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GBB, landowners disagree on funding to pay judgment

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - While progress continues on the final closure of the Ordot Dump, much of the focus of today's quarterly status report to the District Court was a $26 million just compensation judgment that is still owed to the landowners of the Dandan property where the Layon landfill now operates. The landowners and the receiver disagree on what funds should be used to pay the judgment.

While District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood has said that the finish line is in sight for the final closure of the Ordot Dump and the receivership that was imposed on the government more than five years ago, original landowners of the Layon landfill property believe the government can't get to the finish line without giving just compensation.  Back in December the landowners were awarded a $26 million judgment that is accruing interest at $120,000 a month.

Attorney Anita Arriola represents some of the original landowners, telling the judge today that they don't want to delay or derail the ongoing consent decree but urged the court to delay making decisions on the use of consent decree bonds until the landowners could be fully heard on their motion to intervene in the case. 

The original landowners have asked that the court approve the use of bond proceeds that are sitting in a bank account to pay off the just compensation judgment. Federal receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton however disagree, telling the court that the bond money is necessary for the post closure of the Ordot Dump as well as various road projects. In fact the receiver announced today that based on the revised estimates, they don't believe that there will be enough money from the 2009 Section 30 bonds to cover all of the projects including the Ordot Dump final closure project.  

Receiver representative David Manning says they do not agree with deferring the closure of the Ordot Dump to satisfy the judgment and recommended to the court that the capital savings be reserved for the closure of the Ordot Dump. But Attorney Arriola argues that without paying the judgment, the title to the Dandan property remains unresolved and could eventually be given back to the landowners which would be problematic for the Government of Guam. She stressed that the dump closure money is not immediately needed as the final closure efforts aren't expected to be conducted until January 2014 and continuing into January 2015.

Additionally Arriola suggested that the Government of Guam seek reimbursement of closure costs by pursuing action against the Department of the Navy that decades ago was identified as being a "partially responsible party".  Arriola said just compensation is mandated by the Fifth Amendment and "the consent decree does not trump the constitution".  If the government waits in two years, another $2.2 million will be tacked onto the judgment in interest. 

Attorney Rodney Jacob, who also represents several landowners, agreed and said "until the judgment is satisfied, the consent decree cannot be complied with." Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz also addressed the court expressing concerns that GovGuam will likely have to go out and get additional money to help pay for various road problems and the Ordot post-closure efforts in addition to the judgment which he estimates could exceed $60 million. Cruz added that the government may need to go back to the USDA that had initially offered several hundred million dollars to the government but the previous administration declined.  The receiver however contends that given the government's previous history of withdrawing its request for federal funding at the last minute coupled with the current financial debates in Washington, the government will not likely be successful in a renewed effort in this area. 

The judge is waiting on the U.S. Attorney's Office response to the motion to intervene.

As for the final closure of the Ordot Dump, the receiver reported to the court today that the closure plan is nearly 90% completed and a geomembrane cover system was proposed.  The receiver anticipates a construction bid to go out on July 1 with permits to be obtained by September 30 and the final closure project to be conducted in two phases with the first to begin in the dry season beginning in January 2014. 

The closure must be maintained for 30 years, which is expected to cost approximately $18 million.

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