Consultants recommend razing 2 UH apartment complexes
The report faults a leadership vacuum at UH
A consultant's report suggests that the University of Hawaii at Manoa tear down the Hale Noelani and Wainani student apartment complexes -- described as "unsafe and a publicity nightmare" -- and either replace or repair the Johnson Hall dorm.
The consultants also recommended increasing student housing fees "significantly" to pay for the cost of building and renovating UH-Manoa dorms, providing better training for housing staff and searching nationwide to hire a director of student housing services at a salary of at least $100,000 a year.
Francisco Hernandez, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for students, who started at the university in August, said the consultants had many of the "same observations that I had had."
However, he said it's not clear yet whether it is financially feasible to tear down the student apartment complexes.
An "external review team" made up of three housing administrators from mainland and Canadian universities selected by the Association of College and University Housing Officers International visited the UH-Manoa campus last year and completed their report on Dec. 19.
The report describes the Hale Noelani and Wainani apartment complexes as "in a seriously poor state of repair."
Hale Noelani, a five-building, three-story apartment complex, has 524 beds. Hale Wainani has 650 beds in two high-rise towers and two three-story buildings.
The report suggests that it would cost more money to repair the facilities than they are worth.
However, Hernandez said the consultants are not structural engineers, so the university is conducting a feasibility study on whether to repair or replace Hale Noelani. The university also will look at whether it would be better to repair or tear down Johnson Hall.
Hernandez said there are no plans right now to study Hale Wainani.
Last month, the Board of Regents approved raising dorm rents 5 percent a year for the next five years, in part to pay back about $44 million in bonds to begin repairs on the dorms.
The consultants said "the central issue" in the student housing office can be traced back to "a lack of strong and consistent leadership." They cited the lack of a permanent director of student housing, a position that has been filled by three interim directors in the last five years since former UH-Manoa Chancellor Peter Englert dismissed the last permanent housing director.
The chief recommendation of the consultants is to hire a permanent director and other top administrators after a nationwide search.
They also suggested raising the pay for the director from about $80,000 to at least $100,000 a year.
The report also suggests hiring project managers or create an architect position within the office to manage new construction, repair and maintenance projects, and to devise an organized system of maintenance.
UH-Manoa undergraduate student body President Grant Teichman said he agreed with recommendations to strengthen management of the dorms and provide better training of staff, especially in security and enforcement of the no-alcohol policy.
"If there was a strong management team down there students wouldn't mind paying more money," Teichman said. "Right now it seems like the money would go into a giant black hole."
Hernandez said the cost of the report was "less than $5,000" to pay for transportation, hotel and a per diem for the housing administrators to come to Hawaii.