Lai Opua nonprofit health clinic to open in 2015


West Hawaii Community Health Center — a nonprofit working to provide health care to the underserved and underinsured — anticipates a new clinic at Lai Opua will open in April 2015.

That’s according to Lauren Avery, the center’s resource development manager, and project director Armin Guenther who provided an update on the organization’s work to meet the community’s health, mental and dental care needs on Saturday during a Lai Opua 2020 informational meeting and gathering with community members and stakeholders in Kealakehe.

The new 26,000-square-foot, two-story clinic will be located south of Kealakehe High School within the 16-acre Lai Opua Community Center, which in the long term calls for a community center, medical center, preschool, gymnasium and aquatic center, recreation area and other amenities for various community organizations, said nonprofit Lai Opua 2020 Executive Director Bo Kahui. An extra 10 acres could later be developed in the area for commercial activities.

It will be constructed in two phases with the first 11,500-square-foot phase including a medical center and dental clinic, said Guenther. The first phase of vertical construction, which doesn’t include infrastructure, is expected to cost $5 million, which has already been secured via a federal Department of Health Health Resource Service Administration grant, Avery said, noting that doesn’t cover the cost of equipment and other necessities.

The first phase of construction is anticipated to take about 14 months from the start of work. The second phase, which includes approximately 14,500 square feet, has yet to be funded, but is expected to cost about $7 million. That phase, Guenther explained, would include a partial second story for administration and more room for family practice, reception and outreach.

While the money is there for vertical construction, in order for the clinic to move forward, like all projects in the community center, Kahui explained $8 million needs to be secured for infrastructure like sewer, water and electricity. Kahui said the organization has submitted a grant request to secure up to $23 million for work, including infrastructure, within the area via the Native American Self Determination Act. He added that Lai Opua has $6 million to match toward the grant.

Work is also progressing on the County of Hawaii’s end to bring a regional park to the Kealakehe area, said county Department of Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald. The 193-acre Kealakehe Regional Park would be situated makai of Ane Keohokalole Highway and south of Kealakehe Parkway and provide an array of recreational opportunities not only for those in Kealakehe but all of Kona.

An executive order that once designated the land for a county golf course was amended in summer 2011 to allow for other uses, Fitzgerald said, also noting that the executive order still contains wording that would allow for a golf course, if sought. A nonprofit, the West Hawaii Parks and Athletics Corp., has also been created to help raise funds for the proposed park.

In addition, some $277,000 has been awarded to Kimura International Inc. to complete a master plan for the area. The first informational meeting on the park will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona, Fitzgerald said. About a month later, Kimura will then hold a planning charrette to get a better grasp of what exactly the community would want in the park.

“These things really take a lot of work,” Kahui said about the process of getting the regional park to fruition. “But, these are the kind of things a community needs. Because if our keiki are kept busy they are not going to get in trouble or find trouble — they will be too busy about that stuff.”

Department of Hawaiian Homelands Deputy Director Michelle Kauhane also provided homesteaders with an update on the progression of the Villages at Lai Opua, which provides Native Hawaiian beneficiaries affordable homes. The fourth increment of homes will be built in two phases with the first phase comprising 34 acres and 117 units.

The department anticipates construction would begin in June 2013 and wrap up a year later, she said. The second phase, which she did not provide a schedule for, would include 125 units.

In addition to the updates, various community groups and organizations, including Child and Family Services, Family Support Services of West Hawaii, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Hui Malama, Kamehameha Schools, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Aupaka Dryland Preserve, Habitat for Humanity and Kau I Ka Malie Center, also provided attendees with information.