WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new proposal being floated at the State Legislature would have Dole Food Company trade thousands of acres of former pineapple land for the Oahu Community Correctional Center site in Kalihi, in a deal that could provide the state money to build a badly needed new prison.
Dole has listed a parcel of more than 15,000 acres of former pineapple fields between Wahiawa and the North Shore for sale for about $185 million.
Under a proposed land swap, Dole would give the state that land which the state would use to rent to farmers.
"The idea here is to get more ag lands so we can provide farmers long-term leases, so that they can make the investments possible to have really a long-term future in ag," said Wahiawa State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who was finding co-sponsors for the bill Wednesday that would provide $500,000 for the state to investigate a land swap.
In exchange for receiving the old pineapple land, the state would give Dole the 11-acre OCCC site in Kalihi, which is right along the rail transit line.
"We should be focusing density in the urban core, putting housing in the city and keeping the country country and that's what this bill tries to achieve," Dela Cruz said.
The state has been looking at building a new OCCC jail facility next to Halawa prison to replace the out-of-date and overcrowded jail facility, but lacks the cash to do it.
"There's no money. So we have to be creative in how we're going to preserve ag land and at the same time, build a new prison," Dela Cruz said.
So Dela Cruz wants the state to give Dole Food Company other state-owned land along the rail route, besides OCCC, worth enough value so the company would pay for the new prison to be built in Halawa.
"What this enables the state to do is get a new prison without spending any dollars, any cash or any CIP and we can exchange the additional value of land to achieve that," Dela Cruz said.
Sources said there have been high-level talks among state government officials about parts of this deal, but it's still a work in progress and far from agreed upon yet and still in the conceptual phase.
Officials from Dole Food Company officials in California were not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Spokespeople at both the Public Safety and Agriculture departments said their front-line staff had not heard details of the proposal.
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