CPA responds to airport infrastructure issues

Fills vacant master electrician post

Commonwealth Ports Authority board director Barrie Toves said yesterday that the airport is making progress on priority areas in their infrastructure that have drawn scrutiny from the media recently.

These involve problems with the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport’s air-conditioning, runway lights, and baggage handling system, among others.

“I hear the saying that a lot of things don’t happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean we are going to be complacent. I want to send a message to the community that we are working really hard, tirelessly, in addressing these issues,” said Toves, who is also airport facilities committee chair, while presenting his committee’s report during a board meeting yesterday.

An issue highlighted has been their air-conditioning and Toves explained they have addressed issues of maintenance. However, a move to request proposals for replacement of these 20- to 30-year-old air-conditioning units was cancelled because the committee could not a reach consensus on “budgetary requirements.”

He said the committee then issued an invitation to bid but felt the bid—which intended to replace six units—did not contain another two units in the airport’s west wing that needed to be replaced immediately, so the committee canceled the bid.

He said they issued another 15-day notice for expedited procurement and expects management to re-advertise next week.

“I just wish that the counterpart in our tourism partner would take initiative to call the executive director or our main office and find out what is going on before going out in public in the media and exploiting statements that are unfounded, that we are lagging behind,” Toves said.

“There are some issues and technicalities we are facing. Every time we have…a project and we bid out, there is always tendency for protest and we try as much as possible to avoid those things because those are the sources of delays for us to progress in our projects.”

CPA also reported the hiring of a new master electrician this month.

Acting executive director Chris Tenorio said they advertised for the position since June 2016 and as of Aug. 23, the new master electrician started on the job.

“Filling the position is an essential position which will assist us in various projects,” Tenorio said, after also presenting a report on issues with their runway lights earlier this month that forced CPA to caution airmen on flying in.

Saipan airport manager Edward Mendiola presented the status of their baggage handling system and said a technician would be arriving this Saturday in the early morning to trouble shoot and repair the baggage-handling system.

They had an on-island technician assess the system for two days but found no problem with the hardware, he said, which prompted them to immediately contact the company that owned the equipment to remotely troubleshoot the conveyor system but “there were problems with Internet line.”

“We couldn’t touch it because the modem equipment that is attached to the conveyor system is part of their equipment and we didn’t want to further damage whatever they have…so right away we requested for them to come out to assess and repair the system.”

He said they cut an emergency purchase order and says he has been following up on if the engineer could come at an earlier time but unfortunately, was told all their engineers were assigned elsewhere.

Toves also ties their issues with infrastructure partly to the tough time hiring the right expertise.

“It’s been kind of hard to get these expert people with the salary package we are offering,” he told reporters yesterday, “so we have a bill in the Legislature right now that we are hoping our leaders will support that will allow CPA to be able to be the one to give the compensation package according to the specialties it needs.”

He said they have a salary cap of $50,000 but it is hard to offer that much and they hope the Legislature approves their recommendation to give $70,000 to $80,000 salaries to these kinds of professionals.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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