MAKAWAO - Plans to expand the Makawao Veterans Cemetery have received a boost in recent weeks with the governor's release of $250,000 for the cemetery project and submission of a subdivision application that includes the expansion parcel.
Time is of the essence for the expansion, with a state official saying that it's possible the cemetery could reach its capacity in 1 1/2 to 2 years.
The money released by the governor is part of $5.3 million appropriated by the state Legislature for the planning, purchase and development of an adjoining 10-acre parcel. The $250,000 will be used for an environmental assessment, appraisal, title search and subdivision application for the much-needed addition to the 7-acre cemetery along Baldwin Avenue, said Ronald P. Han Jr., the director of Hawaii State Veterans Services.
American flags, reminders of the men and women who served the country and those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom, flutter in the wind at the Makawao Veterans Cemetery.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Expanding the cemetery is an urgent concern for Han and his department because the cemetery is rapidly filling up. Current servicemen and servicewomen and veterans and their spouses and dependent children up to a certain age may be buried at the cemetery.
"It (Makawao Veterans Cemetery) is our top priority," said Han. "This needs to get done. Time is fleeting. We are up against a deadline."
While noting that it's difficult to say with certainty when the cemetery will reach capacity, Han estimated in an interview in January that it could happen in 1 1/2 to 2 years.
David Goode, director of the county Public Works Department, had a longer estimate, saying that capacity could be reached in 3 to 3 years. Goode got involved to help the process along and to get the parties together to resolve problems involving the transaction. The veterans cemetery wasn't the only party seeking land from the owner of the adjacent property, which according to property tax records is Paul Turner.
A private cemetery next to the veterans cemetery was seeking an additional 3 or 4 acres and a neighboring property owner wanted to purchase 40 to 50 acres, according to Goode.
"The landowner has been quite cooperative," said Goode. "It's going to be a good deal for everyone."
The large lot subdivision application was submitted earlier this month and the process could take about six months to complete, said the Public Works director. After that, the state and the landowner will negotiate the sale and the transfer of the property.
Although the cemetery is a state facility, the county provides maintenance with a staffer assigned to the cemetery, said Goode in response to a question about the county's role in the issue. He explained that his role has been "to get all of the parties together."
Han said that the cemetery expansion process is currently in the hands of the landowner.
"What we have started on, we are going to finish," he said. "We are not going to relent. We want to see this thing through."
Paul Laub, president of the Maui County Veterans Council, was not totally satisfied with the process for the expansion and the amount of land set aside for the expansion.
He suggested that the state use its power of eminent domain to condemn the land. Goode played down the option, noting that this avenue for acquiring the land would take "a long time."
Laub said going for 30 acres instead of 10 acres might be better.
"Ten acres will not fill up in my lifetime, but over time (it will)," he said. Going for the 30 acres "will take us into the next century."
He noted that World War II veterans are in their 80s and 90s, Korean War veterans are in their 70s and 80s, and Vietnam War veterans are in the 60s and 70s.
Other state veterans cemeteries have only small facilities to take care of families, but the Makawao Veterans Cemetery has much more, including a pavilion and a memorial.
"For us, this is a central place for our services," said Laub. "This is a community thing."
In addition to the money for the cemetery, the governor also released:
* $1.6 million for improvements to Maui Memorial Medical Center's Imaging Nuclear Medicine Department's Hot Lab and nuclear medicine cameras.
* $140,000 for upgrades to Maui Memorial's water treatment system equipment for its dialysis unit.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.