DPW working on estimates for possible government impound lot

JUNK CARS: Abandoned vehicles are seen here on the side of the road. The island's mayors are at the front line of removing the junk cars but said their efforts are restricted by the current law which requires a government impound lot, which has yet to be opened. Post file photo.

The Department of Public Works is currently performing assessments and developing estimates for environmental issues, fencing, security, lighting, office space, and other matters relevant to a possible government impound lot in Yigo for abandoned vehicles.

Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, chairman of the Islandwide Beautification Task Force, tapped Bureau of Statistics and Plans Director Tyrone Taitano to work on identifying possible sites for the lot.

Taitano sent a letter to DPW Director Vince Arriola in late December 2021 informing him about statutory requirements for an impound lot and the suggested site. He asked DPW to develop a cost estimate for a secured storage facility of vehicles based on certain requirements. Arriola told the Guam Daily Post Friday that work is still ongoing.

Village mayors are on the front lines of removing abandoned vehicles that often present an eyesore or danger to their communities.

In prior years, the Mayors' Council of Guam removed abandoned vehicles from properties after obtaining consent from private landowners.

But this year, the MCOG requested guidance on the authority of mayors to remove abandoned vehicles on public roadways, which the Office of the Attorney General said is governed by specific procedures in law.

This includes removal of abandoned vehicles and storage in a police parking area, a garage, or a licensed public garage. 

"If there's a car on Route 1 or on routed roads that's left there, we can't remove it because there is no government impound lot, and there is no private company that has been contracted to pick up these vehicles," MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan stated during a public hearing Friday on legislation that aims to update Guam's abandoned vehicle laws.

"The problem is we need to have a government lot if we're going to continue following statute as it is now," he said. 

Bill 155-36 is the measure proposing updates to abandoned vehicle laws. These include shortened timelines and updates to existing procedures that make legally removing vehicles difficult today, according to Sablan.

The MCOG supports the bill. 

However, the bill's language retains the requirement that vehicles removed from public or private property be stored in a police parking area, a garage, or a licensed public garage. And while the bill also mandates that no law enforcement leave vehicles on site if license plates are removed, it also requires that vehicle be towed to a government impound lot or towing company's lot. 

Challenges

Speaker Therese Terlaje had asked if mayors can currently touch abandoned vehicles if there is no vehicle identification number or if they are without the owner's consent.

Sablan said they are able to obtain liability releases for vehicles from private property owners. On routed roads, Mayors could remove vehicles to an impound lot, but that doesn't currently exist. 

However, Sablan said vehicles are still moved off the road for safety reasons. 

Terlaje said Bill 155 continues to talk about a police parking area and a government impound lot. 

After hearing that Taitano was tasked with finding an impound lot, the speaker said that would be important because the bill is not removing that "impediment."

"That we need some kind of government lot or ... whatever. But it's not removing that requirement. You're still gonna have the same problem. And it's not removing the requirement that (the Department of Revenue and Taxation) post the VIN numbers. And what if those are destroyed?" the speaker said. 

Sablan said he does not see the need for a government impound lot, asking why the government just doesn't contract a licensed junk yard to receive abandoned vehicles, as an impound lot would mean spending for security and other requirements. Sablan is not a member of the beautification task force, but said he could bring up the issue with the mayor who serves on the task force. 

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