- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - A Guam lawmaker has introduced a bill proposing to refinance the island government’s $343 million debt to raise funds for construction of a new Guam Memorial Hospital facility.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. introduced the legislation on Monday, the Pacific Daily News, a Guam newspaper, (http://is.gd/OjOZx8) reported.

The government debt was borrowed from bond investors in 2007. Rodriguez estimates the island government can save up to $45 million through refinancing.

His bill states the funds should be applied toward capital improvements in the form of construction of a new hospital facility. A location has not been set.

“The $45 million will be a seed to start up the process that will ensure that we have the funds to start a new hospital,” Rodriguez said.

A legislative task force has been assembled to develop a plan for the project. The task force includes Rodriguez and local business leaders.

If the bill passes, any savings from refinancing would not require new obligations from the government, Rodriguez said. The island government cannot take on new bond borrowing because it is nearly maxed out on its debt ceiling, although the government could refinance existing debt.

A ballpark figure for construction would be about $200 million, said Chris Felix, a Century 21 official who is a member of the task force.

Guam Memorial Hospital interim CEO Zennia Pecina, the hospital’s nursing director, said consistent leaking and flooding have been a problem at the hospital. Pecina favors new construction.

“Our staff are world class and they deserve a top-notch facility to operate,” Pecina said. “Our people deserve a brand-new facility.”

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