Demolition or Preservation?
March 6, 2015 – A Wednesday public hearing found need for much more work on a bill [32‐33 (COR)] that would authorize demolition of the Manuel F.L. Guerrero Administration Building in Hagåtña, long deserted by the government agencies once housed there, which according to the legislation is because the building has “serious structural, electrical, mechanical and environmental issues that create significant safety hazards and render the building unfit for further occupancy.”
Senator Respicio, whose committee responsibilities include oversight of Guam’s capitol district, faced an array of issues that include the building’s historic role in the island’s self‐rule as reflected by its naming for the second Chamorro governor, Manuel F.L. Guerrero, but also serious questions about its present structural integrity, its threat to public safety in its present condition and the cost of a major rehabilitation‐reconstruction, should that be carried out.
The only clear consensus of the public hearing, which is to be continued the week of March 17th, was that—history aside—in its present condition, it does little to honor former Governor Guerrero.
“This bill is probably the best thing that ever happened to the Manuel F.L. Guerrero building,” said the Guam Legislature’s Executive Director Vince Arriola, “because it brought to light all these issues. It remains one of the most dilapidated buildings in Hagåtña.”
Two of Governor Guerrero’s children, Alfredo D. Leon Guerrero and Evelyna Leon Guerrero Bonner testified that they weren’t in opposition to demolishing the existing building if their father’s name was retained on a new building or a plaza at the site. Ms. Bonner described the present building as “an eyesore that should be taken down.”
On the other hand, emotional testimony by Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz—who once worked in the building as a legal counsel to Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo—and former Senator Hope Cristobal, emphasized the historic significance of the building and called for its preservation.
The hearing pointed out continuing questions about the building’s structural integrity and major concerns about the cost of a renovation or reconstruction. According to Department of Public Works Director Glenn Leon Guerrero, a recent walk‐around inspection by structural engineer Tom Camacho found that while the underlying building is structurally sound, the repairs and upgrades required to meet current code standards could range up to $25 million and would add only 10 to 15 years to its useful life until further work would be needed.
Other testimony from Guam Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Yvette Cruz suggested the presently open building is exposing the public to hazards such as lead‐based paint and asbestos.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces here,” said Senator Respicio, who said that concern for public safety required that—at minimum—the building be barricaded off while solutions are found. “We have to do something immediate, but we also have to do something based on the best information, so we can proceed intelligently being mindful of this buildingʹs historical significance in Guamʹs history.
Respicio asked GEDA to look into the possible funding of the barricades and a more comprehensive structural study through the use of “HOT bonds” proceeds and asked Public Works, the Hagåtña Redevelopment and Restoration Authority and other government agencies to return with more information when the hearing continues the week of March 17th.
For more information, please contact Senator Respicio’s office at 472‐7679.