EXCLUSIVE: Lease for controversial UH lab soars $200k

EXCLUSIVE: Lease for controversial UH lab soars $200k
Published: Nov. 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A plot of land the University of Hawaii thought it was leasing for a dollar a year will now cost more than $200,000 a year.

The property is the future home of the controversial UH Pacific Health Research Laboratory in Kalaeloa.

University Regents today approved a long-term lease with the Army even though they just found out the rent is skyrocketing.

"That was a curve ball our local folks from the Army Corps of Engineers got from Washington," said UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.

"That surprised us as well."

The UH had previously worked out a deal with local army officials to pay a dollar a year for the two-acre property. But three weeks ago, Army brass in Washington, D.C. increased the rent to $218,000 a year.

The increase is on top of the $2.2 million in annual operating costs that the UH will have to pay for the project. UH officials, so far, have not budgeted the added operating costs.

The UH Board of Regents voted unanimously today to pass the lease proposal but several members expressed concerns about having enough information about the lab's costs.

"I just think this is kind of frustrating," said Regent Coralie Matayoshi.

"This issue is before us and I have not seen a business plan on the operations."

Regent Jan Sullivan added:"Another part of it is the operational funding. What is the business plan and how are we going to cover it?"

Construction of the $47.5 million complex will be covered by federal and state funding But Apple says he hopes the federal agencies will cover more of the annual operating costs.

Some members of the Leeward Oahu community question why the UH is going ahead with the lab when the school is having trouble running a smaller lab at the medical school in Kakaako.

The Bio-Safety Lab at the John A. Burns School of Medicine has been closed since June due to maintenance problems that cost the lab its certification. Med school officials say they hope to begin the re-certification process next week.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.