The 1950s-era building, which is contaminated with asbestos and toxic mold, has been used for years as a catch-all storage facility for county documents. This week, workers cleaned and removed hundreds of boxes of records, rolled up blueprints and even old computers and printers that had been piled in the hallways with no organizing system.
“It’s to the point that no one knows for sure all that’s in there,” said James Kendrick of the county’s Risk Management Division as he watched the boxes pile up on tables outside the building.
After all the records are removed, the building will be locked up, said Francis Kau, first assistant to the managing director. The county is buying several large storage containers for documents and will park them in the building’s parking lot — so at least it will get some use out of the property, he said.
Kau said the building’s owner had offered to sell the old post office to the county for $2 million, but Mayor Charmaine Tavares was not considering the offer. With asbestos and toxic mold still in the walls and ceiling, and outdated water and sewer systems that would need to be completely replaced, the old post office is pretty much a lemon, Kau said.
“Buy it for $2 million, spend $10 million to clean it — we don’t want to do that to the taxpayers,” he said.
The county is locked into a lease on the building through 2026.
Boxes pulled out of the old post office included records from the 1930s and even some dating back to 1912. Kau said county officials were determining which documents to keep, which to shred, and which could be recycled. Records being kept by the county are being returned to the departments responsible for them, he said.
To safely remove the records, contractors first sealed off the building and installed a machine that creates a low-air-pressure environment and pumps out air through a series of filters that removes particles. Boxes are wiped down with distilled water, and then vacuumed with special filters to remove any toxic dust.
County purchase records show Vuich Environmental Consultants of Wailuku received a $69,900 contract for the project.
Elite Environmental Consultants was providing oversight work. Document removal began last week and was expected to continue through May 7.
Kau said looking at the pile of old documents served to confirm his belief about record keeping.
“Scan as much as you can,” he said. “Then you don’t have to worry about it.”
• Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor’s office staffers, volunteers and workers from Maui Community Correctional Center’s Workline crew sort through a mass of papers from the former Wailuku Post Office building Wednesday morning.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo