National Register of Historic Places — KVZK building — is rat infested
The government-owned KVZK-TV building in Utulei underwent major restoration for its first floor and now, a year later, complaints are surfacing about the condition of the rat-infested second floor that features a note from the Department of Health — posted on the door — forbidding anyone from entering that part of the building.
The KVZK-TV building is unique, in that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and because of its designation as a historic site, the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO) has taken a special interest and stepped in to conduct restoration work — and seek funding.
In response to Samoa News inquiries, Historic Preservation Officer David Herdrich explained that the ASHPO cannot use funds to maintain the building; and the rat infestation — in his opinion — is a maintenance problem.
He said that part of the ASHPO five-year plan is to seek funding to remodel the second floor of the KVZK-TV building and the task is difficult, as such a major restoration would be very expensive.
"The KVZK-TV building only falls under our office because of its status as a historical site," Herdrich clarified. He added that the restoration of the first floor was carried out after an assessment of the building — coupled with consultation with an architect — revealed that it was salvageable.
"We are still looking for money to fix-up the second floor," he continued.
According to Herdrich, their office was charged with conducting an assessment of the building and the funding that was secured to restore the first floor was based on the recommendation from that assessment.
Local company Designer Plus, owned by Epenesa Jennings, conducted an assessment of the building and according to an initial interview with Herdrich, restoring the building is possible, at a price tag of about $2.7 million.
He said, at the time, that the estimated cost to completely demolish the structure and build a new one would amount to $4.5 million so obviously, it's much cheaper to restore it.
Yesterday, Herdrich revealed that their architect has recommended to disconnect electricity on the second floor because faulty wiring poses a hazard.
Samoa News efforts to contact Office of Public Information (OPI) director Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde yesterday were unsuccessful as of press time.
Two years ago, local company Designer Plus submitted a draft assessment to the American Samoa Historical Preservation Office (ASHPO), saying the KVZK-TV building was salvageable.
The assessment had to be carried out to determine if the building was structurally sound.
Prior to the restoration project, everything on the building was original except for roof, which was replaced by FEMA following one of the hurricanes.
The interior of the building was gutted while the outside was fully restored to preserve its original look.
KVZK-TV was the first television station in the Pacific Islands outside of Australia and New Zealand during a time when it was hard to recruit qualified teachers to work in the territory.
H. Rex Lee, who was governor at the time, brought educational television here and with the support of Ohio Congressman Michael J. Kirwan, KVZK-TV became a reality. (The official name of the KVZK-TV building is the Michael J. Kirwan Educational Television Center).
In an initial interview with Samoa News, Herdrich said the state of the TV station was a result of many years of neglect.
Two years ago, KVZK-TV celebrated its 50th year anniversary.
Right now, the second floor of the KVZK building is still condemned for office use and this has been the case since August 20.
KVZK-TV’s second floor continues to be a health hazard, despite major restoration on the first floor. Funding to ‘restore’ the second floor is still being sought by the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO). [Courtesy photo]