Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Public Hearings

Public hearing on buildup next week
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News

The Civilian Military Task Force will hold three meetings next week to update the community about the impending military buildup and give residents a chance to voice their concerns.

The meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the following locations: Dec. 4 at the Agana Heights mayor's office; Dec. 5 at the Santa Rita mayor's office; and Dec. 6 at the Dededo mayor's office. Attendees are advised to arrive early to register.

The task force was created by the governor to develop a "master plan" for the expansion of Guam's military presence. It is comprised of government, military business and community representatives who will try to determine the effects of Guam's coming military buildup, which includes the relocation of 8,000 Marines and their 10,000 family members from Okinawa to Guam. As many as 15,000 foreign skilled laborers are also expected to arrive here for construction projects related to the buildup.

A billion-dollar road project linking Guam's northern and southern military bases has already been proposed and other islandwide changes are expected. There are two things the buildup will inevitably cause -- construction and questions.

Spokesman for the governor, Shawn Gumataotao, said the meetings will give residents some answers.

"It's kind of a where-they-are-currently update. Residents will be able to get some details into what (the Task Force members) are planning," he said, adding that representatives of the Task Forces' 12 subcommittees will present on topics such as education, labor and health.

"The Task Force has decided to bring the meeting out to the community and give them a chance to come and ask about whatever issues they think should be discussed," said Agana Heights Mayor Paul McDonald, who was thrilled to host one of the meetings.

"Its about time, I believe," he said.

McDonald said he knows Agana Heights residents are concerned that increased traffic to the Naval Hospital will endanger children walking to the nearby Guam High School. He hoped the meetings would give residents a chance to ask for funding for an expanded sidewalk.

Already, growing traffic by the Naval Hospital has turned a one-minute work commute into a five-minute crawl, he said.

"We want to know how much worse it's going to get," he said.

McDonald encouraged all interested residents to show up at the meetings and pose their questions to Task Force members. He said since the buildup will affect every aspect of life on Guam, mayors alone could never think of every question that should be asked.

McDonald's question is simple -- just who is paying for the buildup?

"If I am, then I say, let's stop it," he said. "If for any reason, the United States or the military does not support the infrastructure that is needed to support them when they get here, the government of Guam should not tax the people for it ... I do not want to see the people being burdened anymore."

Originally published November 27, 2007

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