Arakawa wants two center sites

Mayor Alan Arakawa said he would like the county to purchase both the Kehalani Village Center and Alexander & Baldwin Maui Business Park II site packages as the county looks to replace its service center at the Maui Mall in Kahului.

If he had to choose just one package, Arakawa said he would prefer the A&B property in Kahului, which comes with a donation of about 30 acres in the vicinity of Baldwin Beach Park in Paia.

Arakawa shared his thoughts Friday afternoon before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, which is mulling over proposals for a new site for the service center. It houses the Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division and Real Property Tax Division offices. The new owner of the Maui Mall has indicated that it has other plans for the county service center space and has given the county a lease extension only until 2017.

Three packages have emerged by landowners vying to have the service center in their developments. They are:

* 4 acres for $7 million from Alexander & Baldwin at its Maui Business Park II in Kahului. A&B would donate approximately 30 acres in the vicinity of Baldwin Beach Park.

* 5 acres for $6.6 million at the Kehalani Village Center in Wailuku near Longs and Foodland. Landowner RCFC Kehalani would donate a nearby 14-acre parcel at the corner of Waiale Road and Kuikahi Drive.

* 3 acres and construction of a two-story, 24,000-square-foot, “turn-key” building for approximately $14 million in Maui Lani. It is across the street from Marmac Ace Hardware and southeast of the new Walgreens store. Cost includes $5.3 million for the land; $8.1 million for construction of the building; and $600,000 for architectural and engineering costs. A lease with a purchase option also was proposed by Maui Lani Partners. This option has not been recommended by the mayor.

The A&B and Kehalani options do not include buildings, which county officials have estimated at between $20 million and $25 million, depending on the size and uses of the structures, on top of the cost of the land.

When asked by council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa if there is enough money to buy both the Kehalani and Maui Business Park properties, Arakawa said there is sufficient funds. He told Baisa that the land purchase would be made using bonds and that the county currently benefits from low interest rates.

He added that both packages would be registered as “assets” and provide options for the county for assorted uses. Perhaps, the Kehalani property could be rezoned for other purposes or sold to make up costs for the land purchases, he said.

“We are not losing anything by buying,” the mayor said. “We are changing our assets from one to another.”

While sharing his preferences for service center sites, Arakawa also addressed committee members’ concerns raised at Tuesday’s committee meeting on the same issue. Some members expressed frustration when administration officials told them the council’s decision on a new service center site may affect plans for the Old Wailuku Post Office site. At that site, a new nine-story building is planned. If some county offices could go into the new service center, council members were told that the number of stories could be reduced for the Old Wailuku Post Office site building.

Council members complained that Tuesday’s meeting was the first time that they had heard of possible changes in the plans for the Old Wailuku Post Office site.

Arakawa told the committee that plans have not changed.

“Right now, it is all speculative,” he said.

The mayor said that Group 70 is working on the design of phase of the new building on the Old Wailuku Post Office site. The design should be completed in the next six months. Construction could start in 10 months if the council approves the construction money, which the administration would seek once there’s a cost estimate.

He told the council committee that design funds for the new building were delayed by the council’s investigation into the administration’s funding procedure for the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office.

The building was demolished last year amid much controversy stemming from the administration’s failure to properly amend the county budget for the project. The site at the intersection of South High and Wells streets has been turned into a parking lot, but long-term plans call for a new office building for the county.

The mayor assured the committee that it would know of any changes.

“There is no question we need to move ahead,” said committee Chairman Mike White after Arakawa addressed questions from the panel Friday.

But White said he wants to be sure the committee has all the information it needs before making a decision on a service center site. He said council members had “not heard a thing” about the Old Wailuku Post Office plans since design funds were approved nine months ago.

And in the context of the discussion of the service center sites, councilors were learning only this week that the design for the Old Wailuku Post Office has not been completed, White said.

Arakawa urged cooperation between the council and administration and said that the ball is in the council’s court on whether it wants to purchase a new site for a service center, which site or multiple sites.

He urged the council to make its decision expeditiously because the county’s lease at the Maui Mall expires next year, although the county has been granted an extension through 2016, with an option to extend the lease into 2017, he said.

“We still need the time to design and build the service center,” Arakawa told council members.

No decision making was scheduled by the committee on Friday.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at