Lawmakers look into COTA maintenance building project

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DURING a meeting between the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority and the House Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications on Wednesday morning, lawmakers were notably concerned about the deed for the land where COTA intends to construct its new maintenance building in Lower Base.

COTA Special Assistant Alfreda Camacho informed the committee that the original desired location for the building was a property across from where the Governor Eloy S. Inos Peace Park is located today. However, she said, COTA was informed that its desired location was “off limits.”

When prompted by the committee vice chairman, Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, to disclose who had informed COTA that the property was off-limits, Camacho responded by stating that she was not sure.

“I want to know,” Guerrero said. “I want to [know] how they made that decision to make the property off-limits. To what purpose is that property off-limits? Who dictates who gets what?”

He noted the importance of the COTA construction project, emphasizing that it benefits the public.

Guerrero added he will introduce a resolution stating that COTA should receive its desired property, and House Vice Speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero said he will co-sponsor the resolution.

House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, who was also present during these discussions, said the House would need to know if the grantor has approved the new location for the COTA project.

COTA community planner/title VI coordinator Diego Songsong, who was also present during this meeting, stated that the property belongs to the CNMI Government, and COTA has been working with the Department of Public Lands to ensure that COTA does not run out of time in constructing the new building.

Speaker Attao said: “It is…my…fear that if you fail to deed the property, and somebody throws in a bid for that specific area, and it just so happens to be a bigger investment for DPL, my fear is that [COTA] is going to end up losing the property, even if [COTA] is within the time period of constructing the building.”

Attao said he wants to ensure “that if that is going to be the location, that the deed actually goes to [COTA] for that property….”

Camacho said COTA is “so close to getting this project off the ground and executed — it is just that there are so many different complications with respect to the federal requirements.”

She said COTA is also working with the Department of Public Works, the Office of the Attorney General, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios “to try and get this project off the ground as soon as possible.”

Camacho said the money for the project came from the federal government.

“We were able to utilize about $244,000 to fund the A&E design for the building,” she added. “We already have a construction…management firm. All we are waiting for now is for [the] contract to get the construction services for the building to happen.”

She said the bid solicitation will be followed by a “bid analysis and hopefully the intent to award after [receiving] guidance from [the Federal Transit Administration] regarding the bid analysis that DPW conducted."

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