Parks & Rec grilled over pool closures

The public hearing room of the legislature was fully packed as frustrated residents gave Parks and Rec officials an earful about the Dededo and Hagatna Pool closures.

Frustrated residents gave Parks and Rec officials an earful about the Dededo and Hagatna Pool closures during Friday night’s nearly three-hour public hearing.

A barrage of testimony from athletes, children, parents, seniors and others blamed the closures on a failure from leadership on all fronts.

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Residents harped on the incompetence of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s management, GovGuam leadership, and substandard contractor performance.

But DPR Director Richard Ybanez said he relied on the recommendations of the contractor, Canton Construction, which he said insisted that despite the pools being green, the chlorine levels were safe.

Ybanez said Parks and Rec’s contract with Canton Construction began in February 2018 and ends in April 2020. The agency is working to put out a tender now for new contract submissions, to ensure a smooth transition through April.

In an effort to turn the pools’ fate around, Canton Construction, which is under severe scrutiny by the legislature, hired a third-party chemical contractor to clean up the Dededo pool as well as a new nationally certified chief pool operator.

He eventually contacted Guam EPA and Guam Public Health, who determined neither pool was safe for public use and shut down the pools in January.

Ybanez said the Dededo pool only needs one gauge to be replaced in order to reopen, but he isn’t sure how much it will cost exactly.

Sen. Telo Taitague said: “You’re not even sure? This is why it’s taking so long for the procurement because you’re not even sure of the procurement laws. Everybody is waiting for this valve, you don’t know the answer to when it’s going to come or anything like that. And, that’s what everyone here is waiting for, to hear those answers.”

The Dededo pool is expected to reopen sooner than Hagatna, which still needs a complete filtration system overhaul.

That will cost some $200,000 and will take several months to procure and install.

According to Parks and Rec, the contractor is working on a bandaid solution to try and reopen the pool before the filtration system is changed out.

It’s unclear if the pool will open in time for the Micronesian Swimming Championships slated for May.

Senator Kelly Marsh, who was overseeing the public hearing, introduced Bill 284 on Friday. The bill would allow tax credits to anyone making a financial contribution towards the repair and restoration of the two public pools.

The oversight hearing will continue when Ybanez is back from a medical-related leave at the end of February.