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Feds concerned if Guam will meet deadlines

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - With millions of dollars from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants being designated to benefit the Department of Education, the Guam Community College and the University of Guam, the U.S. Department of Education has voiced concerns about whether timelines will be met to obligate and spend these monies.

The USDOE has articulated its concerns about the rate in which their local counterpart has been expending funds from ARRA grants. DOE will receive almost $90 million for capital improvement projects, technology and other programs to benefit students. Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood says while a formal letter on the issue hasn't been issued, she says such concerns were raised during recent conference calls.

DOE has until September 30 to obligate funds. Those monies need to be expended by December 30. "I believe that it's not only USDOE that is concerned about this. Certainly, I am concerned about this, the Guam Education Policy Board, the speaker - we had met with her. We had also met with the former acting attorney general. We had met last week with Governor Calvo," she said.

DOE has recently brought on board a new supply management administrator and a legal counsel - positions that were left vacant for several months. She says she's hoping for action on a bill that would allow the third-party fiduciary agent to oversee the procurement of ARRA-related projects.

"We have been approved just for the ARRA grant, the over $75 million that is under the state fiscal stabilization fund and then we have an additional $12.4 million from the consolidated grant. So it is around $88 million right now that we're focusing on that would benefit our students," she explained. She says she's also hoping for Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo to request for an extension to this deadline.

In the meantime, here at the Guam Community College president Mary Okada says while there were some minor issues in the beginning, those issues have since been addressed and they're anticipating to meet these deadlines to spend over nine million dollars. Of the bigger ticket items includes the construction of the student center.

"The requirement is for only projects that are over $500,000, so for the GCC ARRA projects, there aren't that many. There are only a few. Maybe two that are over $500,000 that require the assistance of the Attorney General's Office," she said.

As for projects at UOG, integrated marketing communications director Cathleen Moore Linn, also expects deadlines to be met. UOG is set to spend and obligate approximately $17 million. She said, "The good news for UOG is our in-house legal counsel is a special assistant for the AG's Office so in other words she's been deputized to approve contracts. The process is a little smoother because now we don't send our contracts down to the AG's Office, it's done at the UOG."

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