WAILUKU - A discussion about possible sites for a new Maui County service center Tuesday brought frustration for some council members when they learned that property being eyed for the center might alter plans for the site of the Old Wailuku Post Office.
The building was demolished last year, amid much controversy stemming from the administration's failure to properly amend the county budget for the project. The site at the intersection of South High and Wells streets has been turned into a parking lot, but long-term plans have called for building a new nine-story building as part of the expansion of the Maui County campus in Wailuku.
County administration officials said that if county offices could be located at the new service center site, or if more than one site were acquired, then the building height for the new Wailuku building could be reduced.
"We keep changing the plan," Council Member Mike Victorino said.
Council Member Riki Hokama said the possible change in plans is not what had been brought before the council for the Old Wailuku Post Office site.
"I feel like I've been put in a corner again," he said.
Committee Chairman Mike White agreed, noting that the possible change in plans was not what the council was "led to believe."
County spokesman Rod Antone explained after the meeting that the administration's plans probably would not be affected if only one parcel were bought. But, if two parcels were acquired, then plans for the Old Wailuku Post Office site might change and require consultation with council members, he said.
The county needs to vacate its current service center at the Maui Mall in Kahului because its lease there expires in 2015. An extension has been granted through 2016, with an option to extend the lease into 2017, county officials have said. Now, the Finance Department's Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing, its Real Property Tax Division and the Treasury Collections are in the service center.
During the council's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the panel mulled over three possible sites for a new service center:
* 3 acres in the Maui Lani Village Center for approximately $14 million that would include "turnkey" construction of a 24,000-square-foot two-story building. The cost includes $5.3 million for the land; $8.1 million for construction of the building, and $600,000 for architectural and engineering costs.
* 4 acres for $7 million from Alexander & Baldwin at its Maui Business Park II in Kahului.
* 5 acres for $6.6 million at the Kehalani Village Center in Wailuku.
County Deputy Managing Director David Ching told the committee that the administration would like to purchase both the Maui Business Park and Kehalani Village Center parcels.
But he added: "If there is a way we can get all three (proposals), we would love to do that."
Hokama balked at the proposals, arguing that the county should develop facilities on its own land.
"I'm going to be upfront. I support old Wailuku town. This is the county seat," he said.
Hokama said it "befuddles" him that the administration has not advanced its own plan for a service center on county land. He pointed out that the county-owned Wailuku municipal parking lot has long been eyed for development.
"I don't think we have the kind of money the administration believes we have," Hokama said. "I think this is something we can do without buying land."
Victorino said he favored the central location of the A&B business park site.
He noted that highways from South and West Maui all end up in the vicinity of the business park. He added that all the infrastructure is already in place, including traffic lights.
"It mitigates its own traffic situation," he said.
The added bonus of A&B's proposed donation of 30 acres in the vicinity of Baldwin Beach Park enhances the business park option for the new service center but that did not affect his decision, he said.
Early in the meeting, Victorino said he liked the three proposals presented to the council and called the situation a "unique opportunity."
Council Member Don Couch said he favored the business park site because it's already near the current service center in Kahului and that "the public seems to like where it is."
He also liked the deal's sweetener of the donation of Paia land.
"That's for the future. That's a very big benefit for the taxpayers," Couch said.
The Maui Business Park property is along the new Hookele Street extension. If the county were to purchase that property, A&B would donate around 30 acres in Paia south of Baldwin Beach Park. (A previous estimate of a 36-acre donation was corrected during a presentation Tuesday before the committee. The acreage was estimated on old land maps. Erosion has removed some of the land in the area).
The Maui Lani site is across the street from Marmac Ace Hardware and southeast of the new Walgreens store. The deal calls for Maui Lani Partners to build a park concurrent with construction of another park behind Pomaika'i Elementary School. The proposal would bring the total park acreage in the Maui Lani area to 27 acres.
As part of the proposed deal for the Kehalani Village site, landowner RCFC Kehalani would donate a nearby 14-acre parcel at the corner of Waiale Road and Kuikahi Drive.
Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa reminded the panel that a decision needs to be made on a new service center site to allow it to be built before the lease runs out at the current Maui Mall location.
"We need to make a decision, and we need to act. We got to get going," she said.
The committee deferred action and recessed its meeting until 2 p.m. Friday in the Council Chambers. No action is expected at that meeting.
The committee is seeking information on the maximum amount of square footage that can be built on lands provided, which departments would move where, and building and site work costs, among other queries.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.
This article includes a correction from the original published on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The Maui News apologizes for the error.