VA awards $25 million contract for cemetery improvements at Punchbowl

VA awards $25 million contract for cemetery improvements at Punchbowl
Published: Jan. 13, 2015 at 12:20 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2015 at 4:55 AM HST
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Bernard Lee
Bernard Lee

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

After several setbacks, a plan to expand a revered final resting place at Punchbowl is finally moving forward. The Department of Veterans Affairs just awarded a $25 million contract to Nan Inc.

Based on current projections, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific will run out of space for interments by the fall of 2016, but the director said new niches will be in place before that happens. Hawaii's veterans want to make sure that there is enough room at this sacred site.

"The World War II veterans are in their 90's. The Korean veterans are in their 80's. Vietnam veterans are in their 60's, 70's, so we need burial space for our veterans," said Bernard Lee of the American Legion, Department of Hawaii.

The two-year project will be done in phases. First, a new administration office and visitor center will be built on a five-acre parcel outside the cemetery's gates. Crews will then demolish the old buildings and add new columbariums on that site. The project also includes other cemetery improvements.

"We're convinced we have a fair price. We didn't want to delay because the construction industry in Hawaii is escalating and we were afraid if we delayed this award, we would be caught in more escalation," explained Mark Tillotson, director of the national region of the Office of Construction & Facilities Management.

The original solicitation for bids listed a range of $10-$20 million. Officials said they scaled back the project and made some other changes due to a lack of competitive offers. The department eventually chose a contractor, but a bid protest slowed down the process. After more than a year of delays, construction should begin soon.

"It's a relief, but it's also obviously a fairly daunting task," said cemetery director Jim Horton. "There's going to be a lot of turmoil and a lot of construction mess as you can imagine."

The project will add enough niches for about 10 more years of interments, according to Horton. He said the contractor should be able to complete the new columbariums before the cemetery runs out of room.

"If it looks like we have issues down the road, we'll look at an alternate schedule or compression of the schedule, whatever may be needed," Horton said.

The start date for construction has not been finalized yet, but work is estimated to begin by March 1.

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