BY MORGAN LEGEL
The Guam Contractors License board’s office has been closed since March, as it is considered a non-essential agency, according to its director, Cecil I. Orsini.
Although the agency is crucial to the contracting industry, because the licensing board has been deemed non-essential, only 62% of licenses have been approved, with the other 38% pending either review from the board or finishing steps in their applications.
Orsini told the Journal, “Some (applications) are stuck — halfway done — and cannot get the last signature or two because the [Guam Department of Public Works] permit office is also closed.”
On Sept. 27, the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation announced that it would accept new business license applications by mail, drop box and appointments from Sept. 28, but the GCLB was not included in agencies that could offer appointment-only services.
Renewal of business licenses can be made online.
According to the licensing board, as of Sept. 8, there were 649 active contractors, with 36 master electricians, for the reporting period beginning on July 1.
During the count of the previous year — from July 1, 2019 through June 30 this year — there were 902 active contractors, with 41 master electricians and plumbers.
Orsini said it is not that the number of applicants went down dramatically; the low numbers are because the office is closed.
Orsini is confident, he said that “the number will go back up as soon as we get back.”
With regards to licenses that are expired or are expiring, Orsini said, “Of course I am going to work with people.” He said the board is extending expirations and there will be no late fees for renewals.
According to Journal files, the Guam Contractors License Board had multiple problems in the past — from a board that did not meet for months and could not elect a chairman for nine months —both situations due to a lack of a quorum, to a second exposure of problems at the 34th Guam Legislature. It was only after the Journal asked at the time about previous board minutes from a year earlier that these were submitted to the office of the public auditor.
(See “Contractors License Board functions falter with unsteady board,” in the June 12, 2017 issue of the Journal and “Contractors Licensing Board grilled by legislature,” sent as a News Flash on Aug. 3, 2017,)
Since current Executive Director Cecil I. Orsini took the reins in late 2018, the board and the office has run more smoothly, he said.
Orsini said the problem previously was that the board had so many resignations at once — almost half — and so could not get a quorum for meetings, as well as the fact that the board had too much oversight.
“When I came in, there were some things that were given to the board, as far as more power,” Orsini said. “Before I came in, there were several board members that needed to sign off on things, and they were required to review every application for renewal [of licenses.]”
One of his first acts was to transfer duties to the executive director, or himself. In other words, if an applicant was in good standing, when applying for a renewal of the license, Orsini could sign off on it, reducing any bottlenecking at the board level.
However, any applicant in bad standing — which would be any contractor with a complaint or case against the business — would still have to have their application approved by the board. All new licenses are also required to be reviewed by the board.
With a seven-person board, the quorum for voting and reviewing applications is four board members.
According to Orsini, since he is able to approving renewals in good standing makes the whole process “a lot faster” — about 20% quicker.
According to Chapter 21 of the Guam Code Annotated, the GCLB is to have a seven-member board comprised of the following: two members appointed by the governor from the construction industry; three members appointed by the governor from the general public who have no interest in the construction industry; and the Director of Revenue and Taxation and Director of Public Works are ex-officio members. These members are subject to confirmation by the Legislature of Guam.
The seven board members are James Casallo, chairman and CEO of Sun Tech Power Solutions Inc., and executive vice president of James M. Casallo & Associates, LLC, who is chairman; Bernard Benavente, project manager at Pacific International Inc, who is vice chairman.; Rena Borja, realtor for At Home Realty; Selina Ashland, general manager of Marianas Gas Corp., which does business as Island Equipment Co.; Matthew C. Cruz, vice president and business development and relationship manager at the Bank of Guam for the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau; Vincent P. Arriola, director of the Guam Department of Public Works; and Dafne Mansapit-Shimizu, director of the Guam Department of Revenue & Taxation.
Orsini is happy with the list of leading community executives, he said.
“I am so blessed to have this board.” mbj