MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers have funded a long-awaited construction project at the University of Hawaii's flagship campus, but some faculty members have major concerns about the $55 million plan.
Snyder Hall, which houses the Microbiology Department, is one of the most dilapidated buildings at UH-Manoa.
The building was constructed in 1962. Collapsed ceilings led to the closure of the fifth floor more than a decade ago, according to faculty members. There are also plenty of other problems.
"Ceiling tiles falling right on students' desks in the middle of study, steam leaks in the hallway. Just recently we had to evacuate the whole building, almost. Just a terrible environment to work in," said microbiology professor Tung Hoang.
After some false starts, the faculty and administration came up with a plan several years ago to demolish Snyder Hall and rebuild it in the same spot. But now, the project involves constructing a new Life Sciences Building across campus at the current site of Henke Hall, which will also be torn down.
"We can't really go back in time and address those things. I can speak about current leadership and what they're doing, and once again, this was identified as the most important thing that needed to be addressed on campus and it's being addressed," said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
The new Life Sciences Building will include space for the Biology Department, which also uses Snyder Hall. The Botany Department and the Pacific Biosciences Research Center will also move in.
Stuart Donachie, chair of the Microbiology Department, is worried about adequate space in the facility.
"Once we have full strength faculty, all the graduate students in place, department office, all of our instructional program, we actually need more space than is being allocated to us in this new building," he said.
Meisenzahl said not everyone got what they wanted, but that this was the best option overall.
"There's going to be enough space, but is there enough space on campus for the facilities that everyone deserves and needs and for the type of institution that we want to be? Absolutely not right now, but this is a significant first step in that direction," said Meisenzahl.
State lawmakers just approved $35 million for the plan and the university had set aside $20 million in deferred maintenance funding from last year.
If all goes according to plan with the design-build project, UH officials hope to knock down Henke Hall in August 2017 and complete construction of the Life Sciences Building in December 2018. The project also includes the demolition of Snyder Hall in 2019.
UH officials had asked lawmakers for $184.9 million in general obligation bonds for a capital campaign for deferred maintenance for the next fiscal year. The state budget includes $182.75 million worth of general obligation bond appropriation for specific project funding and $30 million in revenue bonds.