UH works to fix millions worth of broken, dilapidated facilities - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

UH works to fix millions worth of broken, dilapidated facilities

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The State Legislature has appropriated $37.5 million for the University of Hawaii Manoa to attack its backlog of repair and maintenance projects, but that will still cover only about 10 percent of the projects needing improvement, UH officials said.

Lawmakers also provided UH's flagship campus with $21 million for more urgent projects needed to protect health and safety, such as electrical, stairway and elevator upgrades.

Administrators who work in historic Hawaii Hall don't have to go far to see an example of facilities in disrepair.  The fountain in the middle of Varney Circle, right in front of Hawaii Hall has not worked for a decade.  UH is now working to fix it.

The dark and dingy hallway of Snyder Hall is home to some of the science lab classrooms at UH Manoa.

"Here is one of our freezers for our teaching labs and you can see the state of this and also you can smell the mold, right," said Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Vassilis Syrmos.  The freezer's shelves are rusted and in disrepair.

The microbiology lab classrooms in Snyder have not been upgraded since the building opened in 1962 and it shows.

The sinks and lab equipment are very worn down and old. Desk drawers are broken, the floor has some large stains and garbage bags cover some of the windows.

UH will spend about $30 million to upgrade the labs next school year.   

Next door at Edmonson Hall, there is a huge contrast because biology lab classrooms are nearly finished after $16 million worth of renovations.  Biology is UH Manoa's most popular undergraduate major with 1,200 students.

"So $16 million later, it looks like this, which is, I think, what our undergraduate students deserve to have as an experience in a research 1 university," Syrmos said.

The grass has been growing longer on the Manoa campus and small problems like broken doors have taken months or even a year to fix  because there are 80 vacancies on UH's maintenance staff.

Budget cuts meant maintenance openings weren't replaced for the last few years, during the recession.

"We're bringing them back to campus and bringing more people in to be able to handle facilities and maintenance, so we have more boots on the ground," said UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.

Apple said about 25 percent of the vacant maintenance jobs will now be filled.

But when large gouges are visible in the side of Saunders Hall, making the building look like it's in a war zone, it's clear there are still plenty of places that need improvement.

"There's a lot going on here.  We're improving a lot of the facilities.  Some of are in design phase, some are in construction phase.  But we have to keep working because the campus needs a lot of work," Apple said. "It's really important that we maintain our facilities and that they're at a level we can be proud of."

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