Abandoned vehicles on the rise again as AG’s office continues ‘to sit’ on MOU

One of the many abandoned vehicles on island (MCOG photo)

The number of abandoned vehicles is on the rise again even as the Attorney General’s Office continues to delay the issuance of a memorandum of agreement to release purchase orders for the removal of the abandoned vehicles.

During Tuesday’s Islandwide Beautification Task Force meeting, Sinajana mayor Robert Hofmann said the Mayors Council of Guam is eager to start the fiscal year 2022 collection of abandoned vehicles but the MOU is still stuck and continues “to sit” at the AG’s office.

“So that’s kind of what’s causing the delay. Hopefully, they can see that there is a sincere desire for the mayors to get this started. We were hoping we would get it done probably in November or December. But we need the MOU first and then we need some administrative time to issue out the purchase orders and kind of do all the plans. The legislature already gave us the money, so it’s just now the bureaucracy of paperwork,” Hofmann lamented.

In previous years, Hofmann said this MOU would have already been released by this time of the year and the mayors would already be well underway in using purchase orders to hire vendors that can remove the abandoned vehicles from their villages.

According to Hofmann, this MOU is the same agreement that is used every year and that it is just sent to the AG’s office for legal review and for some legal processes to happen.

“I understand that they may be understaffed. But us mayors can’t move on the abandoned vehicles without the AG’s action. So everything’s on a holding pattern. And I don’t want the public to think that the delay is on the mayors’ side,” Hofmann said.

Even as the release of the MOU continues to be delayed, the number of abandoned vehicles is again on the rise, not just because of the lack of purchase orders to remove them, but also because of the perpetrators’ mistaken belief that the Department of Public Works will clean up after them.

Mangilao Mayor Alan Ungacta said that because of the recent announcement that DPW will become more aggressive in its efforts to address abandoned vehicles, the owners of abandoned vehicles are under the impression that Public Works is going to pick up the vehicles.

“So arbitrarily they’ve been dumping vehicles again, out on the streets next to the UOG Fieldhouse. These guys are doing it intentionally and I think they’re under the impression that Public Works is going to go out there and pick up these vehicles,” Ungacta said during a recent Mayors Council of Guam meeting.

MCOG executive director Angel Sablan agreed that the problem is getting worse. He said that just recently, he saw an abandoned vehicle “slammed up” against the fence on Marine Corps Drive just before Wusstig Road and another abandoned vehicle near the airport.

“I don’t know how they get there and sometimes they’ve even turned over upside down. And Public Works is not yet picking up the vehicles and neither are we,” Sablan said.

According to an AG ruling, an abandoned vehicle cannot be removed without an impound lot.

“What Public Works was talking about when they met with us is that they were gonna implement an aggressive program to remove vehicles that are on public easements like on narrow roads and things like that. The holdup to that is that according to the AG’s office, you can’t just go pick up the vehicle and take it to the recycling center. You have to pick up the vehicle and take it to an impound lot,” Sablan said.

Mayor Hofmann, who has been coordinating with Adelup to find suitable land for an impound lot, said he has been meeting with Department of Land Management director Joe Borja and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio looking at available spaces and areas.

“We looked at northern, central, and southern locations, understanding the environmental regulations that need to go there like the aquifers and all the other factors that go into it,” Hofmann said.

He added that from what he’s seen, GovGuam doesn’t have a lot of land inventory, and many of the available ones are already with Guam Ancestral Lands or Chamorro Land Trust.

Tyrone Taitano, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans who is also helping in the search, said they found a lot in Yigo which could serve as an impound site. However, they’re still working on the paperwork to have the area approved as a legal impound lot.

During the IBTF meeting, Lt. Gov. Tenorio told Taitano to work with Public Works so that they can estimate the cost for the enclosure and the administration can pledge resources for the impound lot.