Waianae District Park Gymnasium (Image: Hawaii News Now)
WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The doors to a first-floor stairwell at the the Waianae District Park's gymnasium are still locked.
For nearly three years, city officials have restricted access to the second story of the complex while they work out repair plans for a pair of large multi-purpose rooms.
"Maintaining public safety is our top priority," said Michele Nekota, director of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.
First it was a leaky roof, then electrical issues. Now asbestos needs to be removed.
"Every time they try to repair it, we discover more things that need to be repaired," said Ken Koike, chairman of the Waianae Neighborhood Board's parks committee.
Constant delays to repairs are frustrating residents along the Leeward Coast.
"We wanted more space, not less," he said.
Nekota, who has apologized for the slow progress, says she's considering "several procurement, safety, and renovation requirements before proceeding with the repairs."
Despite the statement, there is still no date for re-opening the rooms, which used to house martial arts classes, hula lessons and community meetings. The lack of space caused by the closure has forced some groups to either stop meeting or radically downsize.
"More than half of them have taken a temporary hiatus," Koike said. "But when you go on for three years, it's no longer temporary."
"There's really no space to do what we want to do," added Joanna Ramos, of the Waianae Tae Kwon Do Club.
Ramos' class now squeezes into a small corner of a downstairs room at the gym she shares with a boxing club. Since the closures begain, enrollment has dropped from 40 students per class to about a dozen.
"This is for our kids and our whole community. The kupuna, everybody used those rooms. So it's really important," Ramos said.
"We would certainly like all of our facilities to be open, available, and properly used by the public as much as possible," Nekota said.
Community members with construction expertise have volunteered to help.
"We actually had the materials donated to fix most of what we needed, and we were denied," Koike said, citing procurement rules and liability that would have needed City Council approval.