Monday, March 04, 2024|
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Community members meet in front of the Papaaloa Gym on Nov. 10 in this Tribune-Herald file photo to express their concerns about the demolition of the facility.
State Rep. Mark Nakashima said Monday a new county gymnasium in Papaaloa is the top capital-improvement priority in his district.
A request for $10 million, which would need to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the county, is included in House Bill 2477, which Nakashima, whose district runs from Kaumana to Hamakua, introduced.
The measure also includes requests for: $18 million for design and construction of six classroom buildings at E.B. de Silva Elementary School in Hilo; $4.5 million for design and construction of a covered play court, retaining wall and covered walkway at Honokaa Elementary School; $10.22 million for design and construction of a retaining wall along Mamane Street for Honokaa High School; $3 million for design and construction of a photovoltaic system for Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School; $22 million for design and construction of an obstetrics facility as part of Hilo Medical Center’s expansion; and $1.5 million for redesign and renovation of the planetarium at Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
“The bill’s just a placeholder; it never gets heard,” Nakashima said. “But a capital improvements bill will be coming out at some point.”
Nakashima said “past practice” dictates that items in the overall capital improvements bill will be culled from measures like Nakashima’s submitted by each House member.
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball described the replacement of the plantation-era gymnasium as “a priority for the administration and for the council.”
“I think it is going to take a lot of planning and a lot of community engagement to determine what the right facility is going to be for that place,” Kimball said. “Our plan right now is to start with a needs assessment, so we can identify what we are really after. And then, it’s going to be going out to try and drum up those funds.”
County Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina told Papaaloa community members in November the gym — which has been closed since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 — can’t be salvaged and needs to be replaced. Messina said the last gym the county built, in Ka‘u, was at a price tag of $17 million. There were several delays in opening that facility, which also serves as a hurricane shelter for the Ka‘u community.
Messina and Kimball both expressed a need for a hurricane shelter along the Hamakua Coast.
“If you go up and down the Hamakua Coast, we don’t have many options if there’s a hurricane barreling down on us,” Messina told the Tribune-Herald Monday. “So, my thoughts are, if we’re going to replace the gym, we build something that the Hamakua Coast could shelter in, if needed.”
With inflation again rearing its head, and supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic, it’s unlikely a hurricane-rated facility could be built for $17 million today.
“It’s going to be more in today’s dollars,” Messina said. He added that Nakashima identifying the gym as the district’s top building priority as “really big for the community.”
“I’m thinking about some of the federal funds that are available right now for resiliency,” Kimball said. “I’m pursuing that angle — but, of course, I’m going to defer to what the community identifies as their primary needs.”
Messina said demolishing the current gym won’t require an environmental assessment, but the structure’s age and the use of lead paint and the roofing will require the county to perform hazardous materials remediation.
The need to demolish the current gym in Papaaloa and problems being experienced in other county recreation facilities are due to “a decade of deferred maintenance of our facilities,” according to Messina.
“Most of the issues we’re having right now in our department is because of that,” he said. “So, in conjunction with our Maintenance Division, we’re putting together a five-year maintenance plan that would not only track our facilities, but ensure that we have a good plan going forward.
“We need to make sure that every one of our facilities is in a database and the status of that facility is in a database as we develop our five-year maintenance plan. We have approximately 300 facilities that we’re in charge of, and through our budget process and (capital improvements) process the mayor and the finance director are working with us to make sure we shore this up, somehow.
“I’ll be speaking with the mayor about it this week,” he continued. “He’s very appreciative of Councilmember Kimball and Rep. Nakashima and their efforts to assist in funding of a new facility. Councilmember Kimball and I, along with Aunty Lucille Chung, are currently working with the community to do fact finding and a needs assessment to figure out what would be the best facility for the community.”
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