Bidder withdraws; Palamanui campus in jeopardy


Big Island legislators say they have serious concerns about a construction company’s decision to withdraw its bid for the Hawaii Community College at Palamanui project.

“The low bid pulled out, which leaves us with a puka (hole) in the funding,” West Hawaii Sen. Josh Green said, adding the gap between the next lowest bid and the amount of funding the state has available is $8 million.

Green last week met with University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood to discuss the situation.

“She feels confident they can use some of their bonding capability to fill in the gap,” Green said. “I expressed they had to move on this before other projects.”

Green said he won’t be supporting funding for any other higher education project in the state until the university fills in that gap, rather than just waiting for the Legislature to appropriate another $8 million.

West Hawaii Rep. Denny Coffman said Big Island legislators sent a letter to Greenwood Friday about the situation. Coffman said the project’s low bidder, Nan Inc., had submitted a low bid of $21.5 million, which was about $4 million more than the university and a private developer had set aside for the first phase. The next lowest bid, from F&H Construction, was for about $25.5 million, leaving the $8 million gap between funding and cost, Coffman said.

F&H Construction has a Kahului office, but the company’s corporate offices are in Lodi, Calif., according to its website.

A message left late Monday for a Nan official was not immediately returned.

The university system recently announced it would ask for $66 million for three separate construction projects at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, including $33 million for the College of Pharmacy, a project Gov. Neil Abercrombie named a priority in last week’s State of the State address.

“We don’t want to change the design to where it costs less or delay (the project),” Coffman said, noting previous design changes have played a large part in slowing construction on the project.

In August, John Morton, vice president for community colleges, said he expected to open the bidding process in September. Construction was expected to take 15 to 18 months, with the campus opening for classes as early as fall 2014. The campus has been in development for nearly a decade, with the land developer, Palamanui, initially agreeing to build the first campus building itself.

More recently, the state and the developer reached an agreement in which the developer paid the state $9.7 million, to be combined with $7.5 million in capital funding, to have the first phase built.

Green said as long as university officials use their bonding capacity to generate the $8 million, the project should not be delayed.

Attempts to reach Morton, Greenwood, UH Hawaii’s West Hawaii Center interim Director Beth Sanders and Hawaii Community Colleges Chancellor Noreen Yamane were unsuccessful Monday.