Torres says CNMI needs enough construction workers due to many road, school projects
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is disappointed with the delay in the U.S. Air Force’s divert facility construction project on Tinian, but said he understands the challenges the U.S. government is going through, especially when it comes to the lack of construction workers.
In an interview with reporters last Friday at the Office of the Governor’s conference room, Torres said the U.S. government has the same challenges regarding the divert airfield project that the CNMI is going through in terms of the availability of available labor.
The governor said he just want to make sure that the divert airfield project is still a U.S. government priority even if it extends or delays it for one year.
“As far as I know, it’s delayed but is still a priority, a top priority,” he said, adding he is hoping the U.S. government would continue to move forward with the project and expedite it even early next year.
Commonwealth Ports Authority board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds recently confirmed that the initial bids for the divert facility construction project exceeded the U.S. government’s estimate and procurement level, which means the construction project will not likely begin until 2022.
King-Hinds said the resulting delay is not surprising, given that they warned the U.S. Department of Defense early on in their discussions about the challenges regarding limited housing on Tinian and the need to import labor, among many other issues that will impact the cost of construction because of the island’s location and certain labor policies.
CPA, the CNMI government, and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a 40-year lease agreement for the project in May 2019. In fact, CPA has already received the lump-sum payment of $21.9 million for the lease. The deal will allow the Air Force to build an alternative landing site for its planes—a divert airfield—on Tinian in case the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam is inaccessible due to war or calamities.
Torres said even the CNMI has many challenges in getting enough manpower for a lot of construction projects.
“We’re building Route 35, the Bird Island inner-island connection, we have the Airport Road, Obyan Road, the Industry Road, Beach Road. So just that alone…” said Torres, adding that they have also Public School System’s building of campuses and the Northern Marianas College.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built. I hope that by the time [we start these projects] we will have construction workers to address our immediate recovery plan,” the governor said.