A turf war over artificial turf

Tady Arisumi
Tady Arisumi
Logan Hamocon
Logan Hamocon

By Leland Kim - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) -  Hawaii's landscape contractors are up in arms after the board that oversees contract licenses changes the rules.  They're accusing a board member of trying to modify licensing requirements to eliminate the competition, but the board is saying that's not true.

It's a very complicated issue, and even after a five-hour hearing, there's still no clear-cut resolution.  The question boils down to which license is needed to do bid for certain landscape jobs.  At stake are million dollar contracts and people's livelihood.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa baseball team got re-energized this past season, thanks to an improved Les Murakami Stadium.  It went through a transformation in January.  Synthetic turf replaced the old Astroturf.

"We couldn't have been happier," said Mike Trapasso, University of Hawaii's head baseball coach.  "We couldn't be happier with the job that was done."

But a new a turf war has emerged over artificial turf.  Logan Hamocon did the work at Murakami Stadium.

The department of commerce and consumer affairs said his C-27 landscape contractor license was sufficient to do the project.

"Of all the license, landscape contractors do the most top dressing," said Hamocon, who owns Sports Turf Hawaii, a landscaping company. "In Hawaii alone I've top dressed over 5 million square feet."

But the rules changed in October, after board member Dennis Sadowski requested the board reconsider, and restrict synthetic turf installation to those who have a C-68FF license, according to the Contractors License Board's meeting minutes from October 2007.

Sadowski is only a handful on Oahu who has that license versus more than a hundred who have the C-27 license.

"I primarily do synthetic turf with a little bit of side landscape," said Rory Otto, a landscape contractor.  "And so if this is going to stay in, you put me out of business."

The board chose to postpone its ruling until next month.

"Everything we presented today was in black and white, it was very clear," said Hamocon.  "There was a serious conflict of interest that has happened."

"It's not conflict of interest," said Tady Arisumi, the Contractors License Board's chairperson.  "The board has several members and the member that in this case (Sadowski), he does Astroturf work."

But the board acknowledge its ruling, whenever it comes down, is an "informal non-binding opinion," and not legally binding, according to Brenda Verna, an executive member of the board.

So Hamocon still has his eye on an upcoming UH Manoa's Cooke Field contract.

"I intend on bidding on that project through an 'A' license, general contractor," he said.

As far as the quality of Hamocon's work?  Ask the man whose team played on the surface for a season.

"And all you have to do is take a look," said Trapasso.  "We couldn't have been more pleased with the professionalism and the job they did. I was and still am really excited about our new field."

Cooke Field was supposed to be up for bid Friday, but got postponed until July 25, to see what would come out of the meeting.

Sadowski declined KHNL's request for an interview.