Govt payment sought on $200K for La Fiesta lease

Bridge Capital LLC is asking the government to pay its $200,000 lease for the former La Fiesta Mall property for fiscal year 2013, one of the government’s outstanding obligations that the Inos administration said yesterday will be satisfied.
The government needs to pay another $200,000 for the La Fiesta property lease for fiscal year 2014, but this is not due until Sept. 30.

Bridge Capital bought interest in the La Fiesta property in March 2007, while the government owns the former La Fiesta Mall structure.

Michael Ernest, a registered lobbyist and counsel for Bridge Capital, told members of the House of Representatives during a session yesterday afternoon that Bridge Capital hopes that the annual $200,000 appropriation for the La Fiesta lease will be restored, now that the government is preparing a supplemental budget.

“We respectfully request that the Commonwealth honors its obligation,” Ernest told House members during the public comment period.

Press secretary Angel Demapan, when sought for comment, said the administration “is currently in the process of exploring viable options to make the La Fiesta property an asset instead of liability.”

“Part of this realignment plan will include satisfying outstanding obligations,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.

Bridge Capital’s Ernest also made the same request for lease payment during last week’s Senate session, lawmakers said.

In the original fiscal years 2013 and 2014 budget submissions from the governor, $200,000 was set aside for the annual La Fiesta lease payment, but the Legislature—specifically the Senate—zeroed out the account. Later, the Legislature said the governor can always reprogram funds to pay for the land lease.

As earlier warned, the government is facing default on the land lease payment.

The Inos administration has been seeking investors interested in revitalizing the former La Fiesta mall in San Roque, including issuing a request for proposal but so far, no successful negotiation has occurred.

The CNMI government has been spending $200,000 every year to pay for the La Fiesta land lease yet it has not been earning any dime from it since at least 2004 when the mall closed.

Under the Inos administration’s plan, any investor taking on the project would also take over the annual land lease payment of $200,000.

But because there is no investor yet, the government still has to budget for the lease payment.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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