The board of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will meet with the board of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. soon regarding a proposed payment agreement between the two agencies.
Esther Muña, CEO of CHCC, said a meeting is set “next Tuesday [July 21].”
“We’d like to sit down with them. Our chairman of the board is invited to be there also,” Muña said.
In a letter, CHCC proposed a monthly payment of “at least” $150,000 after the CHCC pays CUC a $250,000 payment for the month of June.
CHCC said it would make the monthly payment thereafter “using current allotment and other revenue sources until CHCC completes installation of a renewable [energy] system.”
“It is not a one-sided agreement, despite what [CUC] claim,” Muña said, adding that “we basically made it clear that we cannot afford the rates.”
She also mentioned that CUC continues to charge the CHCC government rates, which are the highest in the CNMI.
“The government cannot afford the rate, but you don’t sue them,” she said.
Muña faced lawmakers for a Senate budget hearing this week where she presented CHCC’s proposed $10 million spending plan for the next fiscal year. She said her priorities will be employment retention and equipment upgrade, among others.
CUC last July 6 said its board of directors has set a period of 30 days to review a draft payment proposal from CHCC.
CUC board chair Adelina Roberto said the board has started the review last June 30 and will come out with a decision on July 30.
She said after a decision has been made, the CUC board will inform CHCC and “discuss our own board’s findings.”
Roberto disclosed the CUC board’s intent to conduct the 30-day review period during a meeting with lawmakers on Capital Hill.
She also stressed to lawmakers that the proposal from CHCC is a “draft proposal” and that the board will still need to discuss the proposal.
John Riegel, chief engineer and acting executive director of CUC, commenting on the proposal, said the CHCC board may “feel comfortable to pay the $150,000 now.”
He said the proposed payment plan did not indicate how long CHCC plans to pay the $150,000 per month. He also confirmed that this is a “concern” because CHCC’s power consumption in a month is about $500,000.
Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), head of the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications, earlier called for a meeting with CUC.
After hearing the updates from CUC, the lawmaker said he now wants both the CUC and CHCC boards to meet with legislators in about “two weeks.”
Igisomar said he wants “to know more” about the situation between CHCC and CUC regarding the draft proposal.
“If the negotiations fail, and the CUC takes the CHCC to court, the government is again paying attorney’s fees and other unnecessary costs,” Igisomar said.