Conversion conversation: Lono Kona sewering timeline still on track

KAILUA-KONA — The Department of Environmental Management has announced a public meeting to discuss the Lono Kona sewer project, which will connect 145 assessment units on 110 lots, the equivalent of 268 single-family homes, to sewer lines mauka of the Kuakini Highway McDonald’s in an area more popularly known as Hamburger Hill.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday inside the Salvation Army Community Center, 75-223 Kalani St., in Kailua-Kona.

ADVERTISING


Curtis Bailey, of the Hawaii County Wastewater Division, said representatives from the county, the project contractor and the engineers will be on hand to answer questions and discuss construction of the project.

Details of the area’s conversion to a sewer line from a large capacity cesspool have adjusted over the last year as the county sent a round of bids for the project out, rejected what came back as too expensive and then sent out a second round of bidding, after which the cost of the project actually increased.

The first iteration of the project was set for completion in 2016. After adjustments and delays, DEM Director Bill Kucharski outlined a construction end-date of July 2019. Following the rebidding earlier this year, the end date was bumped to December 2019.

Bailey said that timeline remains intact.

“The project is anticipated to be complete by December 2019,” he wrote in an email to West Hawaii Today. “The exact start date is still unknown, but the estimated start date will be sometime during the last part of December (2018).”

A $4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Grant that will fund the majority of the project is tied to the current project end date, though Kucharski explained the county could request an extension for cause without jeopardizing its access to the money.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlawed large-capacity cesspools in 1999 and federal funds have been available to help toward that initiative in the years since.

Another $2.4 million in general obligation bonds was issued by the county to cover the cost of the Lono Kona conversion, an amount set to be repaid by surcharges on the sewer bills of those property owners on Hamburger Hill mandated by the EPA to switch to a sewer line.

The financial arrangement with the county was the result of a decision by landowners in 2015 who voted taxing themselves over a period of years as the preferred method of payment. Annual payments of around $498 will be made by single-family equivalents until a balance just shy of $9,100 per single-family unit is paid off.

Originally, the cost of the conversion was projected at $6.5 million. Kucharski explained earlier this year that when the first round of bids came in and were all well above $7 million, his department was mandated to issue a new round of bids. The county isn’t legally allowed to issue a contract unless it has the money allocated and approved for the work.

ADVERTISING


A construction boom followed, he added, and Nan Inc. out of Oahu won the contract with a bid just above $8.5 million. Mayor Harry Kim said the county would cover the $2 million cost overrun in the interest of timeliness.

However, DEM went back to the USDA and requested an additional grant for $1 million, which it was awarded. The USDA also approved a loan request of up to $3.7 million for the county to cover the balance. But based on the Nan Inc. bid, the county will only have to accept about $1 million of the loan to complete the project.