DPS to get repairs not demolition
It's been a month since a small fire broke out on the second floor of the Dept. of Public Safety's main building in Fagatogo and now work is being carried out to repair the area that was damaged by the blaze.
The structure, along with the two small buildings to the east of it (the old jail, which now houses the DPS records office; and the former Naval station bakery, the former home of the DPS Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program), are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
The designation, according to American Samoa Historic Preservation Officer David Herdrich, means steps are taken to ensure that the historical character of the building is preserved. Any building that is listed on the National Register, or considered to be eligible, "is protected in the sense that if federal funds are used to do anything to it, then it's required that the federal agency make a determination whether or not the building will be adversely affected by that work."
When contacted for an explanation yesterday, Herdrich said the original DPS building had a balcony on the front, which is the same area that is being torn down (see photo).
Herdrich said the wall isn't original so it is possible to demolish that section of the building and rebuild it to either mirror what it originally looked like, or how it was prior to the fire.
The rest of the building however, cannot be torn down. It is protected under federal law.
"They could do work, but they cannot change the historical character of the building," Herdrich reiterated.He explained that being listed on the National Register of Historic Sites doesn't necessarily mean a building cannot be demolished. There are instances where — if the building is not salvageable and the damage is beyond repair — the building can be torn down, under federal law, but a Memorandum of Agreement has to be in effect, detailing mitigations and data including photographs, measured drawings, and other information.
"But the DPS building isn't in that type of 'unsalvageable' state — yet," said Herdrich. "There is damage to the second floor and there are other repair issues involved."
Samoa News understands that there have been suggestions to restore the building to the way it looked when it was first constructed.
In the meantime, the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office is looking for funds to help get the job done.
As for DPS operations, cars that are impounded are being stored at the DPS east substation in Faga'itua and the rest of the workforce is being housed at the Lumana'i building — first and second floor. Others are working out of the DPS west substation in Tafuna.