No quick fix at Honolulu Hale for asbestos, broken windows

No quick fix at Honolulu Hale for asbestos and broken windows
Updated: Feb. 2, 2017 at 5:01 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Something's broken at Honolulu Hale: Councilman Trevor Ozawa has been dealing with a shattered window after recent high winds but that's just the beginning of costly repairs for asbestos and water damage.

Ozawa says when he entered office in 2015, his window was been cracked. Last year, a bird flew into the cracked window which made it worse.

"Believe it or not, that's actually blood from a bird that was injured right out here," said Ozawa.

Then last week's high winds blew out the whole window, leaving glass strewn over his office.

"Not only is it embarrassing, but it's distracting when it keeps rattling," he said.

For two years, Ozawa has been asking for answers.

"The Department of Facilities and Maintenance said he can't just replace the window because of the asbestos in the caulking," he said.

Honolulu Hale, a historic center of city government, was officially opened on Dec. 17, 1929. It's an architectural beauty, but has asbestos, lead paint and other unsightly leftovers like bird feces tainting the building.

Photos from the Managing Director's office show after every rain storm, crews use temporary measures to prevent more water damage.

"It's funny that they have these problems in there, how do they continue to meet in there?" asked Jim Marchik, who was touring the city with his wife, Diane.

The city and council are working on a plan.

"We need to determine all the work that needs to be done. What the total cost is going to be and its possible we need to phase in the improvements and not do it all at once," said Council Chair Ron Menor.

Asbestos mitigation is mandatory and and it's no secret it's very costly. What adds to the cost is that repairs could potentially expose asbestos so that means city staff would relocate to other offices during repairs. One alternative is the HART offices at Alii Place.

The mayor's office released a statement that read, "While we too would like renovated offices on the third floor of Honolulu Hale, we have prioritized projects such as road repaving, bus service, and park improvements."

The city also says repairs can be tricky. A few years ago, the city council budgeted $141,000 to renovate their third floor council chamber. It ending up costing $428,000 due to the asbestos abatement issues.

Ross Sasamura, director of facility maintenance, released this statement regarding plans going forward:

"The Department of Facility Maintenance is requesting funds for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2018 budget to begin the effort of addressing space planning and large scale renovation of Honolulu Hale to address abatement, air conditioning and ventilation, modernization of building infrastructure and systems within the confines of maintaining the historic sense of place. A part of this effort will involve the identification of suitable offices for City staff to relocate to during the abatement and subsequent renovation process. The cost for asbestos abatement alone is estimated at $50 million, not including any of the renovations and repairs nor renting office space."

That's no consolation for this Councilman Ozawa who wants the people's hale fixed.

"We are not respecting the hale," he said.

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