FEMA funds will purchase new building for ASDHS
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is funding the purchase of a two-story building in Tafuna to house the majority of the operations for the local Department of Homeland Security, whose main office for several years has been housed at a small historical building across from the Fagatogo Malae, next to the main Police Station.
Samoa News understands that the initiative for such a purchase was during the tenure of former ASDHS director Mike Sala, who sought support from FEMA so that the department could be housed under one building, as the local government did not have the resources for such a building.
It's also understood that FEMA officials who have visited the territory over the years realized it was a problem to have ASDHS operations spreadout and not at one central location. For more than a year, ASDHS staff worked on the funding proposal to FEMA, and were finally successful last year, but not until the funding application went through much federal scrutiny.
While ASDHS’ main office — which includes OTICIDE — is in Fagatogo, the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office (TEMCO), and the Emergency Operations Center take up limited space at the Department of Public Safety building in Tafuna, next to the Office of Motor Vehicles (not to mention the limited parking area).
The Procurement Office issued on Dec. 4 the Request For Proposal (RFP) for the “Purchase of a Business Building for the American Samoa Government Department of Homeland Security” with a closing date of Dec. 18.
Samoa News wasn’t able to confirm as to the number of bidders who responded to the RFP, but it's understood that Haleck Enterprises, Inc. was the only bidder.
Asked for comments, Avamua Dave Haleck with Haleck Enterprises Inc., said the company submitted a proposal for the building known as Ottoville Center One located on the corner of Ottoville Road.
“I was requested to meet with the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) a few weeks later to answer questions. We are currently awaiting the outcome of our proposal, but indications are that the ASG Department of Homeland Security will complete the purchase process,” Avamua said.
Asked for confirmation if the Haleck building as well as the land is being purchased by the government, Avamua said, “I confirm that Haleck Enterprises, Inc. and the OVH Trust is selling the building and property to the American Samoa Government Department of Homeland Security.”
“I believe the building and property will be an excellent asset for ASG and fits very well with the Department of Homeland Security's requirements. The location is also very ideal and accessible,” he said.
The issue of a new home for ASDHS surfaced during yesterday’s Senate Public Safety/Homeland Security Committee confirmation hearing for ASDHS director Iuniasolua Tului Savusa, who was questioned by committee chairman Sen. Faletagoa’i I. Tuiolemotu about the current location of TEMCO.
Faletagoa’i said the DPS building in Tafuna is small, and provides limited space for officers to carry out their duties. He suggested that TEMCO be moved to another government site and allow the DPS building in Tafuna to be utilized by police officers.
Utuali’i acknowledged the concern, saying that the department is looking at being located by the end of the year at the Haleck building, which is being purchased to house all ASDHS offices, including TEMCO.
Outside of the Senate chamber following the hearing, Utuali’i was asked by reporters as to the status of purchasing the Haleck building. “We are close to finalizing the purchase for the building as well as the land, where the building is located,” he said and confirmed that FEMA is funding the project, but declined to reveal the total cost until agreement with the Haleck family is finalized and completed.
He also said that most of the occupants of this building will have their leases expire sometime this summer, while the lease with the Law Office of Roy J.D. Hall Jr. is due to expire in 2015 and therefore this law office will be the only one expected to remain on the premises.
Asked if he knows of anyone else that submitted a bid for this project besides the Haleck family, Utuali’i said this entire purchase process was carried out during the tenure of “Mr. Sala, who I would like to thank for his initiative and foresight” in securing funds from FEMA for this purchase.
Utuali’i also thanked FEMA for providing funds for this important project for American Samoa as well as thanking the “hard work” of ASDHS staff “who kept the focus to ensure that the deal comes to fruition — which we are almost there.”
He said the goal of this project is "to bring together everyone in our department under one roof to carry out the day to day services and duties” of the department.
Utuali'i's vision for ASDHS is “to ensure the safety of the government and the public” and working in close collaboration with other government entities and first responders to “maintain and secure our homeland,” he said.
“My focus is to help them, assist them — other departments and agencies — in any way I can,” he said and noted that the ASDHS’ Office of Vital Statistics will remain at its current location in Fagaalu until a later time.
According to Avamua, the Haleck land “is individually owned” and is 1.22 acres. The building footprint is 6,400 sq.ft. per floor for a total of 12,800 sq.ft. The site includes a large parking area with room for another building. Additionally, the Ottoville Center One is fully compliant with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.
Avamua also pointed out that the building construction was completed in August 2009 and FEMA occupied the building for almost two years after the September 2009 earthquake and tsunami. The National Park of American Samoa also occupied a portion of the building before moving to their permanent location in Pago Pago
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