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Senate inspects status of new Fono building still under construction

Senate tour of new fono building under construction

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Last Friday's Senate on-site visit comprised a tour of the new Fono building still under construction, as well as an explanation by Contractor Papali’i of the various features that will be a part of the new building. The DPW director was also on hand to answer any of the senator’s questions about the work in progress.

Continued delays to completing the new Fono building and its rising cost — from $10 million to the current $26+ million — has been a thorn in the side of the senators, with the latest hearing held in January of this year.

At the January 2024 hearing, the Senate grilled the DPW director, Chief Procurement Officer Ti'alemasunu Mikaele Etuale and Construction Manager/ Architect Mark Lively on why the Fono building is not completed yet and cited neglect of the project by ASG and the Construction/ Architect Manager.

The project began in Sept 2019 with a completion date set for Sept. 2021. Due to the COVIDE-19 pandemic, the unexpected delay set the project back by one year. However, the project has also had 8 change orders to date on record — three of them had been for time extensions and the rest were for payment of additional construction work.

The latest time extension has given the contractor, Paramount Builders Inc. until December 31, 2024 to finish the project. According to DPW director Voigt, the completion date for the main structure of the Fono building was June 28, 2024, but the completion date for the offices within (and the whole structure), was December 31, 2024.

Members of the Senate after their on-site visit of the construction site of the new Fono building last Friday. Pictured in the front row (l-r) Governor’s Liaison Vaeao Savali, Contractor Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa, Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, Sen. Satele Aliitai Lili’o, DPW Director Faleosina Voigt. Back rows include several other senators, as well as Fono staff that took the tour.  [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

Voigt said that liquidated damages would be applied if the project is not completed by December 31, 2024.

During the January hearing it also came to light that Lively is being paid $8,000 a month for construction management of the Fono project. Lively, who is based in Honolulu, said he makes a trip here monthly but his representative John Goeke is overseeing the Fono project.

During the hearing, the Senate Public Works Committee chairman advised Lively and PWD Director Voigt that they should be at the project site and on call 24/7 from now on until the project is finished in order to get it moving forward.

Local artist Reggie Meredith Fitiao showcasing to Senate members during their on-site visit last Friday, a sample of the siapo, she has been contracted to create and design, which will be used to decorate the new Fono chambers. Ms Meredith Fitiao is a well known local siapo artist, as well as a muralist and former art teacher at the American Samoa Community College. She continues to do projects with the college, while also working with the local museum. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

The Senate and House recently passed a bill that appropriates funding for new Fono office furnishings and equipment — for $1.5 million.