Ground broken for new county service center

$25 million project targeted for completion in 2020

Maui County officials, County Council members and others break ground Wednesday morning on the new Maui County Service Center in the Alexander & Baldwin Maui Business Park II in Puunene/Kahului. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

PUUNENE — County officials broke ground Wednesday morning on the future service center in the Alexander & Baldwin Maui Business Park II in Puunene/Kahului.

The $25 million Maui County Service Center will house the county Property Tax and Motor Vehicle divisions and the Finance Department now in the Maui Mall Service Center. Plans call for keeping the services at the mall until the new center is completed in 2020.

“Hundreds of employees are going to be working out in this facility, and those hundreds of employees are going to be serving thousands of people on a day-to-day basis,” county Managing Director Keith Regan said to a crowd of about 40 people at the ceremony. “We’re very proud of this project and want to thank the council for all their support in helping get this through.”

The new service center will be located at the corner of Hookele and Alaihi streets with access from Alaihi Street. The two-story building will have 60,000 square feet on the 4-acre site with 360 parking stalls for 200 workers, fleet vehicles and visitors, according to a 2016 environmental assessment.

By comparison, the Maui Mall Service Center with the Motor Vehicle and Property Tax divisions and the Finance Department is 17,000 square feet.

Mayor Alan Arakawa said the project will eliminate lease rents, which cost the county $2.5 million a year, and provide residents with a more stable center. He added that Maui Mall’s owners have “threatened to have us moved a number of times” so moving to the new location would benefit both parties.

The county finalized the purchase of the site from Alexander & Baldwin for $7.1 million in November 2014. The deal also included 30 acres of beachfront property in Paia — between Baldwin Beach and Lower Paia parks.

“We deliberately went out and worked with A&B to get this site before anyone else can get theirs,” Arakawa said. “We’ll own it, and we’ll be here. This is a prime location, and it’s going to be in the core of the most traveled area on Maui.”

The departments and divisions to be added currently are in leased spaces — the Transportation Department in the David K. Trask Building in Wailuku, the Housing and Human Concerns Department in One Main Plaza and 35 Lunalilo St. in Wailuku, and the Development Services Administration (building, electrical and plumbing inspection sections) at 86 W. Kamehameha Ave. in Kahului.

Regan said Wednesday that Public Works also may move into the new center, and that there will be space for training employees.

County Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama thanked Arakawa’s administration for its “vision and foresight” to pursue the new service center, adding that the money approved by the council for the project was “very, very frugal, but smart.” Hokama credited project manager Alan Murata for contacting architects and others to keep the project under budget.

“This project was heading the wrong way,” Hokama said. “It was going toward the $30 million-dollar mark and your council was not going to support that kind of funding for this project.”

Arakawa also singled out Murata for his work and leadership.

“The guy works incessantly on these projects, and I can tell you that without his work a lot of our projects wouldn’t get done,” Arakawa said. “It’s absolutely critical to have people that are as dedicated as him.”

With construction expected to take 18 months, the new service center will be completed a year later than previously planned in the environmental notice. Arakawa said his administration is doing what it can to prepare Mayor-elect Mike Victorino’s staff for the project along with many others that will take years to complete.

“Mayor (Linda) Lingle told me a long time ago you can only do so much in a given period of time,” Arakawa said. “You have to be realistic. The time it takes acquiring a property to construction may take 10 or more years.

“I have no regrets that we’re not completing everything because no administration ever completes everything.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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