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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 31) - Tinian is turning off over 700 street lights every night to save on utility expenses following the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s decision to impose new higher electric rates since July.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Wikipedia, Tinian is one of the three principal islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Its largest village is San Jose. Tinian is about 5 miles southwest of its sister island, Saipan.]

Sen. Henry San Nicolas, Covenant-Tinian, said the Department of Public Works is turning on only about 100 lights along the streets of the island due to austerity measures.

"It’s now down to 100 (street lights) due to austerity, with CUC rates going up. The agency that is responsible for paying the streetlights is the Department of Public Works and it doesn’t have the money. We cannot tell them not to cut the number of street lights turned on because what else can they do?" San Nicolas told Variety in an interview yesterday.

"It’s better to have 100 street lights than no street lights at all," he added.

The DPW office in Tinian confirmed that it is turning off the streetlights to save money.

A DPW official said they have over 900 streetlights on the island of which only 123 are turned on at night.

Fortunately, the measure hasn’t resulted in any accidents thus far. "So far we have had no problem of that sort," said the official who asked not to be named.

This week, however, Tinian will be seeing more streetlights on. But between September and October, most street lights will be turned off again with the Fitial administration’s new policy requiring the different government agencies to pay for their utility bills out of their individual operations budgets starting in fiscal year 2007.

Compared to Saipan, the islands of Tinian and Rota spend more on fuel due to their remote geographic location. A gallon of regular gasoline on Tinian sells for US$3.98 at the pump whereas on Saipan, it costs US$3.589.

September 1, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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