Traffic fatalities on the rise, yet $800K in streetlight funds available but unused

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Note: This is a two-part story on Guam’s streetlights

Guam – 21 Auto fatalities this year, some attributed to dark roadways. The natural response would be to add more streetlights. While GovGuam appears to have the money to fix the problem, red tape complicates the solution.

In a recent summary filed by DPW with the Legislature, it appears the streetlight fund, had a surplus. Of the 6.5 million dollars appropriated to the Department of Public Works for streetlights, more than $800,000 was left unspent.

Twenty days into the month of November, Police have responded to 3 fatal accidents so far. PNC was on scene at all of these fatalities, and two of the three sites, were barely lit. Last month, two minors were killed in an accident, and as the Magistrate complaint indicates, Police determined the area had no lights, guardrails or street markings.

So with the funds being available, the need obvious, what seems to be the issue? According to DPW Director Glenn Leon Guerrero, while he has done his part to ensure that streetlight requests do not sit on his desk longer than a day, the actual 9 step process that takes place prior to a residential street light being put up, tells a story of bureaucratic inefficiency.

“It’s not as simple as us saying OK we’ve got 800,000 lets go put a light here, put a light here” says Leon Guerrero. The system that DPW has employed requires that the request has to come from the mayor. If an individual wants to have a streetlight in front of their house, the mayor decides if it is a good reason then the request comes to Public Works. Public Works then takes that request and then goes to GPA customer service who sends it to their engineering department. The engineering department then looks at that and assesses a cost, then goes back to customer service and they come back to DPW. Once DPW identifies the funds and gives the green light, it goes back to GPA customer service then it goes to GPA transmission and distribution which actually does the Installation.

While that process may seem redundant, the light at the end of the tunnel is still there. The installation of streetlights on Guam’s highways is another matter. According to Leon Guerrero, “At the outer road, that’s a different story. We (DPW) are the ones in charge of that. If there’s no power pole, you can’t put a streetlight on it.”

Among FY 19 budget cuts, funds for the islands streetlights have been slashed by a million dollars, according to Leon Guerrero. As for the unspent $801,000 well it seems like the ship has sailed. With the Fiscal year already over, this being a line item on the FY 18 budget, these unused funds have gone back to the General Fund.

“This money is coming from the General fund to the Department of Administration. I can’t transfer that (or) do anything else. Why wouldn’t I want to use that? So we follow a system and instead of oh, I got $800,000 let’s put more lights here and there, we study it out.” DPW Director Glenn Leon Guerrero

Doc. No. 34GL-18-2500