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Preserving history...or saving money?

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Guam Legislature is moving forward with its plans to restore the old Legislative Building in Hagatna. But concerns have been raised over the push to have the building constructed, despite its historic value to the community.  Legislative Speaker Judi Won Pat says after years of renting space at the current Guam Legislature building, the plan now is to use the funds earmarked by the Guam Preservation Trust to restore the old facility near the Agana Cathedral.

"They were saying that they would be ready to put out the bid maybe this summer and looking at possibly next year in completing the building," she said.

Won Pat says the money from the trust is accumulated through the Department of Public Works' permit fees in order to restore several historic structures on island. But the question is if senators could be saving by moving to the back to the old building, as the speaker noted, "We need to look at the rent monies that the legislature currently gets from the post office."

According to the Speaker's Office, the Legislature spends $22,000 a month (equating to just over a quarter-million dollars a year) to rent its current space in the island's capital. That along with $3,000 monthly for each majority senator and $2,000 monthly for each minority senator's individual office spaces. Won Pat says it will definitely pull less from each senator's pocket for renting the old legislative building.

"When you stop and think about it, $22,000 to rent this building versus eventually moving into the original facility where the formal functions of the legislature continues," said Won Pat.

But the main concern raised is over the fast pace to have this building reconstructed versus other Government of Guam projects such as constructing a new John F. Kennedy High School.  "Granted, that we consider JFK to be priority but JFK's funding source is totally different form the funding source that we're looking at and its nowhere near what we actually put out even for JFK," she said.

The speaker defends the efforts to revive the old structure even if construction was not to begin for another decade, noting, "Let's say were not going to build the legislative building for years and let's say its going to take $33 million, then how much are you going to save for 10 years times $33 million? We still won't be able to build JFK."

Won Pat adds that it's still unclear when the facility will be completed and how much it will cost.

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