Congressman Faleomavaega announced his appreciation today to the FAA for working closely with his office and ASG to finalize the airport tower agreement.
“Ms. Deborah Johnson, Director, Terminal Planning in the FAA’s Washington office, contacted my office yesterday and stated:
“Chief Counsel and ASG met with the Governor and reviewed the FAA’s last draft, the Governor has agreed to sign the OTA as we presented it. The Parties have now come to an Agreement on this document. The FAA contracting officer will email ASG a "clean" word document based on the final draft. ASG will, in turn, sign and return via Fedex three originals for the FAA contracting officer's signature. I will send you a copy of the signed document when it is received.”
“I want to thank Ms. Johnson and the FAA’s Regional Director, Bill Withycombe, as well as their colleagues in the field for making this happen,” Faleomavaega said. “I also want to thank Governor Togiola for agreeing to sign the OTA.”
“Governor Togiola and I agree that the FAA has a responsibility to American Samoa. Having said this, the FAA must also follow federal guidelines and laws. Presently, American Samoa does not have enough air traffic to meet the cost/benefit ratio making us ineligible for our tower to be a federal tower. However, when and if our air traffic increases, our airport tower will become a federal tower. This is why I urged the Governor to sign the agreement – because we have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.”
“I am deeply appreciative of the $2 million ($1.984 million to be exact) that Congress set aside for us and that the FAA has held in trust for the construction of our airport tower. I am also appreciative that the FAA has given us an airport tower cab worth approximately $800,000.”
“I also want to thank the FAA for agreeing late Friday night on September 27, 2007 to extend ASG’s deadline to Tuesday October 2, 2007 so that we could resolve the remaining points of disagreement,” Faleomavaega said. “On September 27, 2007, Governor Togiola sent me an email re-stating his concerns about not having enough funds to construct an airport tower, purchase and maintain equipment, and train air traffic controllers.”
“Based on his concerns, I went back to the FAA to assist ASG in negotiating the terms of the OTA. Initially, Mr. Withycombe stated that the FAA would be willing to train ASG’s air traffic controllers for a nominal fee meaning ASG would enter into a contract with the FAA and the FAA would send personnel from Hawaii to train our controllers. I was disappointed to learn at the last minute that ASG and the FAA did not reach agreement on this point. However, Mr. Withycombe assured my office that we have time during the construction of the airport tower to re-visit this issue.”
“On September 28, 2007, Mr. Withycombe also agreed that since the FAA has a presence in American Samoa and has technical personnel on the ground that the FAA would agree to maintain our equipment for a nominal fee, and that this could also be included in the OTA. It is my understanding that this was included in the revised OTA that the Governor has now agreed to sign.”
“In response to Mr. Withycombe’s promise of assistance on these points, Governor Togiola stated in a letter to me dated September 28, 2007, “It would appear that the FAA you deal with in Washington is very much different from the entity that we are dealing with here in American Samoa. The major reason that we have been unable to come to agreement on the issues contained in the OTA is that we were informed specifically that the OTA was not subject to negotiation. Subsequent talks with our staff were pursued thereafter with no real movement on resolving American Samoa’s concerns.”
The Governor went on to say that he would “accept Mr. Withycombe’s offer of assistance to train our air traffic controllers and ask for clarification of the ‘nominal fee’ to be charged.” Governor Togiola also stated that he “would be willing to accept again the offer of FAA to provide maintenance of the equipment and ask for clarification of the ‘nominal fee’ to be charged.”
While raising other concerns, the Governor concluded his letter by stating, “As it stands, I believe much progress has been made on the terms of the OTA, and I look forward to concluding the OTA this weekend according to the terms outlined herein.”
“I am pleased that Governor Togiola has since concluded the negotiations and I commend him for working to resolve whatever final issues he deemed to be necessary prior to signing. Ultimately, this is the right outcome for our people who deserve a fully operational airport that places their safety first,” Faleomavaega concluded.