Will GovGuam be ready?
Formal discussions are set to start soon on the eventual takeover of solid waste management and operations by the government of Guam.
This after U.S. District Court judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood issued an order mandating the start of talks and planning on the transition of solid waste management from receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. to an independent Guam Solid Waste Authority.
According to GBB, it is already working on a transition timetable to be presented to the district court at its next status hearing, which will occur in December.
Even as the transition discussions are being planned, GBB vice president Chase Anderson said there are many transition challenges that may occur once GBB starts withdrawing control of solid waste management operations.
Although a new board of directors for GSWA has already been appointed and confirmed, they still need to learn what the agency is, how it functions, what its objectives are, and how to manage it, Anderson said.
He added a new general manager and chief financial officer will still need to be found and trained during the transition.
“As the receivership recedes, the new management will be challenged to keep the GSWA efficient, financially viable and self-sustaining. The new management should guard against increasing the number of employees without a thorough justification of the work needs,” he further stated.
In addition, he said the new GSWA’s management and board of directors must remain vigilant to their fiduciary obligations.
“Finally, the new management and board must seek to make this transition as painless and as secure as possible for the GSWA employees,” Anderson said.
For his part, Sen. Tom Ada, the public works and utilities chairman, believes solid waste management should be a service performed by GovGuam for the people of Guam.
“We don’t need somebody from the outside to come in and to do it for us. I think we have the capabilities on island. The bottom line is there is no reason why the government should not be able to manage this operation.” Ada explained.
As the successor of the now defunct Solid Waste Management Division, GSWA currently operates residential trash collections for approximately 17,000 customers, hauling in around 85,000 materials per year.
Under the law, upon completion of requirements set in the consent decree and upon determination of the US District Court, GSWA control will eventually be placed under the GSWA board.
For this reason, Ada said the GSWA board plays a significant role in determining “whatever needs to be done to be able to effectively govern GSWA,” including the development of the agency’s own rules and regulations.
Since the law also requires the GSWA board to start liaising with the receiver within 30 days of empanelment, Ada said the newly appointed members have been conducting informal dialogues with GBB in preparation for the transition meetings.
However, GSWA board members Joseph W. Duenas, Alexandra L.G. Taitano, Jonathan M. Denight, and Andrew M. Gayle Jr. were only recently confirmed last July 2012 although the law required GovGuam to initiate procedures for the appointment of a set of board of directors 90 days after the enactment of PL 31-20, the law signed in April of 2011, which created the GSWA.
Anderson said the receiver has already completed many of the projects required by the court, such as the construction and operation of the Layon landfill, the efficient collection of curbside trash, and a new and effective billing system for GSWA.
However, Anderson acknowledged the receiver still has several unfinished projects, most significantly, the environmental closure of the Ordot Dump, which is one of the critical components of the consent decree.
Signed in February 11, 2004, the consent decree outlined the closure of Ordot dump, the opening of a new municipal solid waste landfill facility, and the development of recycling strategies to cut the amount of materials dumped at the landfill.
Since the shutdown of Ordot dumpsite operations last August 2011, GBB has been in the process of moving into several phases of environmental closure, Anderson said.
“One is finding the owners of the properties where waste has been buried outside of the Ordot Dump property lines and to purchase those properties from the owners. The second is to perform a detailed site investigation where borings and wells are drilled to understand where the waste ends and take water and soil samples to find out the extent of contamination at the Ordot Dump,” he further explained.
Aside from the Ordot dump environmental closure, the receiver has to implement other capital improvement projects before completing the transition including the complete renovation of the dilapidated facilities at the Agat, Dededo, and Malojloj residential transfer stations.
Anderson said the Agat and Dededo transfer stations have significant impacts that will require cleanup concurrently with renovation work.
In particular, Anderson noted, that the Agat transfer station, which is associated with the old Santa Ana dump site, still requires clean-up of approximately four acres of uncovered metal waste and other debris on the ground surface.
Another ongoing project is the construction of the new Harmon Residential Transfer Station. According to Anderson, the facility will have a household hazardous waste program – one of the essential conditions set in the consent decree.