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Sen. Manglona urges casino commission to ‘assess’ IPI project

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SENATOR Paul A. Manglona on Thursday appeared before the Commonwealth Casino Commission to urge its members to immediately conduct a “total assessment” of Imperial Pacific International’s casino resort project in Garapan.

Paul Atalig Manglona

During the public comment portion of the CCC’s monthly meeting in its conference room in Gualo Rai, Manglona asked the commissioners: “Where are we at this point with the project? Do we know the causes of the project’s troubles? Do we agree that the causes need to be determined as quickly as possible?”

He said, “Time is of the essence.”

Manglona said the casino commmision should determine the “current real status of the initial gaming facility project and determine if change is needed in project specifications, project management process, and the key people involved.”

He said, “No one among us has a firm idea of when the project will be completed and many of us have given up on trying to guess.”

He added, “It may be that this project has numerous defects that need to be cured and addressed. There is no question that IPI has lost its ability to control the progress or even to ascertain the project’s status with accuracy. Dozens of vendors are bringing or considering legal actions against IPI for nonpayment of contracts or services. There has been a significant number of upper management level employee turnover in the last few years. The Development Plan Advisory Committee reports on project recommendations were ignored. All of these characteristics point to a project in serious trouble.”

He said, “[In the past,] we have seen many development projects on Saipan that were in similar troubled situations and were not given immediate early intervention and, therefore, went down the path of failure.”

These unfinished structures, he said, have become “public eyesores.”

Manglona told the commissioners that they should keep in mind that this casino building “is our building — the CNMI peoples’ building, so we must construct it right. By this, I mean that the structural integrity of the building must be guaranteed.”

He said the assessment should require the engineer of record to conduct a forensic survey of the project to include the following:

1) The building’s actual structural construction to ensure that if there are major structural misalignments or defects, building design calculations are recomputed factoring in the actual field conditions.

2) The certification of concrete tests, and column and beam connections such as welds and bolts to ensure satisfaction of strength and torque requirements.

3) Geotechnical pile certification and testing to ensure the building structure’s foundation integrity and that no ground settlement will occur in the future.

The senator said this assessment process will benefit both IPI and the CNMI government.

It will help IPI in its efforts to get new partners for additional project funding by reassuring new investors that the building is structurally sound and will last for more than 40-50 years, Manglona said.

At the same time, “it will benefit the CNMI people, who are the real owners, if for some reason IPI cannot finish the project and we need to lease the property to another developer.”

Manglona said, “Without such an assessment, it might be impossible to find another investor with all the uncertainties surrounding the building’s structural integrity. Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I know that we all want to see this project come to fruition once and for all as it will bring much needed financial stability to our struggling economy, and so it is my hope that my recommendation here today will be considered favorably by this body.”

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