Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Public still can comment: Dededo residents brace for changes

Public still can comment: Dededo residents brace for changes

By Brett Kelman • Pacific Daily News • January 13, 2010

Hearing: Chamorro activists raise their fists and cheer on the testimony of We Are Guahan group's Melvin Won Pat-Borja at the last public hearing on the Guam/CNMI Military Relocation draft Environmental Impact Statement. The hearing was held at Okkodo High School, yesterday. (Jacqueline Hernandez/Pacific Daily News/jhernande7)

Although the public hearings in Guam are over, residents who still want to comment on the military buildup draft Environmental Impact Statement haven't lost their chance.

You can still submit comments through the Internet or mail, and those comments will be considered the same as those that were presented publicly over the last week.

All comments must be accepted, some comments may reshape the military's plans and some comments won't get a response, retired Marine Corps Col. John Jackson, director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said last night.

"Some of them may be 'Yankee go home' and others may be 'Hey, we are glad you are here,'" Jackson said. "That doesn't really help the decision making. That part of the process of getting comments is to assist the decision-makers, ... to give them the best information from all aspects."


The final hearing last night was held at the Okkodo High School gym and many residents of Dededo attended to learn more about the busy future of their village. Dededo already is the most populous village on Guam, and the coming military buildup will only congest the village even more. The buildup is estimated to bring about 80,000 more people to Guam by 2014, according to the draft Environmental Impact Study.

John G. San Nicolas worries it may be too much. With more residents on island, everyone will have to compete over limited resources, from the shady spots at the beach to the last table at a restaurant, he said.

"With just the sheer number of people on this island, being in such a small confined space, it's only natural to expect that friction is going to occur," he said. "And friction could occur in different places -- the beach, the roads, going to the mall, parties -- from the mere fact that the frequency of us meeting each other is higher."

Many of new residents who move to Guam for the buildup will end up living in the Ukudu Workforce Village, a massive housing facility with all the makings of an entire community, that will be built not far from where the hearing was held last night.

Guam-based Younex Enterprises Corp and a South Korean construction company have already agreed to work together to build the housing facility in the Harmon Annex south of the Navy's south Finegayan housing.

According to Pacific Daily News files, the facility will feed workers and transport them to their jobs and other activities. The facility will include its own 24-hour medical clinics, religious services, entertainment, laundry, banking, convenience stores and emergency services.

The entire project should be finished by 2013, when buildup-related construction is booming. San Nicolas, who lives close to where the housing will be built, worried the facility would bring no benefit to Dededo. Although the buildup promises to bolster the local economy, the facility sounds like it will create an economic vacuum, he said.

If workers in the housing will be imported, much of the money they earn will go off island, he said. And if the workers get their food, services and fun inside the facility, their earnings won't flow through the economy, he said.

"Do I think they are going to infuse that hard-earned money they get from working here into the local economy? Probably not as much," he said. "Do I see them buying any property here? No. ... Do I see them investing in the economy such as going out and shopping at Kmart or eating at Chili's? No."

San Nicolas also worried the housing facility, which will be as big as a village, could bring all the problems of a village -- including crime.

"If it's such a close community, who knows what happens in there. There could be prostitution and there could be gambling. ... If they are totally self-contained, every society has their vices," San Nicolas said.

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