FONO CONFIRMS NEWEST MEMBER OF ASPA BOARD
The American Samoa Power Authority board now has a full membership of five after the Senate yesterday, in a unanimous 14-0 vote, approved Solip Hong as the newest member. The House gave its endorsement on Monday.
Prior to the Senate vote, the Senate ASPA Committee, chaired by Sen. Tuiasina S. Esera, held a confirmation hearing earlier in the day where senators praised the governor’s nominee for his background in finance and his decision to accept the nomination to serve on the board.
As in the House hearing, senators also noted Hong’s parents, who own K.S. Mart Inc., where the nominee is employed as operations manager, have served the community for many years.
Other remarks during the hearing:
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega recommending that the board and management look at putting other services out to the private sector, as it has done for some of its solid waste collection and fuel supply. He also recommended the board look at setting up an apprenticeship program to help others who want to get into the utility business or work at ASPA.
Sen. Nua Saoluaga requested the board and management look at extending the debit meter service to the Manu’a island group where residents want this service — currently available to Tutuila residents. He added ASPA should move forward with having solar panels installed in the island group as an alternative energy source.
Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao recommended the board revisit its solid waste policy, in which every electric meter is charged a solid waste fee, including electric meters that run only an air condition unit. He noted, “I don’t think this is a good policy, to charge solid waste on a meter set up for an air condition only.”
DPS ASSURES CONTINUED AFTER SCHOOL PATROLS IN TAFUNA & NU’UULI
In reply to Rep. Larry Sanitoa’s request for an update of whether or not DPS is still conducting after-school patrols, Chief of Police, Vaimauga Maiava, yeesterday, contacted Sanitoa with a confirmation, saying “yes, we are having officers patrol the airport road after school, in front of CBT, Island Image, [and] NAPA to prevent these incidents. I will also be there to help with the patrolling of these areas.”
(Around 3:15 p.m. Monday, Samoa News witnessed two police units patrolling the airport road, which was crowded with high schools students heading home.)
This week, Rep. Florence Saulo appealed to the Police Commissioner to assign police officers to the Airport Road area following three consecutive days of student fights on the road last week. Saulo raised the same issue during last week’s budget hearing for the Department of Public Safety.
Rep. Sanitoa contacted Maiava earlier this week to inform him that he had spoken with a police officer two weeks ago about having cops patrol the airport road area after school, and was assured by the officer that DPS is still patrolling the airport road during after school hours.
“As you know, this is not a new problem as former Rep. Galu Satele and I held several meetings with DPS officials in the past about this issue,” he said. “In the past, aside from residents and motorists, several businesses on the Airport Road have called to complain about kids fighting and throwing rocks.” Last year, according to Sanitoa, he and Satele even solicited assistance from village chiefs to help out.
FONO ENDORSES FINAL VERSION OF FY 2014 BUDGET
In a unanimous 14-0 vote, the Senate yesterday approved the House version of the government’s $456.3 million budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, 2013.
After the approval, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie announced that a communique will be sent to the House for their version of the budget bill to be transmitted to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for review and approval.
The bill includes the $985,000 cut by lawmakers from the budget of the Governor’s Office and seven projects under the Special Program budget category, which was reallocated to the Fono’s FY 2014 budget — increasing it from $6.70 million to $7.69 million. The Fono’s budget is fully funded by local revenues.
Funding source for FY 2014 includes $95.03 million in local revenues; $23.02 million in Interior Department grant-in-aid; $10.04 million in Capital Improvement Projects; $106.08 million in Special Federal Grants; and $222.11 million from the Enterprise Fund.
SENATE APPROVES MEASURE TO EXTEND SESSION DAYS
The Senate yesterday approved in a 14-0 vote its version of a measure that seeks to increase the number of session days from 45 to 60 days. The Senate version now goes to the House, which has its own version pending in committee.
The 14 “yes” votes, or two-thirds of the Senate, is required to approve this proposed amendment to the American Samoa Constitution.
With the current 2nd Regular Session set to end tomorrow, the House is not expected to make a final decision on either the Senate or House versions of the measure until lawmakers return in January.
MANU’A AND SWAINS TRANSPORTATION GET FY 2014 FUNDING
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has moved to ensure sufficient funding is included in the fiscal year 2014 budget to cover costs for the MV Sili sailings to Manu’a as well as Swains Islands.
For Manu’a the administration has allocated $350,000 in FY 2014, which is a lot more than previous years. The governor said it can no longer be the practice of the government to ignore the needs of Manu’a residents, who are “entitled to the same quality of services taken for granted” by American Samoans living on Tutuila and Aunu’u.
Accordingly, these funds will finance voyages by the MV Sili to Manu’a, he said.
“With increased social and economic activities planned for the Manu’a islands, it might be necessary during the year to add more funds to accommodate additional trips by the MV Sili,” said Lolo, whose administration has moved to redevelop the island group starting with the establishment of all ASG offices there.
For Swains, its transportation fund is $50,000 and the governor says American Samoans living on the atoll should expect transportation services to and from their place of residence.
The funding allocation is to defray costs of the MV Sili’s voyage to Swains at least on a quarterly basis, or as necessary to accommodate the needs of Swains Islanders.