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DPS wants new motorcycles but there isn't enough money to buy them

Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson and Deputy Treasurer Tina Vaa appeared before the House Budget and Appropriations Committee yesterday to testify on a bill to buy new motorcycles for DPS.  [photo: AF]
Commissioner Le'i wants 4, but the House bill notes 11

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The House Budget and Appropriations Committee is awaiting financial reports from the ASG Treasury Department before they make a decision on two House bills that were discussed during a hearing yesterday morning.

One House bill appropriates $198,621 to fund the local share of the cost of purchasing eleven 2018 Harley-Davidson police motorcycles, and the other is a bill repealing a 2003 law in which the government loaned $5 million to the LBJ Medical Center. (See separate story)

Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson and Deputy Treasurer Tina Va’a were the only witnesses who turned up for the hearing, chaired by committee chairman, Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi.

It was revealed during the hearing by the deputy treasurer that there isn't enough money in the “ASG —Traffic Rehabilitation Account” into which law enforcement cost offsets of $10 per traffic conviction are deposited, to buy new motorcycles for DPS.

The cost of the model year 2018 Harley-Davidson police motorcycles amount to $27,946 per unit. The total federal share will be $111,784, funded by grants through the Office of Highway Safety. The local share will be $198,621.

Va’a told the committee that based on the House bill, ASG needs over $190,000 to fund 11 new motorcycles; but the truth is, “there's a little over $103,000 left in the ASG-Traffic Rehabilitation account”. That means, ASG has to use money from the General Fund to fill-in the total amount needed.

Le’i told lawmakers these are the same figures that were provided to him by his finance staff, which also informed him that there is enough money in the account to purchase 4 new motorcycles for DPS.

Vailiama interjected telling Le’i that according to the version of the House bill in front of him, DPS is asking for 11 new motorcycles, not 4. He said the committee is confused as to the right number of motorcycles DPS wants to buy.

Le’i explained that DPS only asked for 4 motorcycles — $27,946 per unit — at a total of a little over $111,000.

He promised the committee that he will bring with him a copy of the report that was provided by his staff when he shows up for another hearing this morning, for which he’s also subpoenaed to testify.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale said it’s hard for the committee to reach a solution because what they have in front of them conflicts with what Va'a and Le'i are saying.

He said he fully supports the bill because DPS needs to have more equipment like vehicles and motorcycles in order for them to serve the community.

Several representatives praised Le’i for the improvement in police services not only on the road but also in the community.

Vice Speaker Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr. said one of the things he sees every morning when he heads to work is the presence of police officers and units on the public highway. A former cop, Fetu said when people see police on the side of the road, that’s when they start to comply with traffic rules, including following the speed limit and buckling up.

Fetu asked Le’i to consider a promotion and pay raise for police in Manu’a, and also a fire truck.