Panel recommends approval of $40M bond for project

Some council members say additional funding for Wailuku Civic Center plan is ‘premature’

The proposed more than $80 million Wailuku civic center complex received another boost Tuesday when a Maui County Council committee secured enough votes to recommend a $40 million bond appropriation for the project “to go vertical.”

The Budget and Finance Committee voted 5-3 to advance a bill for a bond appropriation for the complex project. It would replace the Wailuku municipal parking lot with a multi-story parking structure and a three-story building for retail stores, county offices and special events. Tuesday’s action does not authorize the bond for $40 million because the matter will need to come before the council again.

During the council’s budget deliberations in May, council members set aside $44 million for the first phase of the civic center hub. The initial funds are for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, committee Chairman Riki Hokama said. The additional $40 million is for the project to be built, or “to go vertical,” Hokama said.

During budget deliberations in the spring, Hokama’s committee halved Mayor Alan Arakawa’s budget request for $81.2 million for the complex.

On Tuesday, Hokama initially wanted to authorize the bonds. But, after hearing concerns from fellow members about the project costs and needing more information, he changed his mind and asked for just a bond appropriation instead. Council Member Don Guzman also suggested conducting only a bond appropriation, so that the new council in January can decide on its funding.

Those that voted against the motion were Kelly King, Elle Cochran and Alika Atay. Council Chairman Mike White was excused.

King said “it’s premature to appropriate the funds” because the $40 million for the infrastructure has not been spent yet.

“Why are we jumping ahead to the next $40 million at this time?” she asked.

King said there is opposition to the project from members of the Wailuku community who believe outreach meetings were not inclusive.

She also had wanted a report from project manager Erin Wade on how the money is being spent and the status of the project. Its vertical plans are not yet finalized.

Hokama said Wade, who works for the county’s Department of Planning, was meeting with state officials regarding the complex on Tuesday. The state also is looking at facilities expansion in Wailuku.

Atay said he did not support the actions on Tuesday because, similar to King, he noted the previously appropriated $40 million. He said there would be six new council members soon and the decision on the project should be left to the new council. On the campaign trail, some people suggested that $40 million would be better spent on affordable housing, he said.

Atay lost his bid for re-election.

Cochran questioned doubling the complex funds now, agreeing with King that it was “premature” to double the funding amount. “There is so much more to be discussed,” she said.

Cochran won’t be returning to the council after mounting what would ultimately be an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

At the beginning of the meeting, Hokama said he was interested in adding $40 million to the civic center project because some large construction projects, such as the airport’s rental car facility, were finishing up, leaving workers available.

Hokama said he’s been asked when the county would be ahead with the project.

And, as for finding money, he said he was doing so with this project because it can create jobs not tied to the visitor industry.

Council Member Stacy Crivello said she continued to uphold her responsibilities even though a new council will be on board. She lost her bid to retain her seat as well.

“We still have (our) kuleana, until we all pau,” she said.

Later, Crivello said: “When you talk to people on Maui, as residents, they are excited as to what may become of this project.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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