Star-Advertiser: ‘Agency to ask for $6M more for underground Kalaeloa utilities’ (11/24/15)

By Jayna Omaye
Star-Advertiser, 11/24/15

The Hawaii Community Development Authority says a $7 million appropriation from the Legislature to move utility lines underground in Kalaeloa isn’t enough to complete the project after bids to do the work came in high, and it will ask for an additional $6 million.

The project will install underground utility lines from Fort Barrette Road and Kapolei Parkway to Midway Street fronting Kalaeloa Airport. The work now will be completed in two phases because of the additional funding needed, said HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching. Board members voted last month to submit the budget request during the next legislative session.

The electrical system in Kalaeloa, which was built in the 1930s, serves both Navy and non-Navy facilities. The project would separate non-Navy users from the existing Navy system so that each would have its own set of electrical meters.

Telephone and cable lines would also be installed in the new utility system. New electrical service would be provided by Hawaiian Electric Co.

HCDA is facilitating redevelopment of Kalaeloa, which was renamed after the closure of Barbers Point Naval Air Station in 1999. 

The Navy owns and manages the electrical system but has not upgraded or expanded it since the military installation closed “because it is working to divest itself of this utility as required by law,” said Denise Emsley, spokeswoman for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, in a statement.

Emsley also said that “a moratorium was put into place for no new connections to the existing electrical system and no increase in capacity from it,” adding, “This means no new businesses or developers can be connected unless a change of ownership of a current property takes place and electrical requirements remain the same.”

Ching said the work is critical because new developers and businesses would be able to connect and receive more reliable service.

“If you wanted to build housing in the area … you could not because where would you get your power?” Ching said. “It handicaps current activity and certainly deters future growth.”

The $7 million the Legislature appropriated last year will be used for the first phase, up to Saratoga Avenue, Ching said. Officials are in the process of awarding that bid, and construction could begin in the first quarter of next year, he said. The work could be finished in about one year.

Construction of the second phase to Midway Street could start next year if the HCDA is given the additional money, he said. It would also take about a year to complete.

The final environmental assessment in 2011 showed a preliminary cost estimate of $5 million.

“Costs have escalated in the last year since we assembled our bid package,” Ching said. “Typically when you have a new redevelopment district, one of the first items for attention is infrastructure — roadways and utilities. That sets the stage for development or redevelopment.”

Bev Brennan, co-owner of nearby Barbers Point Bowling Center, told HCDA members at a meeting this month that the infrastructure improvements are long overdue. She said they have lost power three times during the past three months and had to resort to backup generators.

“It rains, we lose power. If there’s strong winds, we lose power. Anything and everything, we lose power,” Brennan said. “Every business along there … we all rely on that (electrical) line.”

The work will cross Hawaiian Railway Society tracks, and the HCDA has agreed to pay the organization $1,000 per day — not to exceed $60,000 — if it is kept from operating its tours.

Larry Howard, the society’s vice president, said tours generate about $7,000 per week in revenue.

“The thing we’re concerned about is if they cut us down. … We have people on charters coming from all over the world, basically,” Howard said. “They come and they book things ahead of time, so it really causes a lot of problems.”

Ching said the amount was reasonable given the society’s historical significance and the importance that the utility project move forward.

He said the project “has been a long time coming.”

Read this article on the Star-Advertiser site.

Related articles:
Vicki Viotti, “The promise and potential of Kalaeloa,” Star-Advertiser, 5/5/13.
William Cole, “Rare native plant stalls land plans for Kalaeloa,” Star-Advertiser, 4/21/13.

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