The Commonwealth Ports Authority will soon notify the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. that a contaminated water well at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport area that has not been functioning for many years now will be removed.
During Friday’s meeting of the CPA board’s airport facilities committee, the panel agreed to notify CUC—which built the water well—that CPA is exercising its right to its property.
The committee came to that decision after CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds objected to committee chair Barry Toves’ suggestion that CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio should talk about the matter again with CUC.
Citing that the well is CPA’s property, King-Hinds said they have been having this conversation about the well over and over again.
Toves said the property where the well sits is in the general aviation area and CPA needs that space for Tandem Skydive Saipan Inc.
Toves said that in any lease agreement that CPA executes—whether at the seaport or airport—CPA reserves the right to give proper notice and let the lessor know about CPA’s action.
In her objection, King-Hinds said CPA should give CUC notice that this is what CPA wants to do on its property.
“Because, at the end of the day, we decide what we get to do on our property. That well is not functioning. It’s been sitting there for how long?” King-Hinds said.
She said CPA basically needs to have the general aviation area improved and that there is a company, Tandem Skydive, that is willing to make those improvements.
“At the end of the day, the buck stops with us. Our inability to make a decision, in taking this issue down the road, is not [going to] take us anywhere. So let’s make a decision today,” King-Hinds said.
She said that decision should be to give CUC notice so that Tandem Skydive can proceed with its plan because CPA had already told them. King-Hinds said CPA is entering an agreement to allow the company to make the improvements.
“Why do we need anybody’s permission to do what we want on our property?” she asked.
CPA board director Thomas Villagomez then moved for CPA to give notice to CUC to close down that water well.
Board member Pete Reyes suggested that the letter that CPA will send CUC should also state that termination of the use of that specific well will not affect the 67 other water wells that CUC has at the airport.
All seven board directors unanimously agreed to notify CUC about CPA’s decision to cut the well.
During the discussion, Toves said Reyes originally brought up the issue for CPA to find out if the well is actually non-working and that he (Toves) believes it should be turned back to CPA.
Tenorio said they’ve asked CUC to decommission the well but, according to CUC, they’re still working on it. Tenorio said CUC had suggested that they could relocate the well to another area, but CPA has to pay for the relocation work.
CPA legal counsel Robert T. Torres said he spoke with CUC deputy executive director William Gilmore and that he was informed that the well itself right now is not being used but that CUC is going to rehabilitate it so it could be used in the future.
“What CUC said…is that they can reduce the area that they need for that well so that Tandem Skydive can increase the area that it needs,” Torres said. He said Tandem Skydive needs the additional area to expand its facilities.
Torres said CUC’s position is that CPA could keep the well, but CUC would reduce the footprint that they need so CPA and CUC could co-exist.
“…If they can do that, that should be the solution,” Torres said.
If, however, CUC refuses to work with CPA, CPA can ask CUC to remove all of its 67 wells from CPA’s property.
Reyes said CUC is not using the well right now, but they have indicated that they are trying to secure a grant in order to fix and rehabilitate the contaminated well.
“Right now, it is not being used because of contamination,” Reyes said. It was not immediately clarified at the meeting what contaminated the well.
Toves asked what is the recommendation to resolve the issue as Skydive Tandem is requesting additional space and moving the well from the property comes with a cost.
King-Hinds said the issue is being discussed because Tandem Skydive is requesting for additional space and the concern is if CPA removes it, it will be at CPA’s own cost.
King-Hinds said this is something that CPA can discuss with Tandem Skydive in terms of working out an agreement because they need the additional space, and if they are willing to remove it, then CPA and the company can work out an arrangement where it comes at no cost to CPA.
King-Hinds said that, because the well is not currently within the area that Tandem Skydive is leasing, CPA can work out ith some sort of an offset for the cost.
Torres pointed out that CPA only agreed in 1992 for CUC to build 32 wells and an additional four wells in 2009, for a term of five years. Torres said CUC then went on a drilling expedition on CPA’s property so they now have 67 wells.
Torres said the Federal Aviation Administration says CPA owns those wells.
Torres said the fact that CUC is charging for water is diverting revenue from CPA, which is why they have a settlement agreement with CUC.
“Those are our wells; that’s our water,” Torres stressed.
When Toves asked if CPA has the authority to just go ahead and remove the well, Torres said CUC and the community would benefit if they work together.
Torres said CPA could tell CUC to close the well and move out.
“It’s our well. They are saying they have plans to rehab it. But they are not using it anyway. They have 66 other wells and we don’t know how many of those are being used. But this one is not being used,” Torres said.
Torres said if the CPA board wants to make a decision they have a choice of either continuing to urge CUC to work with CPA and relocate that well, or CPA could tell them to remove that well and they can’t use that anymore since it’s CPA’s property.
King-Hinds said the underlying issue is that Tandem Skydive wants to make improvements in that particular location. “We are not [going to] to pay for the removal of that well,” she said.
Reyes said Skydive Tandem is actually willing to close down the well and pave it for parking.
Board vice chair Roman Tudela said what ultimately needs to be done is remove the well and give the space to Skydive Tandem and start creating revenue for CPA.
“It’s a waste for that well to continue to sit there for nothing,” Tudela said.
He said that when CUC was still digging the wells, it was with the understanding that the airlines’ use that property is the priority.
In a later interview, King-Hinds said they are entering into a new lease with Tandem Skydive and, as a condition of that lease, they want to make some improvements in the general aviation area but there is a water well “that’s kind of sitting there that is not being used” but needs to be rehabilitated.
She said Skydive Tandem is willing to remove the well and make the improvement.
“And so, I think a decision has to be made if they are willing to come in and remove it,” King-Hinds said.