CUC says it will update public on activities, plans


The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. issued a press release stating its “recent activities” to “inform the general public” after some of its board members received criticisms on travel expenditures as well as holding off-island meeting and attending a meeting on having an agreement for a reverse osmosis project on Saipan.

According to CUC, it “will be keeping the general public informed on any ongoing developments and other plans toward improving its utility services for the people of the CNMI.”

The press release, signed by acting executive director Gary Camacho, explained that “On May 13, 2016, the CUC Board also held its first ever regular meeting on the island of Rota since the inception of the board in 2014.”

“This was in compliance with the board’s bylaws and allowed the opportunity for CUC’s customers on the Island of Rota to bring forth any concerns to the board. The CUC Board will also be scheduling a board meeting to be held in the island of Tinian later this year,” it added.

However, as stated in earlier media reports, no one from Rota attended CUC’s board meeting last week with some residents saying that they weren’t notified of such a meeting.

CUC board director Dave Sablan, who said he did not attend the meeting to help cut down costs, earlier also aired his concerns to fellow directors on holding the meeting on Rota as they have already incurred about $92,000 in board and travel expenditures.

Sablan noted to his fellow directors that they do not have a budget for “an
off-Saipan meeting this fiscal year.”

He said that they, as a board, “could easily have waived [the by-law] on the record, and henceforth hold all meetings in Saipan till we pass a budget that allows for such meetings” and “issues related to Rota—or Tinian for that matter—are on the agenda.”

Sablan, who was former chair of the CUC board until he was ousted by the majority, stated to current chair Adelina Roberto that she “does not have to follow what the majority of members decide on where to hold our meetings…you can decide that on your own based on what you believe to be the right thing to do.”

CUC’s press release also pointed out that “On May 13, 2016, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the island of Rota for a newly built EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Administration) Hazardous Containment Facility built at the Power Plant. The facility brings CUC into compliance with EPA requirements.”

“In attendance to witness the ceremony were dignitaries who included the CUC Board, Mayor of Rota, Rota Municipal Council, CNMI Legislature, BECQ, and the general public,” it added.

Media earlier made reports on CUC’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the $170,000 steel-roofed structure that was built for the power plant on Rota for used oil containment after the area experienced oil spill due to lack of roofing for the used oil containers.

The press release further explains the meeting that CUC attended with a quorum of board members—namely Roberto, Joe Torres, Albert Taitano, and Ignacio Perez—regarding a proposal to have a public to public partnership agreement to build a reverse osmosis water treatment plant on Saipan.

“On May 11, 2016, an informative presentation was given at the Fiesta Resort and Spa, Saipan. The presentation was given at the invitation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. The invitation was extended to both houses of the Legislature, other members of the government and members of CUC’s Board and Management. The presentation focused the availability of public water on Saipan. One of the solutions to Saipan’s diminishing water supply was the idea of a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System,” the release stated.

Sablan also raised his concerns to fellow board members on their attendance to this meeting, while pointing out that, as part of the board, he was not given notice or invitation of the dinner meeting.

“Even if I did, I would not have attended, because there may be a quorum of board members, and if so, any deliberation of an issue, outside of a duly-noticed public meeting, toward a decision that is made at a public meeting of the CUC Board is illegal,” Sablan said.

Sablan suggested that they “avoid any gathering of four or more members of the Board, outside of an official and duly-noticed public meeting as prescribed in the OGA, and the CUC enabling Act” until they have an AG’s opinion that such meetings attended by quorum of board members are present, are not in violation of the OGA.

“Any presentation before the CUC Board (where a quorum is present) should be in a duly-noticed public meeting as prescribed in the OGA. Mr. Toelkes could have made the presentation to us in a public meeting.  He has appeared in our meetings before and has addressed the Board in the ‘Public Comments’ part of our meeting,” Sablan said.

Sablan added that he has “very serious reservations” with regard to the RO system.

“I have very serious reservations about looking at an RO system before we address other critical projects before us now, i.e., defective meters/theft of water and a leaking distribution (and probably transmission) system, where a very high percentage of our water is lost,” Sablan said.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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