The Economic Development, Essential Services and Consumer Affairs Committee today held a hearing to investigate the reconstruction status of the Baños de Coamo hotel.
Senate Resolution 74, authored by Guayama Sen. Gretchen Hau, orders the commission to investigate the efforts carried out by the Land Administration (LA) regarding the reconstruction and redevelopment of the Baños de Coamo hotel. It also orders evaluating the process used by the Property Development and Administration Office (ODAP by its Spanish acronym), attached to the LA, to select and recommend the hotel lease to Coamo Springs Investments.
"The rehabilitation and reopening of the Baños de Coamo hotel is a priority for this company due to the economic and tourism impact that it represents in the area's development. On the other hand, it is our responsibility as the Legislative Assembly to ensure the proper management of public and federal funds in order to guarantee their maximization," Hau stated.
She added: "we are going to investigate as the resolution requests to know at what stageis the process of claiming, disbursement and use of the funds assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for restoration and reconstruction works in the hotel."
After the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the hotel sustained severe damages to its physical plant, for which it was inoperative.
The LA, for having full ownership over the property, claimed the damages caused by the hurricanes before FEMA; however, according to Sen. Hau, at the moment the place remains in battered conditions and threatens the safety, health and well-being of residents in the southern region.
"The cleaning and maintenance work that the place receives are carried out by the personnel of the municipality of Coamo. However, the Land Authority is responsible for making the necessary rehabilitation and reconstruction improvements. This view confirms the deterioration of the place and is the first step in the investigation carried out by our commission," she affirmed.
The Integrated Development Commission of the South Central Region of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico —which carries out a general study of the current situation of the municipalities that make up the region— participated in the hearing.
Martínez Soto said that part of her mission is to ensure that the LA has more effective communication with the municipality, FEMA, and the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3).
“This is a property of the Land Administration and where the municipality manages it, and it is a heritage of Coamo for all the people of Puerto Rico. The reconstruction is estimated at an approximate amount of $7 million," she stated, adding that it will deteriorate further if the process continues to delay.