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CoreTech controversy continues

by Krystal Paco

Guam - At the eleventh hour, it appears everyone has an opinion on GovGuam's pending purchase of the CoreTech buildings in Tiyan. But there's a lot on the line if GovGuam doesn't meet its December 31 deadline.

It's not just the 2,700 students who attend George Washington High School who need CoreTech in Tiyan to alleviate their cramped campus conditions. It's also the 500 students at Guahan Academy Charter School who need the deal to go through to keep from eviction from their Tiyan school.

But for the last few days, the deal to purchase Tiyan to help both schools in addition to the relocation of the DOE Central Offices from Hagatna to Tiyan has been subject of criticisms all around. "Over the past few days we've been wondering are people just using this as another political opportunity in the legislature to make the administration look bad?", said Adelup director of communications Troy Torres. Despite yesterday's criticisms from the senator, who says the Calvo Administration created a crisis involving the charter school to force the government to make a deal with CoreTech, Torres says otherwise.

Torres tells KUAM the Tiyan lease and option to purchase has been years in the making dating back to 2009 when GovGuam first issued an RFP for an interim John F. Kennedy High School. Now the interim campus for Untalan Middle School, GovGuam has until December 31 to pursue its option to purchase the property and buildings. But it hasn't been easy as Torres says the same legislators who authored laws relative to the deal are the ones making the biggest noise. Specifically, Torres notes Senator Ben Pangelinan, who voted in favor of legislation signed into law during the 26th Guam Legislature or Public Law 26-100. We should note, the Tiyan property being purchased was once owned by GovGuam, but thanks to this law, was returned to original landowners and sold to CoreTech who in turn are selling it back to GovGuam.

"How is we're in a situation where GovGuam is buying a property it once owned. If you go back to how this all happened, its called PL 26-100 sponsored by Senator Ben Pangelinan - the very senator who's making a big stink about this right now," he said. "Ancestral Lands deeded the property back to the families of the original land owners, which is the Arriola family. The Arriola family sold the property to the current owner, CoreTech. This is why we're in this situation today."

This is the governor's chief of staff Frank Arriola's family who Torres maintains was not involved with the government at the time of the transaction.

Back in 2007, CoreTech bought the property from the Arriolas for $11 million but according to an appraisal conducted in 2011, with the renovations made to bring the buildings up to school codes, the price skyrocketed to over $50 million. Should GovGuam purchase just the Tiyan campus occupied by Untalan Middle, that would cost $55 million in cash, but with the addition of a new gym, new DOE Central headquarters, and the charter school buildings, that price goes up to $98 million in cash. For GovGuam, that equates to $254 million in tax credit exchanges in a lease back agreement with CoreTech, which by public law CoreTech may transfer or assign to any private company it chooses.

With just days until the deadline and lawmakers like Speaker Judi Won Pat requesting that the governor ask for an extension on the deadline, Torres says by February 1, GovGuam will be forced to pay a larger lease amount than negotiated. In this scenario, GovGuam must give up $142 million in tax credits to lease the current Tiyan property rather than giving up only $125 million in tax credits to purchase the property Untalan Middle currently sits on.

Meanwhile, multi-million dollar developer Al Ysrael who's proffered another means to build a central high school for under $30 million suggests GovGuam exercise its right to eminent domain. "The Government of Guam through the Attorney General's Office can immediately file a lease hold condemnation proceedings in the judiciary department and deposit the one million dollars a year and that's all its worth," he said.

Ysrael suggests that GovGuam do this for three to four years to allow for better planning and construction of a new school to be built on vacant GovGuam properties in Radio, Barrigada.

Torres, however, says GovGuam does not own such land.

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