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Streetlight costs still a concern for DPW

THE dispute between the Department of Public Works and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. over who should be responsible for paying for the streetlights on main roads and highways remains unresolved, and was the main point of discussion during the budget hearing for DPW on Wednesday morning.

Members of the House Committee on Ways and Means said major intersections and curves must have streetlights for reasons of safety.

Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero noted that recently, DPW Secretary James Ada wrote to CUC Executive Director Gary Camacho, saying that DPW will charge CUC $53,000 for non-compliance with Public Law 5-41 if CUC does not secure a permit, and repair and restore road cuts in several areas within 30 days.

Public Law 5-41 states that a license should be obtained prior to any cutting or trenching into a roadway in the commonwealth.

According to DPW officials, they are also paying a significant amount for streetlights but not all of them are actually functioning.

“We’ve been trying to get CUC’s feedback to determine how many lights are functional so we can determine how much we’re supposed to pay,” DPW-Technical Services Division Director Anthony Camacho said.

Rep. Frank Dela Cruz said the dispute has been going on for many years now, and he wonders why the two agencies cannot resolve it.

He said DPW and CUC should sit down and discuss the issue.

He added, “It seems we cannot communicate. I appeal to the agencies to do an inventory of all streetlights. We cannot continue to operate in this way. This dispute has been going on, but it’s just a matter of working together. I ask that DPW submit documents to my office and do an inventory. We need to work together and resolve the issue. If this requires setting up a meeting with both of you, DPW and CUC, then [we] will do that.”

For fiscal year 2018, DPW is asking for a budget of $3.7 million which is also the amount the governor is proposing for the department.

The Ways and Means chair, Rep. Angel Demapan, said the department did not ask for streetlight funding.

“We are concerned that there’s no proposed funding for streetlights. We would like to rectify that situation by providing a proper appropriation but we need more information — we need to know how much the projected cost is for streetlight expenses because somebody has to pay it. At this point, DPW is the agency in charge for paying for the streetlights and so until otherwise provided by law or regulation we’ll continue to proceed in that manner. Right now the biggest question is how much because in the governor’s proposal they did not provide funding for that purpose.”

In the previous Legislature, Sen. Sixto Igisomar introduced a measure that would have saddled CUC with the responsibility to pay for the streetlights. It was passed by the House and the Senate but the measure was later recalled.

“There were concerns between DPW and CUC that we couldn’t iron out, and we were going around in circles. That’s why we decided to pull it out, but it doesn’t mean it’s over,” Igisomar said. “The mayor’s office is also part of the dispute because it involves additional costs to the mayor’s office which is taking care of the inner roads. So it’s getting very complicated. I knew back then that even if we passed the bill, it might still never work, and they might just come out with so many excuses, so we recalled it.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/96284-streetlight-costs-still-a-concern-for-dpw

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