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Fono in Review

REMAINING ASPA BUDGET FOR FY 2013 APPROVEDThe House yesterday approved in a unanimous vote the Senate version of an administration bill seeking $86.59 million to cover the last nine months of the current fiscal year for the American Samoa Power Authority.The bill was then returned back to the Senate to be enrolled in the Fono journal before being transmitted to the governor late yesterday afternoon for his review and approval. The House version of the bill was yesterday approved in second reading in the Senate. Of the total $86.59 million in the budget bill, $43.93 million goes to the electric division; $7.51 million to water division; $5.77 million for wastewater division; $3.55 million for Solid waste (trash collection); and $25.81 million for fuel marketing division. Meanwhile, ASPA officials have been called to appear at 11a.m. next Tuesday before the House ASPA Committee to discuss the standby generators at the Tafuna airport. The hearing follows complaints on the House floor this week about the power outage at the airport last week which caused the runway lights to malfunction.For the planned hearing, House Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Timusa Tini C. Lam Yuen has requested ASPA to bring a financial report dealing with the fuel division. He says the numbers in the budget for fuel usage continue to go up and not down. CONCERNS OVER SAFETY HAZARDS OF OVERGROWN TREESRep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen wants the appropriate House committee to look into safety hazards posed by overgrown trees on the path between Afono and Aua. Faimealelei said some of the tree branches are too low and hang over the road, causing a hazard for passing vehicles, especially school buses transporting students to and from Aua Elementary School. Faimealelei said he voiced the same concerns to the Department of Public Works and the American Samoa Power Authority during the previous legislature but no action was taken. “It’s not just one tree, but many trees,” he said, adding that perhaps an accident needs to happen before the issue is addressed. Public Works director Faleosina Faiai Voigt told senators last week that Public Works does not have the equipment to carry out these types of jobs and the only two agencies that can do so are ASPA and ASTCA.Rep. Fatulegae’e Mauga said the same problem exists in Vatia, as well as Aoa, where he says trees are higher than telephone poles.Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works, Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava said sometimes people need to “help the government” with things that need to be done. Nonetheless, he will relay the concerns to the Department of Public Works.HOUSE RESOLUTION ASKS GOV TO DIRECT DPW FOCUS ON AOLOAU & AASU ROADSA House resolution requesting Gov. Lolo M. Moliga to direct the acting director of Public Works to provide an assessment or prepare a feasibility study of the roads, both public highways as well as village access, for the Leasina and Aitulagi Districts, particularly the roads into in the villages of Aoloau and Aasu, went through first reading in the House of Representatives Wednesday morning.The resolution urges the Public Works director to work in conjunction with federal departments and agencies to provide relief for the poor road conditions in these areas.The resolution was introduced by Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Public Works and Parks and Recreation.According to the resolution, “the main roads leading to the mountain villages of Aoloau and Aasu, as well as the low-lying areas of Malaeloa in the Leasina and Aitulagi Districts, continue to endure deplorable conditions, many times worse than those seen in other areas of the island.”The resolution states that residents of the district agree that during the distribution of funds and the development of the infrastructure, their roads are the ‘forgotten’ paths, despite being an area frequently visited by tourists and people of the territory wanting to take in the beautiful views from atop the mountain.“Most important to the need for repair of these roads is the designation of Aoloau and Aasu as a safe-zone for residents seeking refuge from threats of tsunamis and times of danger,” the resolution states. “When the territory is alerted of the threat of a tsunami, the entire Tualauta district, as well as neighboring ones, hurry to the mountain and the Leasina and Aitulagi District is inundated with those seeking safety.”The resolution notes that the mountain villages receive the highest recorded rainfall per year of any other area in the territory, and roads are easily damaged and repair and maintenance have to be performed regularly. “The conditions are so poor that many cars have had to create their own paths around the damaged roads. There are also no sidewalks along the main roads so residents are forced to walk on the road. This creates a serious hazard and endangers the lives of adults and especially children who walk to and from school every day.”The resolution says it is “prudent for the Department of Public Works to give serious attention to the road conditions in Leasina and Aitulagi district and it would be wise to prepare a study for a long-term solution as well as working together with federal counterparts to see that the needs of the district are met.”Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava has set a hearing for next Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 8:30 a.m. so DPW officials can appear to answer questions regarding the resolution.HOUSE RESOLUTION CALLS FOR PURCHASE OF PASSENGER VESSEL FOR AUNU’UA House resolution calling for the governor to direct the Director of Port Administration to prepare a comprehensive analysis and provide recommendations for the purchase of a government owned and operated passenger sea vessel to travel between Aunu’u and Tutuila went through first reading in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.The resolution, introduced by Saole Rep. Talaimatai Elisara Su’a, notes that more than 300 people reside in Aunuu and travel daily to Tutuila for work, school, business, and to run errands. It is estimated that on any given day, more than 90% of Aunuu residents travel to Tutuila for official and personal business.“For years and up to this day, the only mode of transportation available to the residents of Aunuu are two retrofitted alia or small fishing boats that carry people back and forth. These boats are used to not only carry passengers but also to transport cargo, supplies, and goods for families and businesses in Aunuu,” the resolution states. “A common problem for residents is when one or both of the alia are not available due to damage or if they are being used for fishing by its owners. This leaves students, workers, and a number of travelers stranded until relief arrives.”The resolution states that at times, the strict limitations placed on the maximum number of passengers permitted on the alia are quietly ignored by Aunuu residents. On occasion, the amount of cargo allowed on each trip often times exceed weight limitations. “The temptation to break the law is hard to resist, especially when circumstances require residents’ immediate travel, but it has become a necessary defiance by the people,” says the resolution.“There is a great need for a permanent solution to the transportation woes of Aunuu. The most reasonable answer is to secure a larger boat for residents to travel not only from Aunuu to Auasi but also to travel farther distances like from Aunuu to the main docks in Fagatogo.”“…The proper and most efficient type of vessel needed for transportation to and from Aunuu would be an aluminum-hull that can hold at least twenty passengers and cargo during each trip. This is unlike vessels to Manu’a which must travel the high seas and require double-hull steel vessels to safely make the journey.”The resolution says “it would be beneficial for both the government and the residents of Aunuu to secure a passenger vessel that can carry a much larger number of passengers than the alia which currently do not meet the transportation needs of the island.”