State briefs for September 29

Honolulu to withdraw from rail partnership procurement

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu’s mayor announced the city plans to withdraw from its part in establishing a public-private partnership for the final stretch of the city’s $9.2 billion rail project.

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Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Friday that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is responsible for canceling the procurement of an agreement with an unidentified contractor.

Authority CEO and Executive Director Andrew Robbins said the authority was disappointed by the city’s decision to withdraw but does not plan to cancel the partnership.

Details of proposals for the partnership will remain confidential until the procurement process is closed by the authority, which is a semi-autonomous city agency.

“I remain committed to the rail project and encourage HART to explore a more open and effective approach of continuing the construction to Ala Moana,” Caldwell said in a statement.

Caldwell said he hopes for the timely development of an alternative bid strategy, such as a more traditional design and build approach.

Robbins said that after nearly two years of work the authority “does not consider it in the public interest to walk away at this point.”

“While the city has announced its withdrawal, I need to emphasize that HART is not canceling the procurement and is instead considering its options as to how best to now move forward with the construction of the City Center segment and completion of the project,” Robbins said in a statement.

State Procurement Officer Sarah Allen did not respond to a request for comment.

Some authority officials said they were stunned by Caldwell’s announcement but declined to comment.

Caldwell’s statement cast an additional measure of uncertainty on the state’s largest public works project a day after the authority’s board of directors announced there were not enough votes among its members to cut ties with the agency’s chief executive.

The full board failed to follow the recommendation of the authority’s human resources committee to allow the expiration of its employment contract with Robbins, the city’s highest-paid employee. Robbins’ 3-year contract expires Dec. 31.

More Oahu jail virus cases a day after report

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Public Safety has said that 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 a day after officials declared an outbreak in an Oahu jail was under control.

The announcement followed another round of testing at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, Hawaii Public Radio reported Sunday.

The department said 131 of 150 inmate tested negative and that tests on 22 staff members were negative.

There have been 310 inmates at Oahu Community Correctional Center who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 93 staff have also tested positive, the department said.

Mass testing continues at other correctional facilities, officials said.

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Results from inmate testing at the Halawa Correctional Facility, a state prison in Honolulu, came back negative Friday, with 23 tests pending.

All results were negative for 164 inmates tested at Kulani Correctional Facility on Hawaii Island and all results were negative at the Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oahu.

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