Saturday | November 18, 2017
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State plans to move base yard out of Old Airport

A $2 million request, a relatively small figure compared to the full $1.7 billion Gov. Neil Abercrombie requested for capital improvement projects for the next two years, is a big project West Hawaii has been awaiting for decades.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila said the request, for planning, design and building a new baseyard at Honokohau Harbor, will allow his department to leave the Old Kona Airport Park. Hawaii County officials have said for years they cannot begin revamping the park, once owned by the state and now nearly in county control, until the state vacates the property entirely.

“They want us out as soon as possible,” Aila said.

Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma was pleased with the news, which he hadn’t heard until Thursday.

That is “absolutely good news for us,” Honma said. “It will make that place look more (like it should be used) for recreation.”

Honma said his department is waiting for Mayor Billy Kenoi to make CIP requests to fund repairs and improvements at the park. The County Council must then approve those requests before the county can issue bonds to begin work.

In September, former Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald and Kenoi said the state’s inaction on moving the baseyard was preventing the county from moving forward on the project.

Getting the baseyard in place is one of several priorities Aila laid out for his department in a recent conversation with West Hawaii Today. Another priority is already under way at the harbor — utility work, with parking lot paving and other improvements to come. Construction costs for those improvements is about $1.5 million, and harbor users are pleased with the progress the department is finally making.

For several years, users have criticized conditions at the harbor, where burned-out light bulbs went unreplaced, toilet paper ran out and garbage cans overflowed. Problems with the water lines meant low water pressure for washing boats.

Rick Gaffney, Hawaii Fishing and Boating Association president, said his most recent conversation with the Division of Boating and Ocean Resources showed DLNR is finally working on the projects boaters have prioritized for years, namely the water line problems, the need for solar lighting and restroom repairs.

Work on the water lines was supposed to begin this week, although Gaffney said he hasn’t seen the contractor there yet. DLNR maintenance staff had completed some prep work, including removing vegetation from the area. The contract to fix the lines and pressure problems gave the contractor 30 days to do so, he said.

More good news, Gaffney said, was word from the DLNR engineer with whom he spoke that the department is dedicating another $1 million in repairs, on top of the $650,000 the governor released last month for the water line, paving and comfort station work.

The department is also working on a mooring replacement project at Keauhou Bay.

Aila said DLNR was hoping to finish a fencing project on Mauna Kea to protect the endangered palila. While the department is closing off some areas, it is also working to open other areas to hunters, he said. According to a DLNR spokeswoman, the full project will cost $24 million for 40 miles of fencing.

“We’re working with other government agencies to move sheep off Mauna Kea” and into hunting-accessible areas, Aila said.