by Nick Delgado
Guam - Despite a pair of roundtable hearings with the Guam Fire Department, Public Safety Oversight Chair Senator Adolpho Palacios still wants answers from Fire Chief John Salas. This time the senator wants to know why a law passed nearly a decade ago to help with GFD's personnel shortage has yet to be followed.
"The law is there and the authority is there," said Palacios. And still the concern remains that even planning for the Guam Fire Department's Community Firefighter Reserve Program has not yet kicked-off. He sent a letter to Acting Fire Chief John Salas questioning him on the matter as to why his agency failed to even begin the process of implementing the program by drafting the rules and regulations.
"I cannot implement the program even if I were to develop the rules and regulations and adopt it, so he has those mechanisms. He's the one who is going to use it, not me," Palacios noted. "In light of the shortage that they say that they have and I know that they are short of staff and the uniformed officer in the Administration Building, I believe this program can fill in some of these needs."
However, GFD Spokesperson Captain Andy Arceo admits the agency just doesn't have the money. "It's a fantastic program," he told KUAM News. "Unfortunately, we won't be able to implement it due to the fact that we don't have money. The law states we must provide them with equipment and training. And we don't have the money to provide them equipment and or the training."
Palacios says the program would be similar to the community policing assisting effort at the Guam Police Department. It was during the 27th Guam Legislature that the program was signed into law, however GFD officials confirm that the program was just never budgeted for and now seven years later no request was ever made.
Palacios says the extra help from the community would not only resolve the shortage in the stations, but also help at headquarters, so the uniformed personnel, Palacios says, can instead be placed out in the field. Arceo says the will make the effort to hopefully begin the program next fiscal year.
"When we go before the senators this year for our budget request all of those items are going to be included, we'll just throw it out there this how much we are going to need not just to implement this program but every program that we would like to implement to include getting equipment and vehicles for our fleets," he said.
If the reserve program is implemented, Arceo says they would have to request an estimate of up to $1,200 annually to purchase gear for each volunteer. The law would also allow for a $50 stipend, which GFD would have to budget for as well.