Another potential roadblock in decade-long effort to safely open new Kihei high school

There is another potential roadblock in the decade-long effort to safely open a new high school in South Maui.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 7:15 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:07 AM HST
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KIHEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is another potential roadblock in the decade-long effort to safely open a new high school in South Maui.

Kulanihakoi High School in Kihei hopes to welcome its first students this fall — if it can get through all the red tape.

Sen. Angus McKelvey said he’s trying to open Kulanihakoi High School as quickly and safely as possible.

A decade ago, the state Land Use Commission ordered an overpass or underpass be built so students living on the other side of the busy Piilani Highway could get to campus safely. The Department of Education decided on an overpass.

But ten years later, it’s still not built, and no money was put in the state budget this year to build it.

McKelvey said even though no one asked him, he set aside $15 million on the Senate side for it but it did not have support from the House.

“It takes two to tango, and you have to have a willing dance partner to get things upstairs to the governor,” McKelvey said.

Area Rep. Terez Amato said she also requested State CIP (Capital Improvement Project)funds for a safe crossing but those funds did not make it through the House Finance process. So, she said she also submitted a request for federal funding and hopes to have an update on that soon.

“Nothing is more important than our children, so I’ll keep working for the people of Kihei to bring in funding for this and other critical infrastructure projects,” Amato said in a statement.

DOE officials said although funding is needed, they are not ready to build yet.

“We’re a little behind because we didn’t get funding this year, but we wouldn’t be able to be in the construction phase anyway,” said DOE Deputy Superintendent of Operations Curt Otaguro.

Otaguro said they are still in the design phase and hope to have a final plan by fall and present it to lawmakers next year.

In the meantime, Gov. Josh Green has agreed to indemnify Maui County — which protects them from future lawsuits.

In return, the county will issue a temporary certificate of occupancy, which legally allows new buildings to be occupied.

Otaguro said the county still hasn’t issued the permit, and he flew to Maui last week to find out why.

“We’ve confirmed that the Maui Corp [Corporation] Council would like a letter from the state,” Otaguro said.

Otaguro said he is meeting with the Attorney General on Friday to determine what that entails.

Maui County Chief of Communications and Public Affairs Mahina Martin said in a statement:

As the next step, the County is waiting for the State’s Department of Attorney General to sign a Memorandum of Agreement which would provide indemnification to the County and clarify the statutory authority of the Department of Transportation with regards to highway controls.

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