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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019-8:49:47P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Board member: CUC should sue CHCC over unpaid utility bills

COMMONWEALTH Utilities Corp. board vice chair Weston Deleon Guerrero believes that CUC should take the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to court for its failure to pay its utility bills.

“I’ve contemplated this for a while,” he said. “Just go to the court and have the court decide and order them [CHCC] to pay us.”

Deleon Guerrero added that there have been several discussions between both parties but CHCC is still unable to pay.

“So I think that the only route really is to have the court intervene and decide how they’re going to end up paying us. There’s really no other avenue that I can see in getting them to pay us what they owe us.”

In their next meeting, Deleon Guerrero said he will ask the board to approve his proposal to take CHCC to the court.

“They [CHCC] admit that they owe us money. But it’s not enough to just admit that. They need also to act on it and pay which is the most important thing,” he added.

CUC Executive Director Gary Camacho said they were informed by CHCC that utility charges were included in the hospital rates.

“Our position, respectfully, is that if the utilities are built into their rates, then that should be for the utilities,” Deleon Guerrero told the CUC board on Friday.

He said CHCC charges patients for utilities, but the money is being used for other purposes.

CHCC’s monthly usage racks up to $430,000.

Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board vice chair Weston Deleon Guerrero presides over the agency’s meeting on Friday.  Photo by Junhan B. TodiñoCommonwealth Utilities Corp. board vice chair Weston Deleon Guerrero presides over the agency’s meeting on Friday. Photo by Junhan B. Todiño

CHCC is supposed to pay $71,000 a month to CUC, which spends $200,000 for fuel for the monthly utility usage of the hospital.

Camacho said an agreement in the past required CHCC to pay $150,000 to $300,000 a month, but CHCC was unable to pay.

While saying he understands the critical services provided by CHCC to the community, Camacho said CUC must also recover its costs so it can continue to operate.

If CHCC has a funding problem, then it needs to ask for it from the Legislature, Camacho said.

As of April, CUC said the central government owed $6.13 million; CHCC, $27.4 million; and the Commonwealth Ports Authority, $17.66 million.

Camacho said CUC is working on a memorandum of agreement with CPA, which will stipulate the reactivation of Power Plant 3 in Isley Field on Saipan and give CUC full control and access to the 46 water wells located within CPA property for a certain period of time in exchange for $10 million in CPA’s outstanding water charges.

In Dec. 2013, CUC sued CHCC to compel the islands’ only hospital to pay its then-outstanding debt of $9.69 million with prejudgment interest. But the Superior Court also issued a temporary restraining order to prevent CUC from disconnecting the hospital’s utilities.

Then-Judge David Wiseman ordered CHCC to make timely payments of its monthly billings exclusive of any interest or penalties, subject to any negotiations that the parties might agree on.

But the judge also noted that CHCC was “technically bankrupt.”

In Dec. 2015, CHCC and CUC signed a “Net Metering and Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement” under which the hospital would use net metering and solar energy to reduce its consumption and pay $150,000 monthly to settle its utility bills amounting to $14 million.