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Tuesday, January 9, 2001



Post office plan
loses favor among
OHA trustees


By Pat Omandam
Star-Bulletin

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees will take a second look this week at whether OHA should buy the old downtown post office building for use as its new headquarters if it becomes available this year.

OHA logo Some trustees oppose the purchase, which was proposed last fall by OHA's interim board.

"I'm not really for it at all," said trustee John Waihee IV, who believes the building should be renovated by the state and not OHA.

"I think it's too expensive. For the kind of money we have to put into it, I don't think it's worth it," he said.

The post office purchase is among a baker's dozen list of items that the trustees will get updates on during a daylong meeting Thursday.

Last October, an ad hoc committee to consider the purchase of the post office complex recommended the OHA board send a letter to the U.S. Postal Service stating its interest if the postal service puts the building up for sale again.

Then-interim Chairman Clayton Hee and interim trustee Charles Ota were among those favoring the purchase. Both return as elected trustees but find themselves now in the minority with their plan to buy the building.

Trustee Rowena Akana, who as OHA chairwoman two years ago wanted OHA to buy the downtown Hemmeter Building that is now home to the state's art collection, said it could cost up to $100 million to renovate the post office building. And even if OHA did buy and fix it, the square configuration of the structure -- some of which was built in 1919 -- isn't conducive for business, she said.

"And so to spend that kind of beneficiary money would be just criminal," Akana said.

OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said there are legitimate concerns about the building's inadequacies, its renovation and the asbestos that must be removed. She views the failed plans to develop a shopping galleria there as a sign that the "buyer beware."

Apoliona said a final decision on the purchase of the post office complex won't be made Thursday but may be discussed.

She explained Thursday's meeting is more to update trustees on pending issues raised by OHA staff. With three new trustees and three others who did not serve as interim trustees, the board needs to know what transpired during the period the interim board was in charge from September to December.

"This is a means of bringing all the trustees who attend the board meeting up to a common level of information," Apoliona said.



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