Revenue bonds to be considered for Palamanui campus project


Hawaii Community College at Palamanui may soon clear a hurdle if the University of Hawaii Board of Regents decides to issue revenue bonds to cover the remaining cost of the long-awaited project.

During its meeting last Thursday, the board’s Committee on Budget and Finance recommended $6.5 million in university revenue bond proceeds be used for development of the Palamanui campus. Those funds would be combined with the $9.3 million in private funds from Palamanui developers and $7.5 million in state general obligation bonds.

The full board will consider the action at its Feb. 21 meeting at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Written testimony can be submitted to the Office of the Board of Regents by emailing bor@hawaii.edu, faxing it to 956-5156 or mailing it to 2444 Dole St., Bachman Hall, Room 209, Honolulu, HI 96822.

“We are committed to moving the Palamanui project forward,” said John Morton, UH vice president for community colleges. “The use of revenue bonds, if approved by the full Board of Regents, provides us with additional funds so that we can award the contract now and not have to wait and rebid the contract at a later date. We don’t need or want any such further delays.”

Nan Inc. pulled out of the project last month. The Honolulu-based contractor was the project’s low bidder and 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 an $8 million gap between funding and cost, according to a Jan. 29 West Hawaii Today article.

UH is now in the process of working with the contractor to defer some of the project in order to bring it within the budget, Morton said. The university hopes to reach an agreement that would allow the project to be started with the funds available, which includes the proposed revenue bonds. UH wants to award the contract at $23.3 million. Discussions with the contractor will take place over the next two weeks, he added.

Located north of Kona International Airport, Hawaii Community College at Palamanui will provide a permanent home for higher education in West Hawaii. The campus has been in development for nearly a decade, with the land developer, Palamanui, initially agreeing to build the first campus building itself.

The project currently entails construction of a culinary arts building, as well as the health science and student services buildings. The project, covering approximately 24,000 square feet, will include new classrooms, learning kitchens and science laboratories. The campus should support about 700 students and is expected to open its doors in the fall of 2014, according to UH.