Educators show need for 'Invest in Hawaii' construction money

Published: Apr. 3, 2012 at 10:30 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 4, 2012 at 3:01 AM HST
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Duane Kashiwai; Department of Education Public Works Administrator
Duane Kashiwai; Department of Education Public Works Administrator

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Half a billion dollars could start pumping into Hawaii's economy within months.  The money from a state bond sale would pay for renovations at nearly every public school in Hawaii along with scores of other properties.

At Farrington High School rain gutters don't hold water, drinking fountains don't have water and walkways have water damage.

"Water has gotten into the cracks and the concrete and it's started progressive deterioration," said Duane Kashiwai, Department of Education Public Works Administrator, as he pointed out some of the problems at Farrington High. "This is some of the stuff we hope to take care of with this funding."

Mix in damaged walls, broken bleachers and warped windows and it adds up to an $8.3 million backlog of problems.

"Some of the things we saw today are not dangerous but they need to be monitored more closely because they're not there yet but they could get there sometime in the near future," said Kashiwai.

Leahi Hospital in Kaimuki has been diagnosed with cracked windows, bad paint and an old incinerator that is crumbling.

"If there is a good size earthquake it could fall down. It could fall into an occupied area where our maintenance staff works," said Ron Kurasaki, Leahi Hospital.

The Invest in Hawaii Act would fix these problems spending $500 million on repair work at public schools and state offices across the state.

"It gives them more tools for which to succeed," said Kashiwai.

However there is opposition in the construction industry, not to the work but to the process.  Lawmakers would like to speed up work but the changes scare contractors.  The fear is smaller companies may get pushed out and contractors may cut corners.

"If you look at a lot of the work being proposed it's under $100,000 so there is enough work for the small contractors," said Kashiwai. "Under each category there are certain legal requirements we will make sure we meet."

"The arguments are a little bit different. They're looking at it from I want the carpenters to cut their piece of the pie, the electricians having their slice, the masons, so their beef is more about how much of that $500 million am I going to get," said State Senator Glenn Wakai, (D) Kalihi, Salt Lake, Aiea, who voted in favor of the capital improvement project money.  "All the boats will rise with the tide. Everyone will get an opportunity to share in the benefits. The general contractors and subcontractors there is going to be so much work out there I think everyone will be happy. We all have to play nicely in the construction field and I'm hoping and crossing my fingers we are going to see some real good development."

The issue will go to a vote of the full State Senate. If lawmakers approve the plan work would begin within months.

To read more about the Invest in Hawaii Act click here.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.