A sizeable gathering of dignitaries from Government, the Legislature, Judiciary and private sector met at Malaeoletalu in Fagatogo to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fale Fono. As the group of luminaries arrived, the inspirational sound of the Fagatogo CCCAS Choir filled the malae with serene choral music.
The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Honorable Speaker of the House Savali Talavou Ale who talked about the history and the venerated leaders of past who had established the Fono.
In delivering the invocation for the day, Reverend Iasepi Ulu of the CCCAS Fagatogo Church spoke about the need for courage, vision and especially faith in God by the local leaders to embrace the construction of a new Fono Building for future legislative resolutions.
Following a hymn from the Fagatogo CCCAS Choir, Director of the Department of Public Works provided a description of the proposed building. Director Voight expressed her appreciation to the local leaders who supported and pushed for the new building. She explained that the project would be completed in three phases:
Razing of old building in July 2017, with soil investigation for stability indicating needed additional design by Professional Engineers which resulted in;
soil remediation remedies, and the final phase;
the construction of the new Fono Building.
The project was designed by Mark Lively of Lively Architects who has designed may local buildings such as the ASPA Administration Building, Bank of Hawaii in Tafuna, the Centennial Building and the Haleck Building that hosts Argosy University. Technical Engineer for the project was Robert Thomas who has also worked on many local projects providing soil reports. The contracts for the three phases were awarded to Paramount Builders, owned by HC Papalii Laulii Alofa, with 24 month’s duration for the rest of the work to be completed.
Honorable Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga next approached the podium for his Special Remarks. Governor Lolo began by stating that the important day was evidence of the grace of God for American Samoa. Governor Lolo talked about the local leader’s dreams to realize the construction of the new Fono building. He acknowledged the presence of former Governor Togiola Tulafono who was in attendance with former First Lady Maryann Tulafono. Governor Lolo also expressed appreciation that Director of the Office of Insular Affairs, DOI Nikolao Pula, a local son, was able to attend the important event. Governor Lolo spoke about leaders who were present when the previous Fono Building was constructed, specifically acknowledging the presence of former Senators Aumoealogo Te’o Fuavai and Tuaolo Manaia Fruen. He thanked the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and members of both houses commenting that this was an enormous task but with their support the new construction is underway. Governor Lolo detailed that the project will proceed in phases with the main Fono Chambers constructed first, followed by offices
and quarters for the Senators and the members of the House of Representatives. The Governor stressed that through working together each phase of the project will be funded until completion. He detailed some of the sources for this funding through local funds and from the Federal government which will enable the flow of work to continue for which he expressed thanks to the Department of Interior in that regard. Governor Lolo wrapped up his comments by stating that it is important to “do what we can, while we can” for the Territory adding “there is nothing that we cannot do with the help of God.” He thanked all in attendance and conveyed well wishes for the elderly and all residents of American Samoa.
Governor Lolo called upon Director of the Office of Insular Affairs - Department of the Interior Nikolao Pula to detail his visit and discuss the grant awards from the Department of the Interior for the Territory. Director Pula thanked the Governor for the impromptu opportunity and described his participation in the National Coral Reef Task Force meeting which brought experts from States and Territories together in American Samoa. He then spoke about the grant funds for the Territory given to LBJ Hospital, ASPA and other government agencies of 2.1 million with an additional $665,000 for completion of the new Department of Public Safety, totaling 2.88 million dollars. Director Pula expressed his happiness to be in attendance of the start of the momentous project and added that addressing some
problems for funding and federal regulations do indeed need courage and vision. He pledged his assistance in working along with Congresswoman Aumua Amata in securing assistance in Washington D.C. to continue support of local development.
President of the Senate Honorable Gaoteote Tofau Palaie offered his remarks next. After the traditional welcoming of the assembly, the President spoke of the reverent feeling on the Malaeoletalu that day for the gathering of all three branches of the the American Samoa Government along with important traditional leaders of the Territory. He spoke about when the old Fono building was removed, he contemplated about all of the distinguished leaders and important decisions that had occupied and occurred in the building. He continued that the new Fono building is one for generations to come, and thanked to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for the most important action of starting the project through courage and vision. President Gaoteote also gave special recognition to the surviving members from the original Fono: Tuaolo Manaia Fruen, Aumoeualogo (Te’o) Joe Fuavai, Maiava Hunkin, and HC Fofo Sunia. He finished his remarks with thanks to DOI OIA Director Pula and Congresswoman Aumua Amata for their hard work for the Territory in Washington D.C.
A hymn and blessing of the site was delivered by Reverend Elder Fa’amao Asalele of CCJS Fagatogo who talked about the rare and special opportunity to participate in the event. He offed a moving sermon about the importance of being connected to and blessing the soil. He offered a prayer before several dignitaries approached the large mound of soil for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the new Fono Building Project.
A short reception was held at the Fono Fale Samoa for the dignitaries, concluding the ceremonies for the day.
The original legislature or Fono building opened its doors in 1973 in Fagatogo, American Samoa. It was a beehive shape design that was based on traditional Samoan homes or Fale. It housed 21 Representatives and 18 Senators. A pillar of Samoan culture, the building survived numerous tropical cyclones and the 2009 earthquake and tsunami which devastated many parts of the Island community. The new proposed two-story building will be a concrete and steel frame structure measuring 140 feet x 122 feet with a total floor area of approximately 30,000 square feet. It will be comprised of two meeting chambers and ancillary office. The first floor will contain two separate chambers of equal design for both House of
Representatives and the Senate. The ground level floor will be raised above flood level and to stabilize the soil to support the new building. To meet ADA requirements, an elevator as well as ramps and other improvements will be provided. Approximately 58 new parking stalls, including 6 universal accessible parking stalls for individuals with disabilities.