EXCLUSIVE: UH West Oahu cost overruns mount

UH West Oahu Cost Overruns
Published: May. 30, 2013 at 10:55 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:25 PM HST
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There's still a "coming soon" sign in front the empty Peet's Coffee shop but work on that project was halted months ago when the school ran out of money.

It's one of the more glaring reminders of the cost-overrun at the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

"It is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg," said state Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai.

"There are people with financial responsibilities and fiduciary authorization that have not done it well."

The $120,000 coffee shop was a late add-on the original building plans. It's one of 260 amendments that increased the school's construction costs by $14 million dollars.

A Hawaii News Now review of these so-called change orders found a number of big-ticket items such as a $2 million solar farm that was supposed to be built on the south side of the campus and hundreds of thousand of dollars to change the direction school's roadway entrance.

Due to the overruns, the school also put construction of new administrative building on hold. School officials are now crammed into rooms around campus due to the stalled construction.

"We're talking 13, 14, $15 million dollars. It shows me it's not proper fiscal management," Slom said.

UH West Oahu's former chancellor Gene Awakuni has come under fire among lawmakers and the UH Board of Regents for being over budget. He retired earlier this year.

Rockne Freitas, who took over as chancellor this month, is now tasked with finding the money for the unfinished projects. But it's going to be a tough sell among skeptical lawmakers and alumni.

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