Senate hears three days of complaints about the roads
The horrible and “shameful” road conditions in the territory and the status of the Airport Road Project, which lacks any action, were the two main issues raised by senators in the past three days of the Senate session, where Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie called on his colleagues to be patient as the new administration is just settling into leading the American Samoa Government.
The status of the Airport Road Project was a main focus of senator’s complaints as the road — which is heavily traveled — is getting worse and there is still no sign of any action on the reconstruction process.
Sen. Nua Saoluaga was the first to complain about this road and the status of the project Tuesday saying that there is a “big problem” with road conditions in the territory, and this is especially true for the airport road, which is getting worse every day. (Sen. Nua lives in the Tafuna area and the airport road is his ‘main road’)
He suggested that the Senate Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Alo Fa’auuga call a hearing to get an update from DPW officials as to what is being done to address this serious problem as well as the status of the airport road. The same message was echoed by other senators.
Alo acknowledged this concern, saying that road conditions in the territory “are shameful” and that he will first seek out a meeting of his committee.
Sen. Tuiasina S. Esera said the previous administration had provided $100,000 to Samoa following Cyclone Evan, while the territory is faced with road problems. He also said the contractor (McConnell Dowell), who performed resurfacing for the Futiga road in his county of Tualatai has yet to be paid close to $200,000 owed to them, as revealed by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in his address before the Fono on Monday.
He said his constituents need to have the road fixed, but nothing is being done, allegedly due to the lack of funding — yet American Samoa has given a donation to Samoa.
Gaoteote reminded senators that the Lolo administration has only been in office since Jan. 3, and to give the new administration time to work on a status report on all these projects.
As for the cyclone donation, Gaoteote humbly requested senators not to look back at this matter, saying that Samoa suffered following the strong storm and was in need of all the relief support they could get.
He said the governor at the time had requested financial help for Samoa and the Fono leaders did inform the governor at the time to bring that issue before the Legislature. Gaoteote didn’t elaborate further.
On Tuesday, the terrible road conditions were again raised, with Nua the first to voice his concerns and reiterated his call for the Senate public works committee to hold a hearing as well as get a status road report from DPW. Nua requested that officials of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration be present to provide an overall briefing of federal highway funds for the territory as this is a new session of the Legislature.
On another issue, Nua suggested a separate DPW hearing to include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer officials about the status of the rebuilding of the Ta’u Harbor in Manu’a. He said funding for this project was available ten years ago, but nothing has been done since.
In order for Manu’a to prosper economically, improvements to this harbor and other infrastructure need to be made, said Nua, who is one of two senators representing Manu’a District #1.
Tuiasina brought up the Airport Road Project, noting that ASG had awarded last year some $7 million for it but he sees “no action” on this project. He said there should be a status report for the Fono to review.
Alo again replied that maybe his committee will convene first to discuss specific issues — including the roads — to be raised with DPW before a hearing is called.
Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i agreed with the problems with roads but he had another issue for the Senate to consider, and that dealt with the high cost of electricity.
He requested the Senate Energy, Power & Water Committee for a hearing where the new American Samoa Power Authority board is called in to answer questions pertaining to why residential rates are so high.
Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono urged his colleagues not to rush into conducting the hearing, saying that this is a new administration at the helm of government and give them time to review all these issues — including the roads — before calling any hearings. He said cabinet directors as well as board members need to be confirmed first.
Gaoteote agreed with Soliai saying the concerns voiced by senators are true and are issues that must be addressed by the government, but this is a new administration which needs to conduct a full review of government status. He recommended that hearings on these issues be delayed for now.
He then called for senators to pray for “sunshine” for the territory, which has been faced with several days of rain, very heavy at times, creating new potholes and enlarging the old ones.
At yesterday’s session, the problem roads were raised again with Alo, who said that his committee has met and decided to call a hearing next week with DPW director-appointee Faleosina Voight to answer questions.
Again, Gaoteote requested the committee to delay hearings and give the administration time to finalize their reports. He also says that it’s important all appointed directors are confirmed first before hearings are conducted on specific issues.
In his State of the Territory Address on Monday, the governor told lawmakers, “Our most pressing need is to resurface our pothole-infested roads” and he has instructed Voight “to see to it that the potholes be repaired quickly.”
“I have reached out to the construction companies for help to see if they can perform the repair tasks while the government identifies money to address their incurred costs,” he said. “Understandably, many of them don’t have the financial wherewithal to carry large accounts receivables.”
He said the sale of hot mix to the government to facilitate the repair of the roads is hampered by ASG’s unpaid bills. Therefore he has instructed Treasury Department to find monies to liquidate back debts so Public Works can purchase the hot mix needed to repair the roads.
Additionally, DPW has been “urged [to] accelerate the completion of the Airport Road. Furthermore, I have asked for the schedule of planned road projects to ensure that the highly travelled roads are given first priority for repair or rehabilitation.”
Prior to this latest statement from Lolo as well as senators’ complaints, Rep. Larry Sanitoa over the past several months has been after DPW for the status of the road projects, including the airport road.
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