Wednesday | September 02, 2015
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$5.6M sought for S. Kona Police Station

The Hawaii Police Department is keeping the South Kona Police Station on the books with requests for nearly $6 million in general obligation bonds through 2015.

The department requested $4.6 million in fiscal year 2013-14 and $1 million in fiscal year 2014-15 to construct the station that would be located south of the current Hawaii Fire Department station in Captain Cook, according to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s proposed capital improvement project budget submitted last week.

That requested amount is in addition to $1.4 million in bonds previously allocated for design and survey work, bringing the project’s total six-year capital expenditures to $7 million, as reported in West Hawaii Today Wednesday.

Various estimates for the two-story station have ranged from $15 million to $40 million. Police and Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford, in whose district the station falls, said the final price would be determined only after bidding.

HPD Administrative Bureau Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua, who submits the department’s capital improvement project funding requests, said the project could go out to bid this summer. The facility is listed as the department’s second priority in capital improvement projects behind holding cell improvements and ahead of a firing range.

The South Kona station bond requests will reappropriate funding sought, but not allocated, in previous fiscal years, including in fiscal 2010-11 and 2012-13, Kanehailua said. The $4.6 million stems from a funding request by Ford several years back.

While funding is being sought at the county level, it is not enough to cover the full price tag, police and Ford acknowledged. The county is looking for both federal and state funding sources.

While many residents in the district work two to three jobs to support their families, the area’s median income of $55,000 is too high to quality for federal rural police station construction grants, Ford said. To combat the issue, Ford said she recently met with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to discuss whether the federal government’s across-the-nation formula for determining median income is fair to Hawaii.

“The (median) income is too high based on the federal guidelines and formulas, but the problem is the cost of living is so tremendously high here,” she said. “The federal guidelines for Hawaii need to be amended.”

Ford also said she has spoken with state Rep. Denny Coffman regarding funding for the station at the state level. Coffman said Wednesday he is looking into the issue and whether funding might be available.

“Is there a way to get us a little help? Fifteen million dollars would be very helpful,” Ford said.

A police station in South Kona has been promised to the area since the early 1990s when Stephen K. Yamashiro was mayor. South Kona remains the only County Council district without a dedicated force. Police combine North and South Kona into one district for operations.

Former Chief Lawrence Mahuna said in February 2008 the station would be complete within five to 10 years after he was urged by the Hawaii County Police Commission to make the station a priority. Current Chief Harry Kubojiri in April 2010 said the project remained a priority.

The proposed station, a two-story, 21,592-square-foot facility featuring four separate holding cells and a 10-lane firing range, will be constructed on 5 acres mauka of Mamalahoa Highway, according to the project’s environmental assessment released in October. Existing barracks at the Captain Cook police substation will be incorporated — that building was the Kona district police station before the Kealakehe station was built.

Construction is expected to take about 16 months.

Land for the new police station in South Kona was acquired in mid-2009 with the consolidation of state and county land finalized in September 2010.

While funding could be secured for the facility, Ford said the department needs to ensure funding to cover staffing costs is in its operating budget.

“A basic command structure has to be there,” she said, adding she’d like to see at the least a sergeant and lieutenant on staff each shift.

The department’s top priority, $600,000 for holding cell improvements in fiscal 2013-14, will be spent in police districts like Hamakua and North Kohala, where stations have only one cell available, Kanehailua said.

The improvements will provide separate cells for men, women and juveniles, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, from which the department received accreditation in late 2012.

The department is also seeking, as its last priority, $600,000 in fiscal 2013-14 and $6 million in fiscal year 2014-15 to construct an East Hawaii firing range that would include multiple lanes for firearms training and qualification and a training and locker room facility.

The department now uses a four-lane firing range in Hilo, as well as outdoor ranges in Waimea and at the Pohakuloa Training Area. Kanehailua said access to private land, as well as military training areas, will be not be allowed in the future.

“For 338 sworn officers to qualify each year, annually and semiannually, we need a little bigger facility,” he said.

He said the 10-lane firing range proposed in the planned South Kona Police Station would improve access to West Hawaii officers who would otherwise have to travel or be shuttled to firing ranges.