KAILUA-KONA — After almost being shut down for a full week, Hawaii County officials expect Kona Community Aquatics Center to remain closed for six to seven months until a new filter system can be installed.
With a price tag of approximately $400,000, the county plans to replace all four sand filters after one of the filters stopped operating March 1. Since the current filter system doesn’t allow for isolated repairs, the county opted to replace the entire system.
“We don’t want to go through this in three or four years; want to do this right and do it completely,” said Roxcie L. Waltjen, Parks and Recreation director Thursday. “On behalf of the county we apologize. We’re doing everything in our power to get it going on again.”
The county is currently working on preparing bidding documents — bidding on the project will be open as soon as possible. Deputy Director for Parks and Recreation Maurice Messina said it takes about a month to prepare the documents. Once all bids are received the time to award the bid will take a month and a half.
Once the contract has been awarded, Messina said tanks and related apparatuses would be manufacture on the East Coast. From manufacturing to shipping, it will take about 15 weeks.
Once the equipment is on island, it will take four weeks to install. Messina said that includes removal and replacement of pool filters, associated apparatus, cleaning the existing piping, cleaning the pool basin, refilling of pool and chemical balancing of the pool.
“We all understand the huge impact this is going to have on the aquatic community and we’re doing everything we can to accommodate them,” Messina said.
One of those modifications is extending pool hours and providing staff to the Konawaena High School pool. The facility will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
“We’re going to accommodate senior water aerobics, swim team practices and Special Olympics,” Messina said.
If someone wants to schedule pool time, Messina advises they call Konawaena pool staff directly at 323-3252.
KCAC is the most used county public swimming pool on the island. From kids, to swim teams to triathletes training, the facility is frequented by a wide range of people. From July 2018 to the end of February, it saw 118,000 users.
Kealakehe High School’s water polo team is among those who train and compete at KCAC. Its shutdown is a huge blow to the team, said Kealakehe High’s athletic director Alan Vogt. The team is in its second week of the season.
“We’re now the only team in the league without a pool,” Vogt said. “We’re going to have to have to brainstorm some ideas — we just got to do the best we can with what we got.”
Vogt was astounded at the county’s timeframe to repair the pool.
“That’s just inexcusable. You can build a new pool in that time,” he added. “That’s just amazing.”
Vogt hopes to get practice time scheduled at Konawaena. Despite the setbacks, the girls won’t drop out.
“No, we will not drop out,” he said. “Our girls they are very feisty. They will not surrender. They’ve got a great attitude.”
While the closure of KCAC is frustrating, Vogt is glad the county is not doing a “Band-Aid” fix.
“At least that’s good news,” he said.