After nearly a year of inaction, some South Kona residents are frustrated by the county’s apparent inability to fix a broken solar heating system for its public swimming pool at Konawaena High School.
For months, Keauhou resident Nathan Libarios said he and others have regularly informed the Department of Parks and Recreation and the mayor’s Kona office about the pool’s water being too cold. He claims county officials promised to hold a community meeting to keep residents informed about the situation, but nothing ever happened. He also said officials attributed the repair delay to “a lack of funding and bureaucratic red tape.”
Tired of waiting, Libarios said he is trying to rally regular pool users and the community together. He would like to raise money to repair the solar heating system and make other improvements at the pool. He is looking for a local nonprofit to help partner in this effort.
Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Bob Fitzgerald said his maintenance crew first noticed the solar heating system was acting up in March. Originally, it was thought only the pipes were leaking and needed to be replaced. However, upon further inspection, there were other problems, particularly with the solar heating system itself. Also there are questions about the system’s design, now thought to be flawed and not right for the area, as well as the type of pipes used, he said.
Fitzgerald stressed the delay is not because of a funding issue. He said it’s because the county is trying to determine exactly what the problems are and what the best solution might be.
“Something is definitely wrong with the system and we’re trying our best to get it fixed,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re committed to making the repairs in a speedy way, but we also want to make sure we’re spending money appropriately. Besides getting the system up and running, we want to make sure it works right and efficiently. We don’t want this to be a Band-Aid.”
Parks and Recreation has contacted the system’s manufacturer and was told the warranty had expired. However, the department is working with the manufacturer of the panels, which are still under warranty. Also a consultant is donating his time and analyzing the system, Fitzgerald said.
Parks and Recreation is awaiting the consultant’s full report, expected “within the next couple weeks.” Once the department has a better idea of what needs to be done and potential costs, the project will be put out to bid, Fitzgerald said. He guessed the cost could be between $80,000 and $100,000, depending upon the scope of work. He could not provide any estimate when repairs will be completed or when the bidding process would begin, only saying “hopefully soon.”
A public information meeting about the broken solar water heating system and the county’s efforts is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 17, at the pool, said Bobby Command, the mayor’s executive assistant. For more information, call the Mayor’s Kona Office at 323-4444.
Fitzgerald said his department welcomes the collaboration of people willing to partner with the county and raise funds for the Konawaena pool. He said Parks and Recreation has worked with other groups to help maintain, enhance and improve other facilities. He recommended those interested contact him at 323-4322.