Fono expedites corrective action plan for FAA airport land use

Budget change for matching funds for FAA corrective plan basically approved
fili@samoanews.com

The Fono has expedited a request by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for an approved resolution to address part of American Samoa’s corrective action plan which allocates $2.5 million annually in an American Samoa Government subsidy for the airport following a US Federal Aviation Administration land use audit report of the Pago Pago International Airport two years ago.

The draft resolution was submitted by the governor on Aug. 31st to the Fono leaders, saying that in order to satisfy the condition of the FAA land use audit finding issued in December 2014, a correction action plan was necessary to address the findings cited in the report.

As previously reported by Samoa News the land use audit of Pago Pago International Airport found that 325 acres of land included in the original airport layout plan from 1973 have been converted to non-airport use — covering the areas such as the Tafuna Industrial Park, Tafuna government housing and government lands starting at the American Samoa Power Authority compound in Tafuna and continuing all the way to the Veterans Memorial Stadium.

In order to bring ASG into compliance with the corrective action plan, “It is necessary to submit a land use change request formally seeking release of the land use restrictions on the 325 acres of non-compliant lands, accompanied by a Resolution confirming that ASG will agree to fund and subsidize operations of Pago Pago International Airport in the amount of $2.5 million per year for a period of 10-years,” according to the Senate Concurrent Resolution which was introduced Monday in the Senate and approved the same day before it was transmitted to the House where it was approved yesterday.

Under the Resolution, the Fono commits to providing the annual $2.5 million in subsidy to the airport beginning in FY 2017 through FY 2026. Additionally, the amount of the subsidy in excess of the amount necessary to fund the operational expenses of the airport, for any given year, is to be placed in an earmarked account, and subject to further appropriation for airport purposes in each succeeding fiscal year.

According to government’s corrective action plan to the FAA, the ASG requested the “release” of the 325 acres from the airport, saying that ASG would pay an annual subsidy to the airport “of up to $2.5 million” through direct appropriation from the Legislature as well as earmarks from the hotel tax, clearance fee and other revenue measures enacted into law to support the airport. (See Samoa News edition Aug. 29th for details).

The Fono’s passage of the Resolution comes at the same time that Ron V. Simpson manager of the FAA Honolulu Airports District Office is in the territory for several meetings. Simpson, who arrived Monday night, dealt with ASG on the corrective action plan since 2014.

Samoa News understands Simpson met yesterday morning with Airport management on a number of airport projects to be funded by FAA. He is also to meet this week with the Office of Disaster Assistance & Petroleum Management, the governor and the American Samoa Economic Development Authority board.

Among the issues to be discussed between Simpson and local officials, is the multi million airport jet fuel tank to be funded by the FAA and the airport land use audit.

LOCAL MATCHING FUNDS FOR FAA PROJECTS

In the meantime, The Fono Joint Budget Committee has agreed to include in the proposal fiscal year 2017 budget a new change submitted by the Lolo Administration for local match of $2 million after American Samoa was informed that the Federal Aviation Administration would fund two airport projects. Gov. Lolo made the request in his Sept. 9th letter to the Fono leaders (see story in yesterday’s issue.)

The local match is to be funded with $2 million of additional revenues that will be generated with the implementation of the Rapi-Scan project at the territory’s port of entries.

The Administration bill to implement the Rapi-Scan project, that will charge vendors for scanner incoming products, is pending in committees at both the Senate and House.

In discussion, each chamber reviewed the request — both have questions about the Rapi-Scan project but neither is opposed to the matching funds change to the FY 2017 budge the governor is requesting.

In particular, there is concern of the impact the new scanner charges would have on the community, and more discussion is being sought. For example, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i pointed to the fee of $75 per vehicle or heavy equipment and said that’s a lot of money for a family to pay for X-ray of their vehicle; adding that maybe there is a chance of reducing the fees for use of the X-ray machines.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie told senators that what’s important is that senators are not opposed to the matching funds, and the Rapi-Scan bill remains in committee for a hearing, where senators can question the fees proposed in the bill.

A motion was introduced to add the matching fund to the FY 2017 and it was agreed upon. The joint budget committee co-chairs are working to finalize the language of the budget bill, which is to be presented this morning when the committee convenes for its decision

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