Thursday, August 5, 1999


Full Natatorium
restoration in need of
city or U.S. funding

'We're going to look for all
sorts of revenue ideas,' says
Mayor Jeremy Harris

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Opponents of full restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium say their fight is not over despite Circuit Judge Gary Wong Bae Chang's decision clearing the way for work to begin Monday.

"The court's ruling simply allows the mayor to begin construction on what we call a 'halfatorium,'" said Doug Codeca, one of the attorneys for Kaimana Beach Coalition, which sought to stop full restoration.

"The upshot is, the court has bounced it back to the City Council to take action on the pool."

Mayor Jeremy Harris, who has refused to budge from support of full restoration, testified under oath last week that the pool portion has been deleted from the current contract because of cost considerations.

If the administration needs funding for the pool, Harris must return to the Council for appropriation or find funding elsewhere.

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim, another opponent of full restoration, said, "It's up to the Council to determine whether additional funding is necessary since the mayor has said under oath that the current appropriation is not enough to complete the entire restoration."

"I think we still need to resolve the pool issue," said Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura.

Yoshimura has opposed full restoration but backed Harris' decision to move forward only on the facade, archway, bleachers and restroom improvements on the 72-year-old facility.

"I just don't think the place should be restored," Yoshimura said, citing the $11.5 million price tag. "As far as whether or not to tear it down, there are a lot of issues involved."

Yoshimura doesn't believe a decision needs to be made right away, particularly since the Health Department has been ordered by the courts to come up with saltwater pool regulations the city would need in order to operate. "There needs to be a lot more work done with all the stakeholders," he said.

Rick Bernstein, head of the Kaimana Beach Coalition, wants the Council to go further.

"I believe the City Council should and must stop the project to be fiscally responsible to the people of the City and County of Honolulu," Bernstein said.

Jim Bickerton, the other Kaimana Beach Coalition attorney, concurred.

"The Council should hold public hearings to see whether the design should be modified," he said.

Harris said he still wants the pool restored but doesn't know where the funding will come from or how much more is necessary.

"We've talked to our congressional delegation about federal funding," Harris said. "We've also discussed the idea of a national campaign with veterans organizations to raise funds. We're going to look for all sorts of revenue ideas."

Harris said in June that delays caused by the opponents' legal actions have cause the overall price tag to exceed the allocation for construction.

In particular, he said, Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani's decision that the pool needs a saltwater operating permit will delay construction since the Health Department has yet to come up with permit rules.

The mayor estimated it would take about "six months or less" to complete the land portions.

Yoshimura and fellow Councilman Steve Holmes, also an opponent of full restoration, said Harris' testimony that he intended to restore the pool in the future may have been a key to yesterday's court decision.

Doing so eliminated the Kaimana Beach argument that Harris had significantly changed the scope of the project and therefore needed a new shoreline management area permit from the Council, Holmes said.

Harris said yesterday that segmentation of projects occurs all the time and cited the Ko Olina resort site as an example. If Chang had ruled for the opponents, he said, other shoreline management permits on unfinished projects could be voided, the mayor said.

Bickerton disagreed. The judge determined only that it was OK for the city to proceed with the land portion first.

Bickerton said no decision has been made on whether there will be an appeal of Chang's decision against preliminary injunction yesterday, or whether to even continue the case for a permanent injunction.

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