GHURA upgrading gyms for shelters, construct police precinct - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GHURA upgrading gyms for shelters, construct police precinct

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During Typhoon Dolphin, more than 1,000 people sought emergency shelter at schools throughout the island. However, if the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority has its way, emergency shelters will be shifted from schools to at least two village gyms that the agency plans to upgrade.

While they've made headlines recently for matters dealing with a federal report and conflict of interest violations, GHURA also has more positive work ahead of them. (Five years, to be exact.)

"This year, we're preparing a new five-year plan that will cover our priorities from October 1, 2015 on to the next five years," said GHURA director Michael Duenas. GHURA recently completed its Draft Guam Consolidated Plan along with an annual action plan - two reports mandated by HUD outlining how GHURA plans to use federal funds and grants. One of those plans include upgrades to the island's northern gyms in order to be used for shelters during storms.

He added, "So what we're looking at, this is the something the governor has requested GHURA to consider is to work with all the parties involved to try to find alternate facilities that can be used for shelters instead of just relying on the schools."

The Community Development Block Grant would fund over $600,000 for the rehabilitation of the Yigo Gym and $700,000 for the Astumbo Gym. The facility upgrades would withstand winds up to 175 miles per hour and house up to 500 people. "What we're looking at is strengthening the existing structure so they can withstand winds of that speed," Duenas said.

The upgrades would also include a water holding tank, power generator, and restroom and shower facilities. The proposal was presented during this week's GHURA board meeting where commissioners addressed concerns about having a concrete facility instead. Duenas says that would cost around up to $5 million and GHURA is trying to be prudent with how it uses the limited CDBG money it gets annually.

"It's a very strong bias in the community for concrete structure," he added, "and we believe there have been vast improvements in the materials available, alternative materials available and the design and engineering to ensure those facilities indeed can withstand storms."

But it's not just emergency shelters GHURA is working on, but plans to construct a new central police precinct, as Duenas explained, "That is one of the wonderful things with the community development block grant program. We can use it to fund a lot of things that meet the needs of low- and moderate-income families."

Duenas says GHURA had previously built the Northern Police Precinct in Dededo and the Southern Police Precinct in Agat using similar grant funding. The CDBG grant allocates $1 million for the acquisition and construction. But why relocate the current Hagatna Precinct?

"When we have storms, they cannot be there, so it's difficult for them to respond also," said Duenas. "The central precinct the most recent incidents that have occurred there is just too small now for their operations, and it does not necessarily meet the standards for what the police department needs."

GHURA is first looking within the government's land inventory or possibly pursuing a land exchange with privately-owned properties. The proposed sites are along the Route 4 and Route 8 corridors. In the meantime, island residents will have between now and august 7 to review and submit comments on the plan.

"Our crystal ball gets a little cloudy so we welcome input from the community," he said.

Visit GHURA.org to view the plan.

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