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Yamashita meets with superintendent

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - The Department of Education says more time is needed for the agency and the Attorney General's Office to review ARRA-related projects. Although not in office yet, senator-elect Aline Yamashita met with the superintendent to discuss these challenges.

With DOE set to receive millions of dollars from the federal government for capital improvement projects and other things, the agency is concerned with the timeliness for the review and approval of contracts from the AG's office. In an effort to help DOE, Yamashita met with the superintendent a couple weeks ago. It was then that it was brought to light that there's a need for an extension to obligate these funds.

The senator-elect told KUAM News, "I had asked for specific dates and specific numbers. So we emailed a few times and as a result of that conversation I forwarded a request to Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and then Tony Babauta, the assistant secretary, to see if there is anything to push our dropoff date to December 2012."

Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood tells KUAM News today that projects are still being reviewed by the Attorney General's Office. The current law as it states requires the AG's Office to review projects totaling over $500,000.

Senator-elect Yamashita says it's important those monies are safeguarded and that Guam doesn't lose out on millions for the schools. "There's the need for attorney reviews and that sort of issue. She said she needed assistance but her biggest issue that morning with ARRA, is that she wants to make sure that we have enough time to not only obligate but to liquidate all the monies," she said.

This issue had been articulated to the board during a recent work session. Members have also written a letter to education chairperson and Speaker Judi Won Pat, requesting to amend the procurement law that will designate the third-party fiduciary agent to have oversight on these funds.

In the meantime, Yamashita says she also plans on working with lawmakers and DOE.  She said, "I certainly hope that we're using it in the best way that we can. Certainly our president had said there will be stimulus monies that we would energize some of the projects that need to happen now and i hope that happens. What I would really like happen is to carry on. I think maintenance issues need to be addressed."

DOE has until September 30, 2011 to obligate all contracts under the ARRA grants. Yamashita is hoping to extend that date to December 2012.

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