RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Vandals have wreaked havoc at the old Ewa plantation mill site where city cleanup and remediation are taking place. Here, broken glass and spent spray paint cans litter the floor of a warehouse where all the windows were broken and the walls sprayed with graffiti.
Vandals and thieves trash building sites
A contractor and a city official decry the damage in Ewa
A city warehouse in Ewa shows the signs of vandals: profanity and other graffiti scrawled across a wall already repainted several times and a patchwork of metal covering corrugated siding that had been peeled away by burglars.
City officials say this scene is typical of other city construction sites.
The vandalism drives up costs for the city -- and ultimately taxpayers -- and delays the completion of projects that have been trashed or burglarized, officials say.
"It's an islandwide problem," said Eugene Lee, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.
John Cheung, president of CC Engineering & Construction Inc., voiced frustration as he and his project manager Jeffrey Durham described repeated acts of vandalism and thefts at the site. The firm is renovating the two warehouses on property that is part of the old Ewa Sugar Mill complex owned by the city.
The $2.2 million project includes renovation of two former plantation buildings: the old tractor and machine shop and the central supply warehouse.
The project has been hit eight times since June with break-ins, thefts or damaged property.
Besides the graffiti and property damage, the thieves have attempted to steal tools and equipment and have removed copper waterlines.
Damage is estimated at nearly $20,000, which the contractor has had to absorb.
The project, which began in April, was supposed to be completed in October, but the completion date has now been pushed back to March in part because of the criminal activity.
"From a one-night break-in you get a two-week setback," said Durham, who added that damaged customized building materials can take days or weeks to replace.
Cheung said his company did not factor in the cost of security but that in the future that could change.
"The next time we bid the job, our prices will have to go up," Cheung said. "The taxpayer ultimately has to pay."
The contractor is asking members of the Ewa community to call 911 should they see any suspicious activity.
Lee said the last straw occurred this week, when the city tried to get the electricity turned on for the property and then discovered that the high-voltage electrical lines were missing from the poles leading to the site, apparently stolen by thieves trying to salvage valuable copper.
"We really need power because we've got to energize the buildings," Lee said, adding that it will cost the city between $10,000 and $15,000 to replace the lines.
Lee said vandals have hit other city construction projects, including the renovation of the Makiki Community Library, which was already behind schedule. The library was trashed recently just as the construction was nearing the end, and now it will take months before it is reopened.