Thursday, October 14, 2004

From left to right: A decorative bird cage cost $484; a historic greenhouse cost $147,000 to rebuild but is now too hot to grow plants; and four lounge chairs cost $2,500 each.

Living like a ...
King of the Hill

Reporters are allowed to see renovations
and furniture added to College Hill during
former UH President Evan Dobelle's reign

NOW THAT former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle has moved out of the College Hill residence, reporters were allowed yesterday to see the $1.3 million in renovations and new furniture that sparked criticism of spending early in his administration.

The university facilities management department is putting together a list of things that need to be done before a new president moves into the home, said UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka.

$175,000 was spent installing landscape lights that cost $285 apiece. Most of the lighting was eventually removed.

So far, "nothing major" needs to be done, Tanaka said. However, she noted that the list has not been completed.

The Board of Regents is expected to name David McClain as interim president at its meeting in Hilo next week. His two-year contract is likely to include the use of College Hill, which is the residence of the president and hosts official functions.

The over-budget renovation of College Hill in 2001 and Dobelle's unfulfilled promise to raise $1 million to reimburse the state for the cost of project were factors in Dobelle's dismissal from the university this summer.

The renovation of the century-old main house and an adjoining guest cottage was supposed to cost taxpayers about $328,000, but the bills shot up to about $1.2 million because of additional work, including about $147,000 to rebuild a historic greenhouse that is now too hot to grow plants in and $180,000 for landscape lighting that was later removed from the driveway.

In addition, about $113,000 of UH Foundation money was used to buy furnishings for the home, including a $484 decorative bird cage, four lounge chairs that cost $2,500 apiece and $9,600 for outdoor wicker furniture.

Dobelle's attorney Rick Fried said the College Hill renovation was planned before the former president started his term in July 2001.

The original spending was authorized by former UH President Kenneth Mortimer, who also authorized an exemption from standard procurement procedures so that the renovations would be completed by Aug. 31, 2001, when Dobelle and his wife and son were scheduled to move in.

In November 2001, when reports first came out about the spending at College Hill, Dobelle said he did ask for additional spending for necessary repair and maintenance projects, such as a $92,343 roofing job.

But, he said, "this thing did not happen the way it was supposed to happen."

At the time, Dobelle also promised to raise private money to pay for the renovations. However, as of last year, only about $50,000 was raised.

Among the additional work that university documents say was authorized and/or initiated by Dobelle or his wife, Kit, was about $180,000 for new landscape lighting along the driveway and parking lot of College Hill.

University documents say Kit Dobelle chose decorative landscape lighting that was installed in the driveway and along paths around the house and parking lot. The lights cost $285 apiece, and 60 were purchased at a cost of about $16,710.

After they were installed at a cost of about $175,000, memos say Kit Dobelle did not like the lights in the driveway and ordered that they be removed. About 26 lights remain around the house, but the rest are now stored in a basement of the guest cottage. About $5,000 was spent to install new lights.

Fried said, however, that Kit Dobelle did not know that the university was planning to dig up the driveway to install the landscape lighting. He said the lights were too bright and garish, and she ordered them removed.

As for the greenhouse on the property, Fried said because it was a historic structure and it was falling apart, the university had no choice but to rebuild it.

The Dobelles' last day at the home was Oct. 4.



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