BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

Two projects in the Mariana Islands that offer potential quality of life benefits to U.S. military personnel and their families received grants from the U.S. Department of Defense, which announced 16 nationwide awards on Sept. 21.

One of them went to the Municipality of Chalan Pago-Ordot, which was awarded $3.51 million to “undertake a $6,506,426 project to construct a Multipurpose Recreation and Emergency Center to support military families on Guam.”

The 37-page application which Mayor Jessy C. Gogue of Chalan Pago-

Ordot shared with the Journal on Sept. 23 is full of support from famous names in Guam’s community.

Gogue wanted to thank Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero for giving the

Jessy C. Gogue

project her blessing. “If the governor doesn’t sign off on it, it doesn’t fly,” he said. The mayor also recognized the part played by the office of Lt. Governor Joshua F. Tenorio, as Guam’s clearing house for grants.

One of the essential elements the project needed to progress was the approval of a local military command.

Gogue received the endorsement of not one, but two commands in Guam.

Capt. Jeffrey M. Grimes, commander of Naval Base Guam, in his June 19 letter in support of the application, pointed out the benefit of an additional shelter for military personnel who are living in the community as well as the opportunities for personnel to integrate “enhancing the One Guam initiative.” In addition, he recognized the value of a centrally located facility to provide additional capacity for personnel for sports and recreational activities, physical fitness training, and cultural and performing arts events. “NBG is not currently pursuing other infrastructure projects which would provide community event space,” Grimes wrote.

Major Gen. Esther J.C. Aguigi, commander of Guam’s National Guard, also wrote in support of the application. “I can envision this being used for team building exercises and physical fitness. I am also excited to hear how your facility will be used to host and expand your village’s cultural and performing arts activities, which I believe will also help to encourage our guard families to learn more, through participation, about Guam’s culture and history, and the culture and history of our fellow Micronesian brothers and sisters,” she wrote on June 25.

The mayor said the facility will doubtless prove attractive to military personnel and Guard members. “It gives them something closer than having to drive to the bases.”

Gogue has reason to be proud of what he and the municipal council of the village have recently achieved solid funding for a project that has been on the drawing board for years.

Gogue told the Journal on Sept. 23, “Timing is everything not just timing, but being prepared.”

The complex that will result will include the mayor’s office of 2,400 square feet, the multi-purpose center of 30,000 square feet, the existing community center of 4,000 square feet, the baseball field, a playground and resurfacing to new and existing parking. The center will include a gymnasium, open courts, physical fitness and classroom type training [areas], and will be used for a variety of events, as well as for a Tier 1 and Tier 2 emergency shelter.

Gogue said, “This will actually be the first designated emergency shelter outside of [the Guam Department of Education]’s footprint.”

The mayor has been planning the center for years looking at ways to stretch funding that came the municipality’s way and researching funding opportunities.

The seed money for the center began to come the village’s way in January 2013.

In 2010, Guam Public Law 30-165 was signed, granting Ordot-Chalan Pago $150,000 a year for 30 years because of its status as a “host community” to a landfill. This $150,000 is paid as an off set for any loss of value and investment that arises from the community’s proximity to a landfill, according to Journal files.

The money is paid to the village quarterly. Gogue said that there was about $1.3 million in total, but the village has spent about $50,000 on village roads, and on a tractor, a trailer and bush cutters.

“Today we have about $1.1 million,” he said. Of that $500,000 will go to build the new mayor’s office “so we can centralize our facility.” Gogue said, with the award made in March to Genesis Tech Corp.

That leaves about $600,000. To complete the facility, he said, “We can still borrow about $2.5 million,” he said.

Marcel G. Camacho, who serves on the municipal council as vice chairman, contacted the Journal to share his village’s sense of achievement.

“We want to be the pilot project for every village on the island,” Camacho said. The village also has plans for the mayor’s office when the new office is built, he said. “We’re going to retrofit the old mayor’s office as a senior citizen’s center, which we haven’t had for a while.”

Camacho is a resident of the village, a former senator and realtor and has turned to farming as well as launched Pupulu Guam LLC (See www.mbjguam.com).

The center groundbreaking is within sight. “We’re hoping to break ground in June or July 2021. We have to break ground by September of next year,” the mayor said of the DoD funding.

He told the Journal in 2018, “There are people who feel disenfranchised because they believe the things the government should be doing aren’t getting done and the common excuse is lack of funding. There’s some validity to that, but to me it’s not entirely correct. There are creative ways to get things done.”

 Gogue had also always planned for the center to have a wider community role.

 In 2018, he was thinking of partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to acquire backup water tanks and generators to use the facility as a shelter.

(See “New facilities planned for Ordot-Chalan Pago,” in the Feb. 19, 2018 issue of the Journal.)

By March 2020, Gogue and the Ordot-Chalan Pago Municipal Council had about $1 million set aside from off-set money and were preparing a grant application to submit to the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority for the multi-purpose center, requesting matching funds. “We are in need of approximately $2.6 million to match our estimated $3 million we can borrow against Host Community Premium funds we currently receive through the Guam Solid Waste Authority,” Gogue told the Journal at the time.

Costs had risen for the center, Gogue told the Journal in March. “When we first started applying for GHURA matching funds, our proposed multi-purpose center was estimated to cost our office $3.9 million. Because of the island’s construction crisis that rose to $5.6 million, he said.

See, “Having a plan; Municipal councils make mixed progress,” in the March 2 issue of the Journal.

Ordot-Chalan Pago had 6,822 residents as per the 2010 Census. Villages on Guam range from around 1,000 to more than 40,000.

About 140 proposals were received for the grants; 109 were actually reviewed.

Also among the 16 grants was  “$335,000 to the Commonwealth Bureau of Military Affairs, Tinian, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, to enhance utility infrastructure in support of life, health, and safety for service members rotating on/off the island of Tinian from Joint Region Marianas.”

Glenna S.P. Reyes, special assistant to Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres for military affairs, told the Journal on Sept. 25 how happy the Northern Mariana Islands Bureau of Military Affairs is to have received the grant.

She said the funding was awarded under Tier 1 eligibility supporting military operations on the island. She described the grant as “particularly beneficial to military operations and to our community of Tinian.”

The grant, Reyes said would address deficiencies in the utility infrastructure specifically road work on roads 205 and 206, and is part of the road improvement project in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the Office of Mayor Edwin P. Aldan and the Naval Construction Regiment.

U.S. military and Northern Mariana Islands officials break ground Aug. 13 during a ceremony in Marpo Heights in Tinian for a Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training road repair improvement project.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy/CE3 Marcus Henley

“We have a couple of projects that are going on in Tinian,” Reyes said.

As to how Reyes and the Bureau of Military Affairs became aware of the unique funding, she said, “The commander of Joint Region Marianas Rear Adm. John Menoni alerted us to this opportunity.”

Reyes said she and the bureau had understandably been very interested to hear of the possibility of the Department of Defense grant.

“We absolutely extend our appreciation to Rear Adm. John Menoni for informing us of this opportunity.”

 As to the requirement for command support, Menoni had provided that, she said. “We are very grateful also for his endorsement of our project proposal.”

The bureau had taken advantage of the opportunity, Reyes said. “We had to write up our own grant application and proposal.” She said the bureau was fortunate to succeed. “This is a competitive grant opportunity. It wasn’t something just given to us.”

Reyes said the successful award is one part of a bigger relationship. “Gov. Torres has a very strong partnership with Joint Region Marianas.” Since Menoni’s appointment as commander, she said of the admiral, “He has been working very closely with the governor on military matters with the CNMI.”

Menoni was in Tinian on Aug. 13 to attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Marpo Heights for a Department of Defense “Innovative Readiness Training road repair improvement project,” according to the Navy.

The Department of Defense said both award projects were part of a competitive selection process for grant monies from fiscal 2020 funding and “leverage an additional $45.5 million in non-federal funding … .” The department announced the awards Sept. 21 as being through the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program of the Office of Economic Adjustment. mbj