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Special session tackles issue of senior centers

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Government of Guam Association of Retired Persons/SPIMA contract with the Department of Public Health expires at the end of this month, and now a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Mayors Council of Guam to take over operations of the island senior centers effective March 1 through the end of this fiscal year. GGARP has been operating the senior centers for more than four decades, and evidently is concerned about mayors taking over.

Lawmakers intervened in the situation holding a special session Monday afternoon to debate the issue. Speaker Judi Won Pat called her colleagues into a special session to discuss Bill 431, introduced by Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. The legislation would extend the GGARP contract with Public Health by two months - thereby allowing the agency time to issue a bid for the operations of the island's senior centers.

GGARP vice president Vic Angoco is not happy the mayors will be running the operations. "I don't believe they show respect with the man'amko now, you know that we need to have dignity for the man'amko, you know that we have to show them love and respect and that it why the SPIMA employees is the best as of now, they've already been trained," he said. "I came across a person who said move over manamko before I kick you, and that is going to happen if the mayors take over, I know because they were not trained to handle the man'amko."

According to Public Health Director Jim Gillan he has been working on this senior center issue since last October, informing GGARP of the fiscal constraints and smaller budget his agency is dealing with, but he says GGARP at the time rejected the scenarios that would accommodate the lower budget. That's when Public Health looked into other alternatives and approached the mayors with the idea of an MOU to run the senior centers through October 2012 when the new fiscal year starts and a new contract would be signed.

What's transpired however is GGARP is now coming back to the table at the eleventh hour, indicating it would be willing to accept the lower budget. Gillan said the legislation could set dangerous precedence,  "It's an interesting way to do it because you are talking about now telling the executive branch how to operate the program but if the legislature feels this is significant enough event, it's within their standing to do this and I am equally as happy."

Lawmakers during special session lawmakers questioned why Gillan didn't issue an RFP for the senior center operations and were also concerned about his statements about the legislature possibly overstepping its boundaries. Senator Chris Duenas said, "I really ask that we don't end up later on being the bad guy or declared the bad guy or looked upon as going down the road of setting up dangerous precedence when all we were trying to do was help."

Gillan said, "My concern only and always has been that there will be no break in service and that someone will operate the senior centers, the way it gets done, maybe I won't like it but as long as we get the result we want and its the law then I will follow the law."

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