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Special Session Update

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Chiefs for the Guam Fire Department and Police Departments were in the hot seat during the latest special session that got underway at just before 3 o’clock this afternoon. Senators were concerned about the recent announcement regarding cost-cutting measures that went into effect this morning at eight o’clock. The police department closed down the Hagatna Precinct, while the Piti and Astumbo fire stations were closed by GFD.

Senator Mike San Nicolas questioned their decisions because both GPD and GFD do not currently owe their respective personnel overtime. He additionally pointed out that the Governor has not utilized his 15% transfer authority to move around and cover down where needed. “It’s on the record that this government has been able to keep fire and police stations open… it’s clear the governor has made no effort to keep fire stations open. His action has created a clear and present danger to the public. This is nothing less than a blatant hostage taking of our people with an intent of forcing a tax increase down their throats,” Sen. San Nicolas shouted. “This body is being called in special session after special session at midnight and our people are being submerged in a climate of fear for their safety,” he added.

Sen. San Nicolas asked both Chiefs to do what is right and let the legislature do what’s necessary. Acting Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas responded asking the Senator what his solution is to all of this, “You’re telling me how to run my operations”.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. then asked the acting fire chief about the cost of their lease agreement in the DNA building. Sen. Aguon asked whether terminating the $148,000 annual lease and relocating administrative staff to fire stations could have prevented the closure of Astumbo and Piti. Chief San Nicolas responded no. He clarified the $148,000 for the entire year, would only keep the stations open for a few more days.

Sen. Aguon then turned his attention to the Guam Police Department and recommended pulling back on executive security. Police Chief JI Cruz said those plans are already in the works. “We are taking all matters into consideration,” the Chief responded.

Responding to a question from Sen. Fernando Esteves, Chief Cruz assured the public that despite the cuts they are able to complete their mission. He clarified that the closure of the Hagatna Precinct was more of a diversion, adding that GPD is stepping up to help the Department of Corrections. DOC he said is the agency with the biggest amount of overtime accumulated. He says his officers are helping fill the void there and curb OT costs.

Senators Esteves and Tommy Morrison expressed concerns that the special session was turning into a full blown oversight hearing. Sen. Tom Ada however didn't see it that way, "because there's some information brought to clarity to what is going on out there," he said. "As a result of this dialogue, the police chief has brought some clarity to the fact that or brought a sense of comfort that the Hagatna Precinct is not being closed to save on overtime, but instead to help another public safety agency. The democrat lawmaker however was concerned about GFD's decision to close two fire stations. The acting fire chief assured Sen. Ada that both areas were being absorbed by surrounding stations.

 Acting Speaker Therese Terlaje meanwhile said this was just the beginning. She noted the governor's fiscal realignment plan only addresses $37  million in cuts and not the total $67 million shortfall. "So it's been a lot to get our heads around... if we're going to be cutting police and fire stations it’s alarming," she said.

She added this is just the beginning and that tomorrow they will probably see other cuts from agencies that will be equally drastic, "that's why I think communication has to be open and calm. What we really don’t want to do... because this is a drastic situation... we need to be calm ...I want that for the community. I don’t want people to think that we're not, we're working very hard, because we have to", she added.

As of six o’clock Senators were still in special session. They are now discussing the proposal to raise the governor’s 2% increase in the business privilege tax.

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