COURTESY HAWAII COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The faculty and students of Hawaii Community College are asking lawmakers to urge Gov. Linda Lingle to release $6.95 million in planning and design money for new campuses in both West and East Hawaii. Shown above is the school's computer lab, where electrical wires are jury-rigged to the ceiling. Students say termite droppings fall on them as they work. CLICK FOR LARGE
Legislators tour run-down college
HCC faculty and students want Lingle to release work funds
HILO » State lawmakers got what Hawaii Community College faculty and students call the "dirty tour" yesterday, seeing firsthand the leaking roofs, termite damage, and rusting pipes on their campus.
"Our buildings are falling apart," said Sara Narimatsu, the interim director of the Office of Continuing Education and Training at HCC during a joint House and Senate education committee hearing on the campus.
As a student in 1995, Donna Madrid said she lobbied for a new campus, which has yet to be built. Now, as a faculty member, she is still waiting and the aging buildings on campus are in worse shape.
"We have suffered enough," Madrid said.
They asked lawmakers to urge Gov. Linda Lingle to release $6.95 million in planning and design money for new campuses in both West and East Hawaii. But the issue appears to be mired in politics; east Hawaii versus west Hawaii and Republican versus Democrat.
And while they push for the new campuses, administrators and lawmakers are weighing how much money they should put into fixing the current campus.
Earlier this month, state auditor Marion Higa criticized the UH administration and the Board of Regents for focusing on building the new $71-million Frear Hall dorm at UH-Manoa and neglecting about $40 million in repair and maintenance in the current dorms.
Hawaii Community College chancellor Rockne Freitas said he has not read Higa's report, but said he does not think there is a parallel with student housing at Manoa and the situation on his campus.
"We've been on a repair and maintenance schedule," Freitas said, adding that the buildings are being maintained to keep them safe and clean.
He compared the campus to a leaking boat and said there is only so much patching and fixing one can do. "We gotta get a new boat," Freitas said.
"We don't want to put too much money into a campus that won't be used in the future," said House Higher Education Committee Chairman Jerry Chang.
UH Vice President for Administration Sam Callejo said the governor has released $50 million in repair and maintenance funds for all 10 UH campuses. Hawaii Community College received about $1.2 million, he said.
Dylan Nonaka, the governor's East Hawaii representative, said one of the concerns the governor has is that releasing the planning money doesn't necessarily mean a new campus will be built. "This campus obviously needs repairs," Nonaka said. Even if a new campus is approved, it may be five to 10 years before it is completed, he said.
The university is currently negotiating with Hawaii Campus Developers LLC to develop new campuses in both east and west Hawaii.
Nonaka said the governor believes west side residents should know about and support the idea that most of the money the company raises in developing land around the Kona campus will go toward building the new Hilo campus.
Lawmakers and testifiers in Hilo yesterday said that west Hawaii residents were informed and spoke up at a Board of Regents meeting Friday in Kona saying "we are all one island."
Chang said the governor is trying to divide the island over the issue, and added that most people recognize that new campuses on both sides will benefit everyone.
But Nonaka said he did not hear overwhelming support from West Hawaii residents at Friday's board meeting.
In addition, Nonaka said there are also questions about whether the Legislature will commit to putting in up to $150 million in taxpayer and UH funds to finish the new Hawaii Community College campus on 150 acres of land above Komohana Street in Hilo.
Chang (D, Hilo) said that discussion needs to come after the governor releases the planning and design money.
"It's a chicken or the egg question," Chang said, noting that some of the planning money will go to a feasibility study on the new campuses.
Nonaka also said politics is not involved "right now" in the release of the funds.
However, last fall Lingle issued a press release questioning the motives of Democratic Hilo lawmakers Rep. Dwight Takamine and Sen. Russell Kokubun in holding a public meeting on the release of the $6.95 million just before the November elections, calling the timing of the meeting "political."
Chang also said the issue is not about Democrat and Republican politics.