Something old, something new?
Guam Legislature debates over office space

by Sabrina Salas, KUAM News
Thursday, June 05, 2003

To buy or lease - that is the question facing the Guam Legislature.

More than a decade ago the Legislature's Legislative Hall was condemned. At the time, senators made what they thought would a temporary move down the street. Today, Guam's 15 senators still are headquartered in the temporary accommodations. This year alone, the Legislature will spend more than a half-million dollars on leased space.

Rules Committee Chair Senator Lou Leon Guerrero wants to see the Legislature move back to the old legislative building. She told KUAM News, "As a business investment, if we do that we are going to save more of the taxpayers money down the line."

Leon Guerrero has oversight of legislative facilities, and says a committee has been set up to look into renovating the old legislative building, adding office space, and moving back. She says senators spend around $18,000 for leased office space, and over $23,000 a month is spent for the temporary legislative hall. While the Leon Guerrero says the price is reasonable as do real estate agents we spoke she says she'd rather see the money being spent on something permanent.

"I mean, for the amount of rent we pay for everybody we could certainly get loan like that, but I'm trying to see ...if we can't, if we don't have to owe the money and give it as a grant of some kind of subsidy from the government," Leon Guerrero added.

Leon Guerrero says funding may be available through historic preservation funds or other federal grants. But is it really better to renovate the old legislative building?

We asked Today's Realty associate broker Sandy Yow what her advice would be to the Legislature if she was their real estate agent. She said, "To have everybody under one roof would be the ideal situation...there's equity to be built, there is some tax benefits maybe, but I think in the end just as in home ownership it would be better for them to own and to occupy what we own."

Both Yow and Senator Leon Guerrero says however during these economically tight times it might be hard to both find the funds to start the project and to convince the public money will be saved in the long-run. Senator Leon Guerrero says while her committee is working on finding funding for the project, other things are more pressing. "It's not a top priority, but it is a project that is ongoing, it's a project that is moving, it's a project that my executive director is looking at doing," she said.

Senator Leon Guerrero says she hopes to find funding in the next six months and see renovations begun on the old legislative building before the 27th Guam Legislature's term comes to an end. She says it would cost approximately $6,000,000 to renovate the old legislative hall and add on office space for senators.

Here's a look at what your senators are paying for rent every month. According to documents supplied to KUAM News by the Legislature, Speaker Ben Pangelinan and democrat senators Lou Leon Guerrero, Tina Muna-Barnes and Carmen Fernandez are living rent-free at the temporary legislative building. Fellow democrat lawmakers Rory Respicio and Toni Sanford pay the most for their office space at $3,000 a month.

Next is Vice Speaker Frank Aguon, Jr. and the Office of Finance and Budget at $2,500. Republican senator Joanne Brown spends $2,490 (and change), and democrat senators Randy Cunliffe and John Quinata are tied at $2,070 a month. At $1,500 is republican senator Jesse Andersen Lujan. Republican senator Ray Tenorio is only $200 from being the most frugal senator at $888, but fellow republican senator Robert Klitzkie takes the title at $664 a month.

Figures were not available for republican senators Larry Kasperbauer and Mark Forbes.

Copyright © 2000-2003 by Pacific Telestations, Inc.

More Articles in June