AIEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Less than a week after Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a new proposal aimed at going after owners of neglected city properties, Hawaii News Now found a city building with tall weeds and grass in front and lots of graffiti on it.
The city's Aiea fire station has been closed since March of last year for more than a half million dollars of repairs. In the more than a year since it's been unoccupied by firefighters, the grass has grown pretty long and large weeds have sprouted up on its lawn.
The station -- built in 1971 -- needed asbestos removed and renovations to its offices, locker room and kitchen, according to Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig.
"It's a project that's very similar to what we've done with a number of old fire stations. Basically rehabilitating it so it's functional and serviceable for a number of years," Seelig said.
In the back of the station, graffiti of all colors covers the main building and some of the walls on the property, which is open with no fencing or walls to prevent access by the public.
"It's pretty bad," said Aiea resident Gary Miyamoto, who lives nearby.
It's a billboard of sorts for the H-1 Freeway that's right in back, providing a drive-by graffiti view for thousands of Ewa-bound motorists each day.
City officials said the contractors have painted over the graffiti several times. But the problem is the vandals just keep coming back and painting over it once again, said city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke.
He said it was too expensive to put up fencing, surveillance cameras or hire a security guard during the construction work.
"I guess it's pretty hard to do to watch this, unless they had cameras. But then that's another thing, too. Money's going into surveillance instead of something else," said Miyamoto, who walks the neighborhood every day.
On Friday, Caldwell signed a bill into law which carries$5,000-a-day fines for owners of neglected properties, raising those fines by a hundred times. But city officials said their Aiea property doesn't qualify for such fines because it's not a blight that's being ignored.
"I don't think it should be seen as the same as properties that are being neglected. This is under active construction work and actually the graffiti was removed and then it came back," Seelig said.
Broder Van Dyke said, "Bill three only applies to the most egregious repeat offenders, so I think the link is a stretch. It applies to private landowners who have lots that are trashed."
The project is scheduled to be completed in late July and firefighters will move in shortly after that, once city officials OK all the construction work, Seelig said.