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Status given on JFK High construction

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - For the next 30 years, GovGuam is signed to a lease financing agreement with Capital Projects Finance Authority, the investment banker who secured the funds for International Bridge Corporation to build the new John F. Kennedy High School campus. When all is said and done in three decades, the price tag for the new Upper Tumon facility (with interest) will total $157 million - quite a hefty price to pay for a school that's not even completed. And students are more than half way through the school year.

The school year will be coming to a close in a matter of months, and only now are the island's leaders sitting down to discuss the status report of the new JFK High facility in Upper Tumon. Despite today's roundtable discussion, it was hard to make any progress because contractor IBC and the school's lease agreement owners capital projects finance authority were a no-show.

The Home of the Islanders may the Department of Education's pride and joy of school facilities, but the island's leaders can't ignore the fact that the campus has yet to be completed despite International Bridge Corporation's summer 2011 deadline. According to Department of Public Works Director Joanne Brown, the school continues to operate with a minimal conditional use occupancy permit and has yet to receive a certificate of completion from her department. Brown says the lease-to-own agreement is flawed as IBC continues to operate without paying any penalties.

She told KUAM News, "We looked through this contract and we did not see any penalty clause in favor of the government; apparently, the Legislature provided the JFK property to be leased." She added, "Any penalty clauses are actually paid by IBC to CAPFA and not the Government of Guam, which I think is an early lesson if you decide to go down this road again to do a lease-to-own project, that you ensure that if the project is not done in a timely fashion - as we do in our highway contracts - that there is a penalty clause and they have to start paying you. Nothing talks as loud and clear as money."

Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz can't help but question if it was a rushed decision to move the Islanders from the interim CoreTech facility in Tiyan to Upper Tumon when just weeks' before the school's opening, the school was still a construction site and he was forced to wear a hard hat and safety vest. "I'm trying to figure out how we allowed 2,300 students with one hundred faculty members to get into a facility that didn't have a final occupancy?," he said.

Brown said, "Senator, I know at this point everyone is going to be pointing a finger and wanting to know who to blame - I think there's a lot on the table. Let's not kid ourselves. There was an expectation last summer that JFK was going to move I was not knocking on the JFK administration's door saying, 'By all means, let's move into JFK!'"

Despite promises to address the hundreds of issues on the school campus, JFK principal Ken Chargualaf says IBC continues to fall short of expectations on the multimillion dollar facility. Chargualaf says IBC has made it difficult to communicate, as they keep changing their point of contact.

"My biggest fear is I don't want John F. Kennedy to be another Southern High School," said Chargualaf. "And that's the reason why I continue to insist that IBC needs to talk to us on a weekly basis."

CAPFA will not be pursuing the $2,500 per day in liquidation damages from IBC because a majority of the school is complete. Education Committee chairperson Speaker Judi Won Pat says the next meeting must include representatives from IBC and CAPFA, and that GovGuam will seek recommendations from the Attorney General's Office on how to proceed and whether or not GovGuam should continue to pay contractors for unsatisfactory work. 

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