DPL: Homestead projects require funding

THE issuance of homestead lots was put on a back burner for many years because of funding issues, Department of Public Lands Secretary Marianne C. Teregeyo said.

In an interview on Monday following a House budget hearing, she said her department is asking for infrastructure funding so they can move forward with homestead projects.

Right now, Teregeyo said, they are not allowed to use their operational funds to pay for infrastructure such as power, water and sewer lines.

Marianne C. Teregeyo

“If we were allowed to do that, the DPL secretaries before me would have issued homesteads to our applicants already,” she added.

DPL’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 is $4.8 million.

Last year, DPL’s proposed budget was $5.1 million because it included $1 million for the land-use plan.

DPL funds come from land-lease payments and not from the general fund. The Legislature doesn’t appropriate DPL funding, but it approves the department’s spending plan for each fiscal year based on the income generated from land leases.

DPL said it received $1 million from the settlement of a lawsuit involving Imperial Pacific and Kan Pacific.

DPL wants to use the $1 million to fund homestead infrastructure, but the Marianas Public Land Trust said the department should remit the money to MPLT which invests the proceeds from leases and other transfers of public land.

DPL has asked the Attorney General’s Office to help resolve the dispute between the department and MPLT.

DPL is still waiting for a response from the AG’s office.

“A lot of people say DPL issues property to investors before they issue homestead lots,” Concepcion said. “The difference is that homestead lots are issued for subdivisions that need power, water and sewer lines before we can issue homestead lots. Coastal Resources Management will not issue us a permit if there’s no power, water or sewer. Power can come later, but water and sewer have to be in place before we issue a homestead lot to an applicant. Lack of funding prevents us from moving on with homestead projects.”

She added, “Some people say DPL collects money from land leases and, yes, we can use those funds for operations, we can use them to design homesteads, and to do road ways. But the Constitution prohibits us from using it to pay power and water and MPLT is going to challenge it. At the end of the year, any surplus has to be remitted to MPLT and we are not legally allowed to pay for infrastructure. Again, we can’t open homestead lots if there are no water, power or sewer hook-ups.”

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Angel Demapan asked DPL to submit documents on the land-use plan, the request for proposals or RFP and a homestead development plan.

“A lot of concerns from the members have to do with the land-use plan that is currently being bid out,” he said in a separate interview. “We want to see the results of the RFP and the land-use plan. With all the development going on right now, the absence of a land-use plan is going to be a very big concern. We feel that DPL should have a land-use plan in place,” Demapan added.

“The secretary’s priority is to get the infrastructure done and focus on the homestead lots. To make sure we move along with the homestead backlog here and also implement the homestead program in the Northern Islands, particularly on Pagan. Homestead is going to be the priority. But in order to have homestead lots ready for distribution, water, power and sewer lines are required. That is the infrastructure they are talking about — they also need access roads. Right now they are still giving lots to 1991 applicants. That’s a huge backlog, and we hope through the proposed design they can award at least 300 lots.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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