Kagman III residents have had about enough of driving on what arguably are the worst roads on Saipan and is urging the government to do something—anything—to alleviate their longstanding problem, which affects not only residents but off-island visitors as well who explore Saipan’s tourist sites.
“Sometimes I see tourists go to Forbidden Island. To tell you the truth, I am ashamed to even go outside when they come back within 5 minutes of entering in there, because who wants to drive there with an ugly looking road like that, that’s dangerous,” said one resident.
Unfortunately, the road going to Forbidden Island it is not an isolated case as Kagman III’s dilapidated roads have had little to no attention by the government for more than a decade, causing significant public inconvenience.
Cracks, deep holes, and fissures on roads have always been the biggest problems. Despite the patch-ups and small portions of asphalt placed on deep potholes, heavy rains have water running off from higher areas to lower parts of Kagman, completely eroding the roads and asphalts within a couple of weeks.
Many of Kagman III’s major streets turn into smaller streets that also need fixing up. The main streets that are in dire need of attention include Chopak Dr, Pine Dr, Forbidden Island Road, Tank Beach Pl, Puteng Dr, and Matbas Dr.
Forbidden Island Road and Tank Beach Pl are mostly unpaved roads that tourists drive through for sightseeing.
More than 30 smaller streets in Kagman III Phases 1-3 are still not paved and the whole Phase 4 is not paved at all.
A Kagman III resident expressed impatience over the continued lack of action to pave the roads.
“The government has to stop with their nonsense and start thinking with their heads together on what they’re going to do about the roads,” he said. ”Tourists come to Kagman for the sites, and there is a hotel here in Kagman and sometimes they go to Tank Beach or Forbidden [Island], and I work at LaoLao, sometimes the tourists tell us why the road is no good.”
‘Not our responsibility’
Saipan Tribune tried to finds answers from the Saipan Mayor’s Office, Department of Public Lands, Department of Public Works, to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation’s Precinct 5 representatives to figure out why Kagman roads are such in a state of neglect.
Saipan Mayor Donald Flores’ adviser, Henry Hofschneider, told Saipan Tribune, that it is not the mayor’s office’s responsibility to pave roads “because we don’t have funding for that.”
He also said the job of the mayor is only to improve and do maintenance on all secondary roads and “not pave” them.
“We only can flatten and place corals on the roads, no paving, because it’s the law that makes the mayor handle these situations,” Hofschneider said.
They also handle roads that lead to tourist and farms.
“If the Legislature were to appropriate enough money, we can do something about those roads. We would get our equipment and start helping. Not only that, our equipment is in need of attention because they’re old and we need new equipment,” Hofschneider said.
He pointed out that Shimizu Corp. of Japan paved the roads from Isa Drive, while other investors paid for the paving of the Kagman road to all of Kagman I, Kagman II and a part of Kagman III subdivisions.
Which led to a question raised by one Kagman resident: “Why can investors contribute to the Kagman community in paving roads but our government cannot do anything? It’s embarrassing that investors come and do something for the people when our own senatorial district doesn’t do anything here.”
Acting Department of Public Works secretary Ben Cabrera said that paving roads is directly related to the availability of funds.
“It costs $1 million for a one-mile road. It’s just very costly,” he said.
Cabrera said that about $600,00 that has been identified for this purpose requires the Legislature to first appropriate that amount.
But even then, that’s still not enough, Cabrera said. “It’ll take more than double that to be enough to pave all the roads in Kagman III,” he said.
He said that Kagman is “nothing more than rocks” and that’s a big issue that falls under the purview of the Legislature.
He pointed out that DPW is there to implement projects, “not appropriate money, that’s the lawmakers’ job.”
“If the Legislature were to give funding, we would already be on our way, surveying” he added.
Cabrera expressed sympathy with Kagman residents and urged them to “be patient, we’re working diligently to find money.”
Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said that $600,000 has been identified but it will take time to appropriate it.
“It’s a long process,” Deleon Guerrero said.
In January 2014, he introduced a bill seeking $2 million in Marianas Public Land Trust income to fix and pave Kagman roads.
His bill seeks to amend Public Law 17-76, which pledged and appropriated $11.58 million from MPLT’S future income and to allow the $2 million to be advanced to the general fund for the paving of roads.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos is thinking about linking the roads connecting Kagman II to Kagman III but Deleon Guerrero said that paving Kagman roads should be the priority.
“I accessed this and it requires a bridge because it crosses a deep natural creek and that requires high technical engineering. But I don’t agree with this. I want to pave the roads in Kagman,” said Deleon Guerrero.
“We have to be more literal because the existing road are near the homesteads, it’s devastating to the community,” he added.
Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan) acknowledged that the problem with Kagman roads have always been an issue for decades. He said that funds were appropriated for this in past Legislatures but re-appropriations deprived past bills of their original intent.
“We’re doing our best and we’re not neglecting them. All we ask is for Kagman residents to be patient and understand how the legislative system works,” he said.