Meeting could resolve building demolition flap

The Maui County Council has scheduled a special meeting next week to, among other things, consider amending the current county budget to explicitly call for the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office.

The meeting is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday in the eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building in Wailuku.

The $1.5 million demolition project has already happened, with the late 1950s-era building torn down earlier this year and a new parking lot put in its place at the intersection of High and Wells streets. The work was done under a fiscal 2012 appropriation that called for the “rehabilitation” of the building instead of its demolition. Council members have taken exception to having the project go forward without a budget amendment to allow for the building’s demolition.

The bill proposed by the administration of Mayor Alan Arakawa would amend the fiscal 2013 budget, which ends June 30, by calling the project the “Old Wailuku Post Office demolition and master planning.”

In a June 6 letter to council members, Budget Director Sandy Baz said that “through this proposed bill, the administration is hopeful that the concerns posed by several council members regarding the use of funds from the Old Wailuku Post Office rehabilitation appropriation will be alleviated.

“This proposed bill will also allow the Department of Management, in collaboration with the Department of Finance, to reimburse all charges posted against the Old Wailuku Post Office rehabilitation appropriation prior to the end of the current fiscal year,” Baz said. “Lastly, through this proposed bill, the County of Maui will move forward to reach its overall goal to serve our community more effectively and efficiently by providing adequate office and parking spaces for our staff.”

Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa said that she was asked by the mayor’s administration to put the measure on the council’s agenda, and she was doing so in order to allow the county budget to be amended before the end of the fiscal year.

Another meeting will need to be scheduled later this month for second and final reading of the measure, if it gets initial council approval.

When asked if other council members would agree to advance the bill, Baisa said she couldn’t say what other members would do. She said she put the matter on the agenda and would “see what happens.”

Some council members have expressed dismay and shown a willingness to launch an investigation into the administration’s spending of funds for demolition of the building and to do master planning for the Kalana O Maui campus expansion.

On May 31, the council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee deferred action on a resolution proposed by Council Member Mike White to hire an independent special counsel to look into the matter.

At 9 a.m. Monday, the committee will meet to consider a resolution authorizing it to conduct an internal investigation into the potential misuse of county funds.

Wednesday’s meeting has two other bills on the agenda. One is a resolution that would allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to accept the donation of a personal watercraft and a rescue sled from the Will Smith Foundation. Another bill would authorize the transfer of funds within the Department of Fire and Public Safety.