UH-Hilo pharmacy building not as popular off-island


A measure asking the state Legislature to fund the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy Building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo — one of 14 bills being circulated among the four counties for approval before the January legislative session — is apparently not getting much support outside Hawaii County.

A Kauai County Council committee last week unanimously struck the $38 million funding request from the package that will be offered to the Legislature by the Hawaii State Association of Counties, and prospects look dim for other counties’ support as well.

The package of bills is being considered statewide over the next two weeks, with the Hawaii County Council Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development scheduled to take it up Tuesday as Resolution 181. Committees will meet at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Any measure in the resolution not passed by all four councils is taken out of the package, said Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi, who is HSAC vice president.

Onishi on Monday was reaching out to council members in other counties, trying to drum up support for the pharmacy college project.

“I guess we need to make more personal contact,” he said.

Among other measures in the package, bills introduced by the City and County of Honolulu would require helmets statewide for motorcycle and motor scooter drivers and all mo-ped riders.

Other bills will loosen state Sunshine Laws to allow county officials to attend functions without public notice, give counties a greater share of the Transient Accommodations Tax, allow county residents to testify at state legislative hearings via videoconferencing, reduce liability for lifeguards, enable the state and counties to maintain roads in limbo without incurring liability, urge the federal government to loosen visa restrictions on Chinese visitors and add county representatives to the boards of trustees for the Employees’ Retirement System and the Hawaii Employer Union Health Benefits Trust.

The package also includes $2.8 million for a primary care training program at Hilo Medical Center.

UH-Hilo University Relations Director Jerry Chang, a former longtime state lawmaker, said he appreciated Onishi’s inclusion of the pharmacy school funding bill in the package, but he understood from talking with HSAC members that they felt it would be more appropriate as a separate Hawaii County bill, rather than part of the statewide package. The college has operated out of multiple temporary locations and trailer classrooms since its launch in 2007.

“They’d love to support it and they see it as a great project, but they also have their own needs for their own projects,” Chang said. “We appreciate Councilman Onishi’s persistence on this.”

UH-Hilo has so far been unsuccessful in attempts to get funding for a building it needs to meet continuing requirements from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Building plans have been simplified and the cost lowered by almost half, but the state Legislature has so far not seen fit to fund it.

During the most recent legislative session, the building funds were in the Senate budget, but not in the budget offered by the House. Negotiations to get the money into the final budget failed.

The outcome of the HSAC package not withstanding, Chang will be working the Legislature next session to try to secure funding for the UH-Hilo building.

“Definitely,” Chang said. “We’re already talking.”