Maui UH moratorium impacts discounted

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents placed a moratorium on new construction in the UH system statewide to focus resources on maintenance – a move that will not impact the University of Hawaii Maui College in the short term, a Maui college official said.

The regents approved putting new construction on hold for three years with the exception of 13 projects – none on Maui – costing $170 million at a meeting on Maui last week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

UH-Maui College will not be immediately affected by the moratorium, said David Tamanaha, vice chancellor for administrative services.

However, the college is preparing for expansion of its Molokai Education Center in Kaunakakai, he said. Last year, the college purchased 3.2 acres on Molokai and has completed a long-range plan, but the project still needs to be approved by the regents, he said.

“Our hope is by the time we are good and ready the moratorium might cease,” Tamanaha added.

The board will direct capital funds to a repair backlog that has reached $487 million. About 84 percent of the maintenance needs are at the flagship Manoa campus.

Exemptions cover major projects, such as the College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo, Kapiolani Community College’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head and an advanced technology training center at Honolulu Community College.

Regents are seeking money for nine other projects in the proposed university budget.

“My concern was if we spent too much of our efforts to approve new projects, that it would somehow affect our ability to take care of the back of the house,” Benjamin Kudo, the regent who proposed the plan, said last month. “We’ve neglected too long to take care of our physical plant.”

The regents have asked university officials to come up with a schedule to eliminate the repair backlog by 33 percent in the first three years; by 66 percent in the following three years and completely by the 10th year.

The board plans to re-evaluate the new construction freeze after three years.

UH-Maui College has about $3.4 million in repairs and maintenance on the books that has been deferred due to lack of funding, Tamanaha said. He hoped the push by the regents will help eliminate that backlog, although he recognized that the need for repairs is greater at the UH-Manoa campus.

Some worry it will mean less work for the building industry.

“Certainly any project that’s shovel-ready and does not proceed would be a loss,” said Ron Taketa, executive secretary-treasurer of the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters. “We certainly understand the important responsibility for the regents to prioritize spending, but we’re hoping the moratorium is short-lived, not just for the jobs it would produce in the short run, but to allow the university to become a 21st-century institution that the community relies on.”