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Friday, July 14, 2000

Flooding delays
plans for mill site,
official says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
and Debra Barayuga


The city still has no clear picture of what is to happen to the Ewa Villages commercial site or when.

And judging by comments made by Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom during the Ewa Villages theft trial yesterday, any solution likely will be at least several years down the road.

Ewa Villages trial Fired city housing official Michael Kahapea is charged with 47 counts of theft, money laundering and related charges. He is accused of stealing up to $5.8 million from the Ewa Villages relocation fund by steering moving contracts to friends, overbilling the city for moves or for moves that didn't place, and accepting kickbacks.

Under questioning by Kahapea defense attorney Donald Wilkerson about the current plans for the mill area, Tom said: "I wouldn't say there was any plan. Well, the plan was eventually to sell it but the difficulty with (the area) is it's in a flood zone, and until we correct the flooding, we can't sell the property."

Tom, now Mayor Jeremy Harris' third-in-command as deputy managing director, said the city is "in the process" of rectifying the situation, which included construction of the Ewa Villages Golf Course several years ago. The city still needs to remove the flood zone redesignation from the project which would include construction of a bridge. He gave no time frame for that to occur.

The initial city master plan for Ewa Villages called for a commercial center, he said, and that is still the eventual plan.

Tom also noted that the city is currently in litigation with Campbell Estate, from whom it bought the Ewa Villages site, over the lack of cleanup of toxic wastes in the soils.

One of Wilkerson's key defense claims is that Kahapea used relocation money to help clean the dump sites under instruction from his superiors.

Tom neglected to mention the most obvious obstacle to plans in the Ewa mill area: A number of the commercial tenants that supposedly were relocated under Kahapea's guidance remain there.

Tom also said the city still owes at least $38.5 million stemming from the initial bond taken out by the city to purchase Ewa Villages in the early '90s.

The initial bond was $63.5 million but that amount has since been reduced. The amount was last due by October 2000 but now has been "rolled over" to a long-term general obligation bond which the city must pay back.

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