Museum needs $750K to repair Japanese-era structures

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NMI Museum director Danny Aquino is requesting a $750,000 allocation from the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation to repair the Japanese-era jail and bunker in Garapan.

Recently, Aquino and his staff members had to ease the stress on the deteriorating column supporting the roof of the bunker.

He said they requested assistance from the Saipan Mayor’s Office, which provided a back hoe.

“The Japanese bunker can no longer adequately support the additional stress and weight from the vegetation and soil most especially after it rains,” Aquino said.  “I don’t want to wait and see something terrible happen that may cause bodily harm or serious injuries occurring if and when the bunker collapses from the weight on the roof,” he added.


The Japanese-era jail in Garapan. Photos by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

The NMI Museum, Sugar King Park and the Japanese jail are tourist sites, Aquino said. “It is important to preserve our history and culture.”

He said before he became museum director, the old Japanese jail was already in deplorable condition because of lack of funding.

He said Public Law 10-5 established the NMI Museum and designated it as the official state repository, but no adequate funding was appropriated for storage facilities.

The museum is now waiting for the Senate to act on H.B. 21-52,  which proposes to allot 20% of the non-alcoholic beverage container tax collections to the museum.

“The preservation of these historical buildings does not end when you add a fresh coat of paint or do repairs to address spalling on ceiling or walls,” Aquino said. “It’s an ongoing process because each one of these structures is over 90 years old.  The NMI Museum building itself is due for another protective coating of elastomeric. Proper maintenance of any building regardless of age is necessary to avoid costly repairs, further damage, or other problems evolving from the initial problem,” Aquino added.

He noted that the Saipan  delegation earlier appropriated $38,000 for the museum and pledged to provide it with necessary funding.

Aquino thanked House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, Rep. Ivan Blanco, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and other lawmakers for their willingness to help the museum preserve local history and culture.


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