Sunday, June 21, 2009

Patience Wearing Thin on JFK

Patience continues to wear thin for JFK High community
By Michele Catahay
Published Jun 22, 2009

Monday morning at the Guam Economic Development Authority a meeting was held between the agency, GPSS and International Bridge Corporation. While the dialogue from that meeting sounds good for the construction of a brand new Home of the Islanders, it doesn't look so good for some senators.

"This delay, I'm not sure why don't have a solution already," said Joanie Tomasiak. "We all now we're constituents. We are voters. We are taxpayers and we understand the game and we need to stop doing that. Why are we suffering?" The JFK social studies teacher and ESL coordinator is tired of the blame game and politics. A year since the Upper Tumon campus was shutdown and enduring a school year of double-session, it's no wonder her patience has worn thin. This morning at GEDA it was announced that negotiations with IBC to build the new JFK are 90% complete.

However, instead of using federal stimulus funding, it now turns out GEDA will use a portion of the recently-received bond revenues to go toward the construction of the new school. IBC president Robert Toelkes said the sooner the contract is signed, the better. Once it is signed, by law, the new school must be constructed in nine months. "Right now what it is that if we do an early august groundbreaking, we're expecting the facility to be completed by may and our hope and intent is to let the 51st anniversary graduating class graduate at the facility - that's our goal," he told KUAM News.

Meanwhile, GEDA administrator Tony Blaz expects for negotiations to be completed by next month. But while all this shows a significant step forward in the construction of a brand new JFK, it could potentially set back the contract discussions with Core Tech International for the interim campus in Tiyan.

Here's why: Bill 1 (4-S), which was passed by lawmakers requires that federal stimulus funds be used for the construction of the new JFK, the measure also sets other provisions in the tentative agreement which has already been signed by Core Tech. With news now that bond money instead will be used to fund the permanent JFK, GEDA administrator Tony Blaz said it's likely the governor will veto the bill.

"I'm sure they want a win-win," said Blaz. "For all of us, we want a new JFK. They're tired of double-sessions. We're all tired of double-sessions. The governor, I guess, gave the proposals and the Legislature gave a different version. I know the governor said he wants to continue with this JFK project. You can't cancel this. We're so close to making the touchdown."

According to Senator Matt Rector, however, using those funds could cost taxpayers a large chunk of change. Instead, GovGuam should use the money from USDOE. He said, "I think that's kind of crazy. I mean we've already the burden our children with $500 million in debt, why would we want to burden them some more if we have the cash right now and we can pay it. It's somebody else's cash and we can build them a good, state of the art school instead of slapping together the first cheap thing we can. That just doesn't make any sense to me."

While we wait to see the outcome of this latest issue to arise surrounding the JFK situation. Students like Eileen Calleja just want to see a resolution to a problem that government leaders knew a year ago. "There are so many decisions that need to be made. How many rallies do we need to do in order for the leaders to listen to us," she said. "We've been out there voicing our concerns. We've been through meetings and so much. I mean, when are they going to listen?"

Core Tech's Josh Tenorio says the government needs to make a decision soon on how it plans to carry out both the interim and permanent JFK campuses. He says if the governor vetoes Bill 1 (4-S), it's likely they'll be back to square one, as they were last Monday.

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