Higher DPW budget shows decrease in road maintenance funds
Salaries for Public Works employees and funds to maintain the main roads were among the issues discussed during the budget hearing for Department of Public Works before lawmakers last week. Wednesday. According to their submission, the total DPW budget for FY2014 is around $500,000 less, although the number of employees has decreased, slightly.
The DPW FY 2014 budget is $5,172,500 while the FY2013 was $4,611,000. In FY2013, there were 248 employees, but for FY2014 there are 242 employees.
One of the issues raised during the hearing involved the $300,000 allocated for two backhoe machines to assist maintenance of the main road, a point with which Senator Leatualevao Asifoa did not agree. He noted there’s too much money allocated for the machines — which no doubt are useful — however he said this money could be used to cover the potholes on the roads.
He also noted the backhoes cannot be used as a tool to cover the potholes.
Tualauta faipule Florence Vaili Saulo asked Director Faleosina Voight why Public Works is allocating money for maintaining the roads yet the roads are still in bad condition, and are very critical in some areas.
According to the budget book for DPW, there's $590,500 for road maintenance which has been decreased from the FY2013 amount of $600,000. Vice Speaker I’aulualo Talia Faafeatai noted that another ongoing predicament is that not only the government but also individuals have reached into their own pockets to pay for loads of dirt to cover the potholes, yet during rainy days, all that covering is removed by the rain.
The DPW Director, in her reply, said DPW is looking at outsourcing maintenance, given that this is one of major costs for her department.
Senator Nuanuaolefeagaiga S. Nua asked Faleosina to conduct a visit with the Manu’a roads in Ta’u ma Fitiuta, given that some parts are damaged and in need of repair.
The Director responded that DPW understands the road problems yet they cannot do anything, given the shortage of funds to fix the roads.
She then asked the Senators to increase DPW’s budget with an additional $3million for Tutuila Island and $2million for Manu’a for repairs & maintenance of roads alone.
For DPW salaries, Rep Larry Sanitoa noted salaries for contract employees with DPW working in Manu’a are high yet longtime employees in Manu’a are still getting the same low salaries.
He pointed out that for the additional employees with the DPW office in Manu’a the salaries range from $32,000 to $40,000 for contract workers — yet employees who have been with DPW for more than 20 years are making $20,000, while maintenance crews are only making $9,000 annually.
He urged Faleosina to seriously consider those who are working at hard labor and yet making minimal salary, and that DPW should consider raising the salaries for these employees, given their long and dedicated service to the government.
Rep Maugaoali’i Leapai Sipa Anoa’i also noted that the DPW inspectors should also get raises in their salaries given the many responsibilities of that position.
Faleosina replied that this is one of the governor’s goals — to hike salaries of government employees.
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