Council to act on accepting bypass payout


With Hawaii County expecting a $20 million payment next month, the County Council’s Finance Committee will consider a bill Tuesday to accept the money, which will be used to build the second half of the Mamalahoa bypass.

The long-anticipated road — promised by developers in the late 1990s as a public benefit of the Hokulia project in South Kona — has been on the books since the 1970s. Developers were able to construct the first half, from Alii Drive to Halekii Street in Kealakekua, but work stalled during protracted litigation relating to unsuccessful attempts to take land for the second half by eminent domain.

Hokulia and its bond holder settled with the county in 2012, offering a $20 million payout if the company was unable to complete the bypass. County officials hoped to start work on the road last year, but ended up waiting for the payment to be made. Deputy Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela said the payment must be made by March 23.

In December, Kamelamela and the county filed five condemnation actions to secure the remaining five lots needed to build the road from Halekii Street to Napoopoo Junction. Kamelamela said no one is contesting the actions, but the county is awaiting the assessment which will tell officials how much to pay for the land.

Condemnation actions can be wrapped up as quickly as a few months, or, as in the case of the earlier attempted condemnation for the bypass, years. One of the landowners along the route sued the county, saying the condemnation action was illegal because it was done for the benefit of a private developer. Eventually, the county won the lawsuit after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear the case.

Kamelamela said he did not anticipate a lengthy or disputed process this time.

Public Works officials have said they expect the $30 million project, which will also include some improvements to Halekii Street, to take about 18 months. The county is soliciting bids for the project and already has received notice from six companies that they intend to bid, Public Works Director Warren Lee said Friday.

Bids are due March 20, just before the bond payment comes due. Lee said he expects to be able to issue a notice to proceed by summer, meaning the anticipated completion date would come at the end of 2015 or in early 2016.

In August, the County Council approved the purchase of a sixth parcel needed for the bypass route. Council members then questioned Kamelamela about why work had not yet begun. He told them construction plans were taking longer to finalize than previously anticipated.

Lee said the road design includes moving the Napoopoo intersection slightly south of its current location. That will make for a safer, easier to use intersection, he added.