Rep. Sanitoa voices concerns about Army shooting range in Tafuna
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US Army’s plans to build a Modular Small Arms Range (MSAR) facility in Tafuna continues to raise questions regarding safety and security. And these concerns have prompted Tualauta Rep. Larry Sanitoa to call for a House committee hearing to obtain more information on the project.
Last year the US Army held a couple of community forums at the US Army Reserve Center in Tafuna. Two more forums are scheduled for this month — Sunday, Jan 28 and Monday, Jan. 29 — from 1:30pm to 3:30 p.m — also at the Army Reserve Center.
Jon Lee, Command Executive Officer and staff of the 9th Mission Support Command of the Army Reserve based in Fort Shafter, Hawai’i will be on island for the forums, during which the public will be informed of the reason behind the MSAR facility, and to collaborate on issues as well as address safety concerns, according to a brief Army statement.
During Tuesday’s House session, Sanitoa brought to his colleagues' attention the shooting range facility, which he says is being built between Tafuna HS and South Pacific Academy.
“While the building is almost completed, there have been numerous concerns expressed by parents, teachers, and especially students regarding the safety and security of this project,” Sanitoa told Samoa News after the House session.
“It is my strong belief that it is critically important for House members to understand what precautionary and safety measures the Army Reserve have taken to prevent any unfortunate accidents or incidents due to the location of this building,” he said.
It’s “very difficult to comprehend that given all available areas around the Army Reserve properties, why a decision was made to build the shooting range right next to two populated schools.”
Aside from safety measures, Sanitoa said, “we need to question the approval process” by the ASG Project Notification and Review System (PNRS) “on how such a project was able to pass through the system without due process in requesting a feasibility study on whether this was the best site for the shooting range."
(Samoa News should point out that the PNRS board usually advises that its only focus is on the environmental impact of buildings or activities or projects such as a shooting range — all else is not within their purview. On the other hand, it is the Zoning Board that should handle such issues as feasibility-safety-location issues.)
There was no immediate word on when a House hearing will be held.
According to the US Army, the MSAR — an indoor shooting range — is a 360 degree enclosed shooting bay that will meet federal safety and environmental requirements. The facility will support weapon skills training to promote combat readiness for all Army Reserve soldiers in American Samoa and may be utilized by ASG agencies under the Army Reserve’s supervision.
For more information on the forums, contact Army Reserve Maj. Ulisses Taymes at 699-9384 or 254-0888 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org