Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Task Force Touts Military Buildup

Task force touts military buildup
By Lacee A.C. Martinez
Pacific Daily News

Residents last night were able to meet face-to-face with the officials who will be developing a master plan for the island in preparation for the military buildup.

Dozens last night crowded the Agana Heights Mayor's Office for one of the first in a series of three Civilian Military Task Force meetings. Residents also have the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions to members of the committees tonight and tomorrow night in other villages.

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The priority of the task force is to focus on the delivery of services and to ensure the military buildup is benefiting the local community, committee member Tony Lamorena said.

"These committees are here to ensure that this buildup is not just good for the military, but good for the community, as well," Lamorena said.

Nimitz Hill resident D. Smith waited his turn to talk about jobs with Labor committee Chairwoman Maria Connelly.

"As we move forward, there are going to be a lot of jobs with billions to be spent, and my concern is whether Guam will be getting those jobs or whether they're going to go to these outside foreign contractors," he said. "Who's going to benefit from the employment? Guam should make sure that it gets its share."

The Department of Labor continues to compile job openings for construction firms and other employment vacancies throughout the island, Connelly said, adding that the Navy also is sending lists of available jobs they have.

"It is a priority to try to fill these positions locally," she said. "Most employers would want to employ people here rather than have to bring people in."

Agana Heights resident Frank D. Cruz showed up early to speak with housing committee members about the effect the military move will have on the cost of housing on Guam.

Cruz, who also owns a duplex in Agana Heights, said he expects the cost of apartment rentals to jump because many business owners will want to charge more for military tenants.

"I know that many people would rather rent out to the military, and I want to know whether the government is going to absorb that cost," Cruz said. "But what's going to happen to the rest of the residents?

Cruz said members of the housing committee were able to give him some feedback on their progress to address potential housing problems, but said he still worries about residents being displaced because of the buildup.

"I haven't heard anything yet from the government of how they're going to control this," he said.

John Torres, also from Agana Heights, said his main concern was the quality of life, the cost of living and safety issues.

"What's going to happen to us? Are we going to be listening to gunshots all night or hearing bombs?" he asked. "We don't need that stuff here, and we're a target already with other countries. We'll be even more of a target with the buildup."

Torres said he looks forward to business opportunities the buildup will bring for the community, but questions the need for the increase in military presence.

"Safety is a very big issue, and we already have the Air Force, the Navy and the National Guard," he said. "We're already good with what we have now."

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