Update: Airport Road Project is progressing, slowly
Lead engineer for the Airport Road Project Reuben Siatu’u of the Department of Public Works says his office and Whitehorn Construction Inc. have been working closely to move forward with the multi-million-dollar project, and there are major obstacles, which they are close to resolving.
Siatu’u said one of the setbacks was the issue with the Land Use Permit (LUP), which was renewed and issued earlier this year on January 18. The Notice to Proceed (NTP) was issued on Nov. 20, 2012 and no work could be carried out because the original LUP had expired.
He said another major speed bump in the project is the procuring and quality control testing for the specified materials required for the earth works.
The DPW engineer said we have a unique situation, with the limited number of suppliers for aggregates, combined with an even more limited amount of businesses providing quality control testing services on island. He reassures the public that this is an issue that Public Works and Whitehorn Construction are close to resolving.
According to Siatu’u, they are now in the process of relocating utilities that are within the new roadway, so they can begin laying the underground ductworks for the electric layout of the street lights and possible telecommunication lines.
“The Department of Public Works greatly appreciates the patience of the public in our efforts, and we are committed to providing a quality road project,” he concluded.
During a hearing before the House Committee on Public Works last month, Public Works Director Faleosina Faiai Voigt explained that absolutely no underground or excavation work can be done without Public Works first approving the materials that are going to be used for the project.
(Federally funded projects come with a list of standards that must be meet when it comes to materials and supplies).
Voigt told lawmakers at the time that the contractor, Whitehorn Construction, has 330 days to complete the project once it commences and at this rate, the project should be completed this year around October.
The award letter for the project, issued last August stated, “Execution of the contract by ASG is subject to Whitehorn Construction obtaining performance and materials and labor payment bonds which are acceptable to ASG… The American Samoa Government anticipates good service and the timely completion of this project from Whitehorn Construction Inc.”
In an e-mail sent out Monday to a number of recipients including Governor Lolo M. Moliga, Lt. Gov. Lemanu P. Mauga, Legislative Counsel Henry Kappel, the Governor’s Executive Assistance Iulogologo J. Pereira, and Rep. Larry Sanitoa, Voigt explained that the Extension of Time to complete the project will be considered due to the issue with the LUP renewal.
She refuted a statement made by Sanitoa in a letter delivered to her earlier that day in which the Tualauta faipule said it was his understanding that DPW had agreed to grant a time extension to the contractor “to allow the contractor to work on his supply and materials.”
Voigt said this was not true, adding that “the contractor is solely responsible for their materials and supplies and no time extension has been issued for such.”
She said the NTP was issued in November 2012 and has not changed. Voigt further stated that Public Works expects a request from the contractor to extend the completion date because of the delay in the start of work due to the expired Land Use Permit. Public Works “will review the request and approve it if determined valid. If approved, the new completion date will be issued, which will be later than the original completion date of October 2013,” Voigt wrote.
She concluded, “I trust that the staff assigned to this project have the professional expertise required in effective highway construction management practices to ensure the project’s timely completion and within budget.”
In his letter, Sanitoa said the latest report on the Airport Road in reference to incomplete submittals and the delay in the issuance of the Land Use Permit, “is very troubling”.
He told Voigt he is very concerned that the project might now take twice as long and will cost more than the original agreed upon price. “In the interest of our government and people, I trust that you will seek the advice of professional experts and take necessary steps to ensure the completion of this project in a timely manner, and minimizing any further costs.”
Samoa News understands that a contractor can only be granted an Extension of Time based on the contract program, which in this case, Whitehorn should have been required to submit at the start of the project.
Whitehorn won the contract for the project with a bid of $7.99 million. Government engineers estimated the work was going to cost $11.84 million, and the other contractor, McConnell Dowell, bid $11.03 million. The Federal Highway Administration concurred with the award in October 2012, after a formal request to review the award was made by McConnell Dowell due to the vast difference in bids.
Voigt told House members last month that she meets with the contractor on a weekly basis; and that although the land use permit did expire, the contractor could have used that time to forward some of the necessary submittals but unfortunately, this did not happen.
She said that if the submittals were processed and granted approval during that time, the project would have commenced as soon as the new Land Use Permit was issued.
Land Use Permits (LUP) are valid for two years, but only if the work commences within a year’s time. If not, the permit is only good for one year. The LUP was issued for this project in October 2011. However, the Notice to Proceed wasn’t issued until November 2012, over a year after the LUP was issued.
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