EXCLUSIVE: DOE blames consultant for school building slowdown

EXCLUSIVE: DOE blames consultant for school building slowdown
Updated: May. 14, 2013 at 8:21 PM HST
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Ray L'Heureux
Ray L'Heureux
Mike Lyons
Mike Lyons

WAIALUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are 570 students at Waialua Elementary School, but not a single one has been able to set foot in what's shaping up to be the school's new library, computer and media center. The grand opening was supposed to have happened 17 months ago.

Instead the structure sits as an example of what the Department of Education calls a "bad performance" issue.

"I'm as frustrated as anybody else," DOE assistant superintendent Ray L'Heureux said.

He blames the consultant hired to get the proper permits. The job was never done. L'Heureux said he didn't find out about it until late last year.

"Every now and then we have a process in place where a consultant just hasn't done the due diligence when it comes to this permitting. In this specific case that's exactly what happened," he said.

The consultant did not get a Shoreline Management permit or SMA. It's necessary because of where the campus is located. An SMA is needed to obtain a building permit. L'Heureux said construction can go forward while a building permit is being sought, but you need one in hand so Hawaiian Electric can finish hooking up the electricity.

"We spend millions of dollars and now we have a white elephant just sitting there," North Shore Neighborhood Board chairman Mike Lyons said.

He's heard several complaints from student's parents who wonder what's taking so long.

"For months it's been like this. It's time to get it done and get this provided to our students," he said.

The building cost taxpayers about $3.5 million. The DOE paid the consultant $363,000. It's now working with that consultant to finish the job by this summer.

L'Heureux said from now on the department will be more involved with the permitting process for its projects.

"Of the hundreds of projects that the DOE completes to fruition annually, one or two of them slip through," he said. "But my charter, as is the Department of Education, is to find a solution and fix it, and make sure to the best of your ability that it doesn't occur again."

L'Heureaux declined to name the consultant but said DOE canceled that company from another job at Waialua Elementary because of the permit problem.

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