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Police, fire chiefs grilled over closures

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A new week begins, and with it, the government's financial crisis remains.  The holiday weekend was cut short for some in government, with lawmakers getting back to work after confusion over the governor's call to special session. This all comes after an attorney general's opinion that states the call was valid - the same weekend drastic deep cuts were implemented to the police and fire agencies.

The chiefs of Guam Fire and Guam Police departments were on the front line of attack by senators during Sunday's special session. This is because of the decision to close GPD's Hagatna Precinct and fire stations in Piti and Astumbo, Dededo for GFD. "The police officers and the fire department, in terms of saving lives," questioned Senator Frank, Aguon, Jr., "you provide that critical service, so my concern, at least from this end, is why is that public safety being affected up front?"

Senator Michael San Nicolas accused the Calvo Administration of playing a dangerous game of "politricks", pointing out that GPD and GFD are current on their overtime and the governor hasn't even used his 15% transfer authority to cover down. Instead, he said it was a ruse to get what he wants: a 2% increase in the Business Privilege Tax. "This is nothing less...than a blatant hostage taking of our people with the intent of forcing a tax increase down their throats. This body is being called into special session after special session after special session - [it's] midnight, and our people are being submerged in a climate of fear for their safety," he fired.

Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas responded that GovGuam is looking down the barrel of $67 million revenue shortfall, for the current fiscal year. He says GFD is stepping up being proactive in helping deal with the financial crisis, with Senator San Nicolas asking, "I just have a question for you: what is your solution in all this?" The chief replied, "We're working on it...you're coming on us and you're telling us how to run our operations?" When Senator Aguon objected to the line of questioning, San Nicolas said, "I'm answering the question."

As for Chief of Police JI Cruz he says additional cuts are under consideration and reassured senators public safety is their top priority. "I'm going to lead the Guam Police Department as I see fit and that's exactly what we're doing. The whole issue of Hagatna Precinct as Senator San Nicolas talked about threat to the community, I would beg to differ that we put the community at risk, I would beg to differ that we compromised the safety and security of the people of Guam," he stated.

For now, the fire stations remain closed as for the Hagatna Precinct. Today, KUAM News saw two conservation officers, one Airport Police officer, and one GPD special operations officer at the facility.

Meantime, police officers who were once stationed here are working at the Department of Corrections to help alleviate their overtime costs.

Only time will tell if that move will help or hurt the operations at the prison, as some of their corrections officers have been under the microscope recently for failing to following department policies last December when a detainee was found dead.

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