HILO — The County Council made quick work Wednesday approving a $30.5 million bond issue for park improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The county is borrowing the money to comply with a 2012 ADA settlement agreement, said county officials. A 1997 class action suit filed in federal court claimed the county wasn’t doing enough to give disabled individuals access to parks and facilities.
The work was supposed to have been completed by 2016, under the court order. It now needs to be done by 2020, after the county missed that first deadline that was set in 2011.
Of the total bond issue, $24 million will be used for ADA compliance, with the remaining $6 million used for various other improvements at the 17 affected parks facilities.
The council unanimously passed the measure, Bill 146, on first reading. It will be back for one more vote.
The county will pay $49 million next year just on principal and interest payments on previously approved debt for other projects. It’s not known how much the new debt will add to the monthly payments.
Only Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha questioned the details of the bond issue.
“Since the Department of Parks and Recreation will be working in these 17 park locations to do the ADA work, we believe that it would be most cost effective to complete other required work at the same time,” said Mayor Harry Kim in a correspondence to the council.
The new bond issue, along with a $10 million bond issue also approved Wednesday for the Lono Kona sewer project, brings the county’s debt service payment to 12.95 percent of total expenditures each year. The Government Finance Officers Association recommends that ratio go no higher than 15 percent.
Facilities to be improved with the bond money:
Ahalanui Beach Park
NAS Swimming Pool
Richardson Ocean Center
Hilo Bayfront Canoe Area
Kolekole Gulch Park
Laaloa Beach Park, also known as Magic Sands
Milolii Beach Park
Parks Maintenance- South Hilo Base Yard
Pahala Swimming Pool
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo &Gardens Equestrian Center
Wong Stadium at Hoolulu Park