The Department of Revenue & Taxation will not only have a new home within three months but also intends to house its departments under the same roof.

The Department is waiting to lease the former PriceSmart building in Barrigada which was left empty when the membership warehouse closed its doors on Dec. 31 2003.

Taking the lead on the project are Joe L.G. Rios acting tax commissioner at the department and Paul Pablo tax enforcement administrator who Rios assigned to also work on the planning and logistics of the move.

The move has been on the drawing board for a number of months. Rios told the Journal “The director [Artemio B. Ilagan] called a meeting of the department heads and administrative support and asked them if they wanted to move out of here (the Tiyan offices). They all said they did.”

The department has been in Tiyan since October 1995 when the government of Guam oversaw the land. In September 2003 the property was returned to its former landowners the Arriola family which has asked for a rent of $10 000 per month.

The Arriola property does not include the Department of Motor Vehicles. Rios said “We don’t know who the original landowner is for that but they might be charging us very soon.”

Occupying a variety of buildings in the former Naval Air Station has caused operational issues. Not only are the departments physically spread out but the aged buildings are not weatherproof. Rios said “When it rains hard the buildings leak and it causes a lot of problems.” He said certain departments such as filing and tax enforcement were particularly affected.

The move is expected to be popular with the department’s 160 employees and with the public. “I’m pretty sure everybody will agree with the move ” Rios said. All the divisions will be housed in the same building. The Technical Research and Appeals Bureau the Examination Branch the Guam Passport Office the Insurance Securities Banking and Real Estate Branch and the Compliance (ABC) Branch and Weights and Measures Branch have all been in the Pacific News Building in Hagåtña since Aug. 1.

At the new building the primary intent is to house all the sections of the department in the same building. Rios said “We want to be centralized in one place. It’s more efficient and would serve the taxpayer a lot better.”

The move should also produce a saving for the department. Rent in the Pacific News Building is $2 per square foot. With a total rental area of 10 278 square feet monthly rental in Hagåtña is $20 556. The department is presently waiting on the General Services Agency to award the bid after which a lease will be negotiated and then sent to the office of the attorney general for approval and the Bureau of Budget Management and Research for certification. Rios said M.V. Pangilinan Enterprises Inc. had also submitted a bid for the former Ben Franklin building on Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning. That location had also been considered but the Barrigada facility offered less traffic and more parking Rios said. “We feel that PriceSmart will be the one awarded. According to GSA we’ll be the ones to negotiate the rent. They may quote us a price but we are going to go ahead and negotiate.”

The office plan which is still at the design stage will likely incorporate administrative offices on more than one level at the rear of the 56 000 square-foot building Rios said.

While it’s not expected to happen any time soon particularly given the state of the finances of the government Rios said fiscally responsible long-term plans would be for the department to build its own facility.

PriceSmart which officially opened doors on March 7 2002 leased the building from Joeten Enterprises Inc. which built it to operate a Price Costco. Joeten closed Price Costco in August 1998 after nearly three years in business but continues to operate in Chalan Laulau Saipan where it opened in May 1995. MBJ