NMI begins work on federally funded disaster recovery projects

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NOW that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved $244 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery or CDBG-DR assistance for the CNMI, the Commonwealth has begun preliminary work on the projects.

The Northern Marianas Housing Corp. has already put together a CDBG-DR team, NMHC Corporate Director Jesse Palacios said.

Preliminary policies and procedures to address housing and infrastructure have been drafted, and requests for qualifications, or RFQs, from contractors and architecture and engineering firms have been published, he said.

Moreover, a pre-proposal conference was held for these RFQs, in which quite a few A&E firms were in attendance, he added.

“We’ve been getting unsolicited proposals for housing systems,” he said.

These include systems that would only take a couple of months to complete as opposed to the traditional or usual six to eight months, Palacios said.

“If we have those different systems in place, that means that those are less labor intensive, which is good for us. We can produce or complete more housing units in a short period of time.”

He added, “It is a challenge for contractors, but we’re pretty confident that we’ll get the job done, especially with the support of the administration and the other permitting agencies.”

Palacios said the review process for the projects will be streamlined.

Government departments and agencies that have requested funding for some of their projects are also asked to submit to NMHC the scope of work for each of their projects for preliminary environmental assessments.

“We are putting a lot of work into the preparation of receiving the funds and getting things rolling starting January of next year,” Palacios said.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, for his part, said, “We’re just so excited to share the good news…. We have a lot of exciting news, a lot of work ahead of us.”

He thanked and congratulated all of the departments and agencies for their hard work in securing the six-year, $244 million grant.

“This is an opportunity for the CNMI to increase opportunities for its people, and reduce the unemployment rate,” he added.

“We are putting every effort in this administration to look at a new approach, even as far as [creating a] new division, just to address the permitting requirements that we need to meet to move forward on these projects,” the governor said.

In 2020, he added, the Commonwealth is also looking at extending the Koblerville homestead area, which will result in 250 to 300 new homestead lots for eligible local residents.

“We will work extremely hard to make sure that we spend that [federal] money soon, and maximize  opportunities for our people,” he said.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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