KAILUA-KONA — Plans to build a South Kona Police Station remain unknown since the project was put off due to lack of funding, according to Hawaii County officials this week.
Construction planning for the station was deferred in 2010 after the county spent $1.4 million in bonds for the design and survey work in 2008. Now, several years later, former Hawaii County councilwoman Brenda Ford hopes to continue the charge in making the South Kona station a reality.
“We’ve been trying to get the station built for 14 years, but it will take bonds to build it,” Ford said.
At the time of the planning and design, HPD Administrative Chief Marshall Kanehailua said, the building was estimated to cost $6-11 million. If it were put out to bid now, he said, costs would have to be adjusted, as prices for materials have changed.
There was a political push at the time when the grant came in for the planning and design work for the station, Kanehailua said.
Ford was the driving force behind the construction of the South Kona station. In 2007-2008, she and Mayor Harry Kim worked together to acquire the land next to the current station, next to the Captain Cook Fire Station.
At the time, Ford said, she believed the issue was a matter of funding for staff.
“Funding is always the problem,” she said.
Kanehailua said South Kona is normally staffed with three officers, four maximum. He added a building of the proposed size would need to be staffed with several employees, including clerical and janitorial workers.
The proposed station, a two-story, 21,592-square-foot facility featuring four separate holding cells and a 10-lane firing range, was the original plan of construction. It was to be located on 5 acres mauka of Mamalahoa Highway, according to the project’s environmental assessment. Existing barracks at the Captain Cook police substation would be incorporated — that building was the Kona district police station before the Kealakehe station was built.
“I’m not sure why it was ultimately shelved by the county, but I do know staffing and the downturn in the economy around that time frame played a part,” Kanehailua said of the project.
The South Kona Police Station is a capital improvements project. In the past nine years, Kanehailua said, no CIPs have been built for the police department. The last big project completed was the Pahoa police station in the Puna District.
As the years have passed however, police needs have shifted. A substation in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates is now considered more of a priority than South Kona.
“The calls for service have gone through the roof,” Kanehailua said of the Kau community.
According to police, There were 3,711 calls for service in HOVE in 2017. South Kona had 4,441.
Kanehailua said South Kona will have slightly more calls for service due to Konawaena High and Elementary as well as Hookena schools.
There is a substation in Ocean View. Kanehailua said the department rents a one-room office space in the Pohue Plaza. A new substation has been submitted as a capital improvements project.
The department is asking for $150,000 for plans and design of the Ocean View substation and $1.5 million to build it out.
Police aren’t opposed to the continued efforts in expanding at the South Kona station.
“We look at, do calls for service justify the need?” Kanehailua said.
Ford, who is currently running for senate, said Ocean View needs a police station, not a substation.
“If I could do anything to get funding, state or federally, I will be working on that,” she said.
Other CIPs submitted by the department are: Public Safety Complex repainting, Kona evidence warehouse, holding cell improvements and East Hawaii firing range.
A police station in South Kona has been promised to the area since the early 1990s when Stephen K. Yamashiro was mayor. South Kona remains the only County Council district without a dedicated force. Police combine North and South Kona into one district for operations.
Former Chief Lawrence Mahuna said in February 2008 the station would be complete within five to 10 years after he was urged by the Hawaii County Police Commission to make the station a priority. Former Police Chief Harry Kubojiri in April 2010 said the project remained a priority.