WAILUKU - Two new buildings, more than 250 parking stalls and an art terrace garden are all part of the Maui County administration's proposed plans to expand and better utilize its campus in Wailuku.
"This is a project we really need to work on for a long time," Mayor Alan Arakawa told council members on Friday. "This is a chance for all of us to start building for a very, very bright future for Maui County."
Managing Director Keith Regan said that having new buildings and creating more parking can alleviate many government inefficiencies and reduce the county's rent bill. The county spends about $3.2 million a year to rent office space, and county employees park in the Wailuku municipal lot several blocks away or move their cars every few hours to avoid being ticketed in timed street spaces. Currently, there are 266 employees on the waiting list for parking on county property.
Excavator operator Jeremy Betsill of Betsill Brothers Construction uses a hydraulic ram to crumble a section of a reinforced concrete pillar while demolishing the old Wailuku Post Office building Thursday morning. The structure built in 1959 may have been plagued by crumbling concrete facades and a leaky roof, but it was engineered to last. “I’ve never seen a building with so much rebar in my life,” Betsill said. Wells Street is scheduled to be closed today from 10 a.m. to noon while the facade facing the street is pulled down. The demolition is expected to take three to four weeks, with another two weeks to fill in the hole and to complete the project.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Betsill Brothers President Dwayne Betsill surveys the scene Thursday afternoon. “The building is so well built, with so much rebar, we can’t even pull down a beam by itself,” he said. Betsill said that people have expressed concern about asbestos, and he wanted to assure the public that there is no more asbestos in the building and none is being released into the air.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Ronald Mendoza cuts thick reinforcing bar Thursday afternoon. The short-term plan is to turn the old Wailuku Post Office site into a parking lot. In the long term, plans are afoot to build an office building for county departments.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
He added that over a year's time some employees may spend as much as an accumulated 60 days just commuting between county departments for business. These departments may be in another building a block away.
Regan's and Arakawa's remarks came as administration officials and a consultant from Group 70 International presented plans for the Kalana O Maui Campus Expansion project to the council's Budget and Finance Committee on Friday afternoon.
The construction cost for the two proposed buildings is an estimated $24 million each. One building will be at the old Wailuku Post Office site along Wells Street and the other will be behind the Kalana Pakui building along Kaohu Street.
The administration is seeking $1.5 million in permit and design funds for the first part of the project involving the old post office, and is proposing to use general obligation bonds.
Council Committee Vice Chairman Riki Hokama raised several issues regarding funding for the project. He questioned the timing of the request for the design funds, noting that the council's review of the budget is coming up and that funds could be allocated during that process.
There also is the economic uncertainty in the level of federal funding, due to the pending threat of sequestration - a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending.
Budget Director Sandy Baz said that the loss of federal funds is "always a concern," but the timing is right to push ahead with the initial part of the project. Several leases for some department space expire in 2015, which is when administration officials hope to get the first building completed.
Hokama and committee Chairman Mike White said that they both wanted more information about the financial status of the county when the committee revisits the issue. White asked for additional information, including the total cost of the project along with leasing information for current rented spaces.
"The picture is nice, (but) this is the Budget Committee. We would like to see the numbers," White added.
Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa also was concerned about the funding for the project, but overall seemed to approve of the concept.
"I like the idea," she said, noting how the creation of county parking will help ease that problem in Wailuku town.
"It's a great thing to see at last," she said of the project.
Council Member Mike Victorino said that he likes the plan but expressed concern about traffic and the narrow streets in the area.
Regan said that the new buildings will not necessarily bring more employees to Wailuku but would bring them all closer together.
The first part of the plan calls for six levels of office space and four levels of county employee and public parking (106 stalls) at the old Wailuku Post Office site, where workers are already demolishing the building. A temporary parking area is planned for the site prior to construction of the new building.
Proposed offices to be located in the building are the departments of finance, environmental management and housing and human concerns as well as information systems divisions.
Renovations of several floors of the Kalana O Maui building also are proposed in that part of the project.
The next part of the project revolves around the second building that will be two levels of offices and two-and-a-half levels of public and county parking (188 stalls) behind the Kalana Pakui building, along Kaohu Street. This part of the project also involves providing Americans with Disabilities Act access to the second floor of Kalana Pakui.
Regan noted that a piece of private property is sandwiched between a county lot behind Kalana Pakui and another county lot across Kaohu Street from the Ichiban Okazuya eatery and will need to be acquired. He said that the county is in preliminary negotiations with the landowner.
The building is proposed to house the public works and planning departments. An art terrace garden for the public and county employees to gather is proposed in between Kalana Pakui and the second building, and an optional project to have a "civic green," which would involve lengthening the grassy lawn in front of Kalana O Maui that could serve as a public and county employee gathering space.
There are additional plans for a $36 million renovation of Kalana O Maui, including its interior, exterior and electrical systems and mechanical and structural upgrades.
Plans also call for photovoltaic panels being used. This could include possibly creating an artistic PV roof at the entrance of Kalana O Maui. The roof could provide shade for the public and employees on breaks and lunch.
Outside the meeting, Regan said that administration officials have met with county workers and council members about the plans. He added that the administration would like a campus that has all its services in the same proximity.
"We had a vision from the mayor to make a long-term commitment to Wailuku town," he said.
No action was taken on the plan Friday.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.