Prosecutors move into new digs in Kona

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Staff stand in front of the new Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona.

The West Hawaii Civic Center welcomed the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to its campus this week as the long-awaited building was finally ready for occupancy.

Groundbreaking for the building was hosted in May 2018, with an original completion date scheduled for April 2019 to coincide with the opening of Keahuolu Courthouse.

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However, the project was not completed until recently because of delays that were beyond the control of the county Department of Public Works, said Public Works spokeswoman Denise Laitinen. That included “challenges” faced by contractor Isemoto Contracting Co. and consultants, state agencies and utility companies, all of which were further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All things considered, this project was assigned an aggressive accelerated construction schedule to be completed in one year to coincide with that of the Keahuolu Judiciary/Courthouse project,” Laitinen said. “Work was ongoing the entire time period despite minor design changes in the project. … ”

She did confirm that minor design changes in the project required revisions that resulted in a slight delay in permit issuance.

Isemoto Contracting will be assessed liquidated damages for the project delay; however, Laitinen said the amount is still being processed.

Despite a 14-month delay from the anticipated completion date, the $14 million project came in $121,770 under budget, according to Laitinen.

“The county is satisfied with the completion of this important project that now provides the community with much needed centralized facilities,” she said.

County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said his staff is really excited to be in the new office.

“Our due date was April 2019, so we’re a little overdue but we’re very pleased to be there now,” Roth said. “It will allow us to eventually expand our office operations for West Hawaii. We can have some of our programs housed there, such as our crime prevention unit.”

The two-story, 16,000-square-foot building includes two interview rooms, two conference rooms and nine unoccupied offices to accommodate future growth. The building sits directly makai adjacent to county offices at West Hawaii Civic Center.

“It’s nice being with county ohana,” said First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dale Ross.

Roth and Ross agree that moving closer to the new courthouse is a huge improvement from the approximately 11-mile commute from the old Kealakekua office. Roth said the county was paying approximately $20,000 per month in rent for the Halekii Street site.

“The other great thing about the new office, we have a lot of space for meetings,” Roth said. “One of the things we were able to do on the Hilo side prior to COVID, we were able to have different nonprofits utilize our offices. We are looking forward for various nonprofits to utilize our offices for meetings.”

The move took place during the Fourth of July weekend, with staff moving in Monday.

“We’re so grateful to have a beautiful professional space everyone can be proud of,” Ross said. “Our staff feels valued.”

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Added Roth: “We are looking forward to better being able to serve the Kona community.”

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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