue was that the agency was continuing to negotiate with Guam Housing Corp. and the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority. The plan was to place all land agencies at the building to ensure rent could meet the debt service for the construction, Duenas said. That included DLM, the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. Duenas said he received a commitment from GHC to be a tenant and was working to see if GHURA would also come on board.
“Basically, just the clock ran out on me,” Duenas said.
The DLM construction fund was created 14 years ago. About $171,000 was appropriated from the General Fund, but that was never expended, according to the responses Borja submitted to Taitague. About $1.5 million was received from a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant program for the construction of the DLM building. The funding source for the building plan was federal dollars.
While Borja said there may have been changes to building codes since the plan’s creation, Duenas said the architectural design itself is modern, although some updating may be needed.
Borja said the Department of Public Works looked at the plans at some point and the department’s comment was, essentially, the plans are now 12 years old.
“Whether they can still be used or not, that’s an engineer’s decision really, not mine,” Borja said. “And because the plans are that old, they would have to get recertified by an engineer, I assume.”
As for the status of the building construction project, it is on hold. Borja wrote in his responses to Taitague that human remains were found on the property. CLTC owns the property, according to Borja. He said he believes it will be up to CLTC to decide a way forward after the information on the discovery is reviewed.
Borja also recommended a review of the enabling law behind the building’s construction, noting that DLM is not normally in the business of construction or capital improvement.