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Friday, April 28, 2000

Legislature 2000

State pushes
Waimano site for
sex offender facility

Opponents say Barbers Point
would be a better location

By Harold Morse


Whether a juvenile sex offender treatment center goes in a half-mile or a mile from Pearl City High School remains secondary to opponents who do not want it in Pearl City.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson and other officials made a case for locating the 10-bed center at Waimano Training School and Hospital before the Pearl City Neighborhood Board last night, but some remained unswayed.

Myrna Sugiyama, one of some 30 residents on hand, said Barbers Point would be a better location. There is only one school near a possible Barbers Point site, but seven with a total of some 6,000 students within a two-mile radius of the proposed Waimano site, she said.

"I think we've gotten hung up on this distance issue, possibly more than we should," Anderson said.

If a juvenile sex offender, age 13-17, fled Waimano, he would go as far as he could as quickly as he could, he said. It is unlikely he would stop nearby, Anderson said.

Officials have stressed that security would be such that an escape would be unlikely.

There are buildings at Waimano that can be renovated for use at a fraction of what it would cost to build a comparable structure elsewhere, Anderson said. While Waimano's Building 9, a mile from Pearl City High School, can be made serviceable for $2.2 million, and Building 5, a half-mile from that school, can be made usable for $1.5 million, a new building, at Barbers Point, for example, would cost $4 million or $5 million, Anderson said.

The $2.2 million budget item for possible renovation of Building 9, the one farthest from the school, is being retained as an option by Gov. Ben Cayetano, Anderson said.

Time is critical because a facility needs to be ready to meet a June 30 deadline set by the 1995 Felix consent decree, which requires the state to provide special assistance to school-age children who need it, Anderson said.

Other reasons Waimano is desirable are that offenders' families can visit them there and staff can be recruited to work there, and this might not be the case at a more remote location, he said. "Waimano is probably the best place for such a facility."

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