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COMMERCE COMMISSION NOMINATIONS REJECTED BY SENATE

The Senate yesterday rejected all three nominations to the government’s Commerce Commission, charged with overseeing public transportation, such as taxis and aiga buses.

Local law states the commission is to consist of the Commerce Department director and four members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Of the appointed members, one member each is from the Eastern, Western and Manu’a districts. The commission elects their own chairman at its first meeting each year.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono recently nominated three members for each of the districts and they are Vaiausia E. Yandall, Fa’alae Tunupopo and Foinu’u Folauo’o. In his nomination letter to the Senate President, the governor said all of the men have lengthy records of service to their families, community and government.

For example, Tunupopo and Vaiausia are former House members and have “institutional experience with commerce transportation issues” while Folauo’o “has experience in both public and private sector as an investigator”.

“I believe that all three of these men have experience that will benefit and be an asset to the Commerce Commission,” the governor wrote.

“Furthermore, all these men possess the requisite knowledge and understanding of the laws related to commercial carriers and the functions of the Commission in regulating and supervising commercial carriers and ensuring  the safety of those who depend on public transportation in American Samoa,” he said.

The nominees appeared yesterday morning for a 30-minute confirmation hearing before a Senate committee followed by a final vote during the Senate session, but all three nominees failed to muster a majority support of the votes to be confirmed.

Vaiausia and Tunupopo each received 7 yeas and 9 nays while Folauo’o got 4 yeas and 12 nays.

The governor has the option of reappointing the same individuals or submitting new names for Senate confirmation. The fourth appointed member to the commission is someone from the business sector.

TWO GOVERNMENT LAND LEASES SENT TO FONO FOR APPROVAL

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has submitted for Fono endorsement two leases of government properties. One lease is with Martin Anderson and his corporation for a piece of government property at Pago Park. The governor says this lease was executed by the parties and recorded in March 2004 and the tenants have occupied the land since that time.

However, he said the current lease, which was originally for less than 10 years is set to expire on Dec. 29, 2012.

The second lease is for Pritchard Airport Service for a warehouse, hangar and open space at the Pago Pago International Airport. The current lease, which expires Jan. 27, 2013, was duly executed in 2005.

Earlier this year, both lessees informed the governor’s office of their wishes to exercise the options they were granted in the lease to extend the length for 30 additional years, which requires legislative approval, he said.

The two leases went through first reading in the Senate yesterday while the House versions are expected to be introduced soon.

Local law states that any ASG lease of 10 years or more is subject to legislative “disapproval” — which means endorsement or approval of the Fono — within 30 days after being submitted to the Legislature.

GROUND BREAKING FOR AIRPORT ROAD PROJECT

Calling it “good news”, Rep. Larry Sanitoa announced at yesterday’s House session that the official ground breaking ceremony for Phase II of the Airport Road Reconstruction Project is set for 10 a.m. today around the area close to the road in Fagaima.

“This is good news” for all motorists who travel this road, that the second phase is now moving forward, said Sanitoa.

The Procurement Office issued a letter of award on Aug. 23 toLake Elsinore, Calif. based Whitehorn Construction, who submitted a bid of $7.99 million. The other bidder was McConnell Dowell with a bid of $11.03 million.

Ground breaking, which will be attended by ASG officials including the governor, comes two weeks after a legal review of Whitehorn’s performance bond. The company is scheduled to mobilize its crew after the ground breaking but when the reconstruction work actually starts should be known at today’s ceremony.



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