Maui dancers fight to save community center covered in lead - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Maui dancers fight to save community center covered in lead

(image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts) (image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts)
(image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts) (image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts)
(image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts) (image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts)
(image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts) (image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts)
(image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts) (image: Alexander Academy of Performing Arts)
KULA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A group of dancers on Maui is asking county officials not to tear down the Old Kula Community Center, which is covered in dangerous lead paint.

Instead, the director for the Alexander Academy of Performing Arts wants to strip and repaint the building without tearing it down.

"It's a special building. I can't explain why. It's a happy place. It's a little paradise, there's a lot of history there,” said Danelle Watson.

Watson says the county gave them a week's notice to leave the vacant facility last Monday. They have left, she says, but still have a major performance to prepare for next month.

The issue, though, is much bigger than just needing the space to rehearse. She said the center is rich in history and value – and that they want to save it.

“There's a special magic there, and people who go there know that. It's just got a very community feel about it,” Watson said.

The Old Kula Community Center isn't fancy, but it's been home to the academy for more than two decades.

Watson says the Maui Parks and Recreation Department told her last week that lead was found in the paint. A county spokesman said it was in such disrepair that the building would have to be torn down and replaced, at an estimated $1.5 million cost.

"At that point, with the report in hand, and after we verified the information, the Parks Director had no choice but to have them vacate the facility. There was no way we could allow them back in there, with the report of lead paint in our possession," said the County’s Communication Director, Rod Antone.

Watson says the windows of the building, which was built in the 1930s, rattle when her dancers jump. They only have porta-potties, but no one complains.

"The floors are unlevel, and we teach ballet, and we teach point and nobody complains about that," she said.

Watson said they found a painter who is certified in handling lead paint and willing to donate materials and labor for $1,000. She said they are willing to fundraise, but the county hasn't said if that would be allowed.

Meanwhile, the academy is holding practice at Seabury Hall until the end of May. 

"Even if our dance academy can't be there, I think the community needs to stand up and not let that building get torn down. That building has a lot of history and it's a very special building. That building needs to stay up," said Watson.

The county said they found a location for the academy in Haliimaile. But Watson says the space is not feasible for them.

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