Saturday | December 16, 2017
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With no objection, bond issue advances for Kona prosecutor building

A $12.5 million bond issue for a new county prosecutor building in Kona met with quick approval Tuesday by the County Council, the first of what could be millions more in new county borrowing.

Bill 83, authorizing the bond to construct a 16,000-square-foot building at the West Hawaii Civic Center complex in Kailua-Kona, faces one more council hearing before becoming law. The Council voted 8-0 for approval, with Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles absent.

Mayor Harry Kim, who requested the bond issue, is expected to sign the bill. He cited savings from owning the building rather than renting, reduced travel mileage and time, and using shared resources with other departments on the campus as advantages to going forward.

The county earlier spent $1 million for the design phase of the project. A solicitation has gone out, with bids set to be opened Thursday.

County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said 35 positions are assigned to the west side of the island. The space also will be used for special project teams such as for domestic violence, homelessness and squatting, he said.

Finance Director Deanna Sako said the new bond issuance would bring the county’s debt service — the amount it spends annually on principal and interest — up to 13 percent of total expenditures. That’s within Government Finance Officers Association standards that debt service be below 15 percent of total expenditures.

Sako said some of the current bond debt includes money for completed projects or projects that won’t be completed for one reason or another. Clearing those off the books could leave room for more borrowing while still staying within recommended levels, she said.

A new bond issue is expected in the near future for new county projects, Sako said.

That was good news for some council members, who asked if they could also have input into what projects could be funded.

“I’m hoping the county could advance another bond float,” Councilman Aaron Chung said. “Don’t stack it all with administration projects. Leave some possibly for council members (to choose).”

If all goes as planned, the prosecutor’s new two-story building will be opened about the same time as a new state-funded courthouse being constructed nearby. Otherwise, Roth’s staff will be making the 30-plus-minute commute from Captain Cook every time they need to go to court, or the prosecutor will have to rent new quarters closer to town.

The new 140,000-square-foot courthouse near the Makalapua Shopping Center is scheduled to be complete in the middle of 2019. The $90 million project will give West Hawaii a three-story facility with five courtrooms, a law library, self-help center, conference rooms, holding cells, witness rooms, attorney interview rooms and a grand jury meeting room.

South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David saw the need for new office space for the prosecutor, whose office currently is located in a shopping center.

“I used to shop at the prosecutor’s office when it was a store,” David quipped.

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