The House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rep. Antonio Benavente (Ind-Saipan) is proposing to appropriate $1 million in Managaha Island landing fee to pay some landowners whose properties were taken by the government for public access roads, as well as to help renovate and maintain the NMI Museum of History and Culture, the roofs of which are now leaking, among other things.
Of the proposed $1 million from the Managaha landing fees, $900,000 is eyed for payment of land claims within Saipan under the expenditure authority of the Department of Public Lands secretary.
Benavente, in an interview, said that, while $900,000 is a drop in the bucket—considering that the unpaid land compensations now stand at over $100 million inclusive of the 3 percent annual compounding interest—“we need to start somewhere.”
Over 300 families on Saipan and Rota are still waiting for government payment for their property taken for public uses such as to build roads, wetlands, and ponding basin. But the government had already paid at least 138 landowners a total of almost $28.5 million, some for $100,000 to $4.4 million each.
In Benavente’s proposal, the remaining $100,000 in the $1 million appropriation is proposed for the NMI Museum of History and Culture’s renovation and upkeep, with the museum executive director as the expenditure authority.
This is also just a portion of the museum’s funding request of $376,810 to address short-term and long-term needs. The amount covers funding for the museum’s urgent needs, equipment and personnel. The museum’s current budget is only about a fourth of what it was at least six years ago, with personnel now down to two from up to nine at one time.
NMI Museum of History and Culture executive director Robert H. Hunter, in a Jan. 24 letter to Rep. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), said the museum’s most serious needs are structural repairs to address the leaking of water into the museum from the roof.
He said they also need to acquire adequate grounds and maintenance equipment.
Hunter said the leakage is caused by the settling of the new museum wing, which is seeing the separation of the old and new wings at the construction seam.
Secondary leaking, he said, is caused by small cracks and porous areas in the old hospital roof exposed due to the deterioration of the original coating sealant.
Further leaking is occurring around old central air-conditioning systems mounted on the roof that have caused stress cracks and whose conduits are entryways for water, Hunter added.
The estimate cost of the roof work will not exceed $10,000, Hunter said, based on past discussions with private contractors.
“Any help that you can extend to seeing this immediate need addressed is greatly appreciated,” Hunter told Tebuteb.
Tebuteb is one of the five sponsors of the local bill helping to fund the museum and land compensations.
Benavente pre-filed House Local Bill 18-45 on Friday, shortly after the meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee, whose members are also co-sponsors, including Tebuteb, Reps. Roman Benavente (Ind-Saipan), Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), and Richard Seman (R-Saipan).
Hunter said there are also a number of necessities that do not follow too far behind the rook leakage and grounds and maintenance equipment acquisitions. They include additional staffing, foundation repair, and collections storage.