Hawaii News Now's Investigation into deplorable conditions at one of the University of Hawaii's College of Education buildings has uncovered another example of neglect -- millions in insurance money that was left unspent for years.
"In 2006, we had a fire where a 30,000-square foot building burned to the ground," said former COE Dean Christine Sorensen Irvine.
The building housed the COE University Laboratory School. It was also used for athletics, music and drama classes. After the fire, Sorensen Irvine was one of the people working on site plans.
"We were looking at trying to build a new facility that replaced the one that burnt. That kind of disappeared," she said.
Sorensen Irvine provided Hawaii News Now with a letter from 2007 asking the university to help put in four modular units. At that time the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was willing to help cover nearly half the cost. But that request was denied.
In 2010, UH officials confirmed they received a $4.5 million insurance settlement from the fire.
Sorensen Irvine sent another request but help never came. Meantime, classrooms built before World War II continued to deteriorate.
"The ceiling fell in here just a few weeks ago. You can clearly see there is a lot of termite damage in the rafters a lot of debris came down with it," said art instructor Jennifer Herring.
Inside Building One the only women's bathroom had been closed because of safety concerns. Rat feces covered shelves and the insides of drawers.
"I don't think anyone at the University of Hawaii is going to tell you that's an acceptable situation," said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
According to Meisenzahl, about $1 million of the settlement has been spent. In 2012, $600,000 went to drafting a College of Education master plan. The university used $350,000 to put in two donated portable classrooms set to open ahead of summer session next year.
As for the rest of the money, it's just been sitting there because the university has failed to demolish Building One and Building Two.
"They should have been taken down. And they're going to be taken down. And we're going to address this," said Meisenzahl.
University officials will put in a request to the governor's office on Oct. 15 asking for $670,000 for the demolition project.
Up until Thursday, classes were still being held in Building One. After Hawaii News Now's report, it was officially shut down.
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