ASPA dedicates its new Operations Center building
The American Samoa Power Authority’s new $4.6 million Operations Center building at its Tafuna compound is designed to be LEED platinum rating certified, using renewable energy, and ASPA executive director, Utu Abe Malae says ASPA hopes to get the certification soon, making it the second LEED platinum building in American Samoa.
The dedication ceremony last Friday morning was attended by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, First Lady Cynthia Malala Moliga, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga T. Asuega, some lawmakers, Pulu Ae Ae Jr, who represented Congresswoman Aumua Amata, traditional leaders and cabinet members.
ASPA CEO OVERVIEW
The ASPA CEO said local construction company, Paramount Builders Inc., was the general contractor, while Honolulu-based Lively & Associates came up with the architectural and design work.
The art work was done by local artist Reggie Meredith.
(In brief remarks during the program, Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa thanked Lolo and Utu for supporting local contractors such as Paramount for these types of projects. He said Utu raised the bar with this work and helped in moving the project forward to a successful completion. Lolo later told the audience that “behind every successful story, there are people who push the wheel-barrow and swing the hammer to bring out that success.”)
The new building, for which the US Federal Emergency Management Agency provided $3.73 million in funding while ASPA provided $873,000, replaces the one in Satala that was destroyed by the Sept. 29, 2009 tsunami.
Utu thanked Lolo for the support in moving this project forward and also credited former Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who spearheaded this project, as well as the new Satala Power Plant commissioned last month.
For the general contractor, Utu said Paramount Builders “figuratively, or metaphorically and literally did all the heavy lifting.”
“So this is a very interesting project — from the design, construction, the art work, the theme, the landscaping, the conservation and recovery of resources such as surface water, the PV roof panels, the computer design roof line — that does not follow conventional reef lines, so it's a bit difficult at times for the contractor to try to make this into a reality.” Utu said.
He said the ASPA structure will be the second platinum certified LEED building in the territory (they are hoping to get certification in a couple of months) — with the first being the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency building in Utulei.
A certified LEED platinum building “means it meets the highest criteria for an energy efficient building. That means, net-zero energy, all the energy for this building will be produced from the building itself,” he explained and said the building uses a renewable energy solar panel PV system, and collects rain water — or rain water harvesting — which means “we collect the water from the roof and use it for landscaping and to flush the commodes.”
With the new building, “the challenge for us [now] is behavior modification,” said Utu to some laughter from the audience, which included representatives of companies who played a role in the project, such as Lively & Associates and its subcontractor, Lyons Associates.
“We’re always trying to work on behavior modification. What does that require? We move into this building, you have to change the way you behave,” he said. “It’s not the same old, same old. You cannot be drinking coffee walking around the rooms on top of a carpet. This is a tropical area. Humidity is high.”
“Once any kind of nutrient, etc. — food, drinks — falls on that carpet, then all the little tiny critters attack and start growing. Pretty soon, the place will look a mess and will smell bad. We have to change the behavior. so that’s just an example,” he said.
(Before those who attended the dedication ceremony were given a chance to tour the building, everyone was told to remove their shoes and leave them outside before entering the facility. Based on what Samoa News observed — everyone did just that.)
“We also realize that another lesson learned is that government cannot do everything for us. We have to work together — private sector, government, our own people — we have to do things ourselves,” Utu said.
For example, during the course of the project, ASPA ran “into a deficit... or a shortage of cash. And we had to pitch in, try to figure out a way to make this project happen,” he said.
“One time the project just came to a complete stop,” the ASPA CEO said but didn’t elaborate further.
Samoa News last summer reported that ASPA issued a stop order on the building, as FEMA sought clarification on several issues relating to the building's cost and construction. Utu told Samoa News at the time that “when new grantor representatives take over from previous ones, we have to re-justify decisions that were made. Fortunately, we are able to retrieve the cogent reasons for those decisions.” Until the issues have been clarified, FEMA is declining to process drawdowns for the building.
At Friday’s dedication ceremony, Utu spoke about the importance of technology, saying that “it's not just one technology, [but] many technologies — the electricity, the water, the waste water system, the sanitation — all of these are connected and linked to ICT, information and control technology.”
He said that the new building has “controls that allow you to look up at the monitor and it will tell you — how we’re doing, are we doing well or not doing so well.”
Utu thanked the many people involved in getting the project completed.
GOVERNOR’S SPECIAL REMARKS
ASPA operations in the past years have taken a series of “successful steps,” taking the territory to the next level of service to the public, said Gov. Lolo during his special remarks.
Lolo started his remarks by quoting Mark Twain, who defined the word “success” as “a series of successful steps in life” and “every time we take a step forward, it is taking a step towards success.”
“What we have seen in the operation of ASPA in the last many years, is a series of successful steps that take our country to the next level of service,” Lolo said, crediting the leadership of Utu, board chairman Fonoti Perelini Perelini, and the ASPA board.
First Lady Cynthia Malala Moliga was given the honor of cutting the ribbon.
Lolo expressed appreciation to ASPA’s staff for their hard work, saying that he is pretty sure there will be more successes in the future for ASPA.
He thanked the board, saying, “I know many times I have taken you beyond your capacity to perform. I have crossed the line in terms of responsibilities. Many times my expectations are unreal.”
One recent major accomplishment cited by the governor, is renewable energy projects for the Manu’a islands. Lolo asked the board to “push forward with our agenda that within the next three to four years, [or] five to six years [at] the most” Tutuila island will be at least 80% powered by renewable energy.
“That’s the challenge I have given Fonoti and the board to work towards,” Lolo told the audience “I know there are a lot of setbacks, sometimes they are unreal, but the bottom line is to take our country to where our people can live happily in the future.”
The governor shared that many times he has talked Utu into helping with other areas of government and “sometimes I take Utu out of his core responsibility with the board, just to find help in other areas of government" and Utu never says “no”.
“Every time I ask Utu to help, he will step up to help. So I ask the board to understand; where we come in, we share and we collaborate in this government to make sure we get the best service for our people,” he said.
ASPA BOARD CHAIR
Responding to the governor’s challenge for renewable energy for Tutuila island, Fonoti said he believes Lolo has made the challenge at least three times; and noted that ASPA has completed Manu’a and it's now Tutuila’s turn.
Besides Fonoti, other board members present were Isabel Hudson and Solip Hong. The other two board members are off island.
The new building will house Utu’s office, accounting, procurement, purchasing and customer service, according to Fonoti, who added that the ASPA office at Pago Plaza will remain open to serve residents on the east side of Tutuila.