UH-West Oahu optimistic about funds
Going into crucial conference committee meetings on the state budget, University of Hawaii-West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni says he is "concerned" that the Senate did not include any money to build a new campus in its budget passed last week.
However, Awakuni said he is still optimistic that the Legislature will provide the money.
The House budget includes $31 million to build roads, water, electricity, sewage and other infrastructure needed for the new campus in Kapolei.
Awakuni is asking for $35 million in construction bonds.
This is the second time he has lobbied the Legislature for the funds. Last year, the Senate included money for the project, while the House did not. In the last-minute shuffle on the final budget, money for the new campus did not make it through the conference committee.
"I'm optimistic that the outlook is far more favorable this time around," said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena).
"It's a negotiating position. It doesn't mean we don't love West Oahu," Baker said, explaining that the Senate tried to include items that are not in the House budget.
Sen. Will Espero (D, Waipahu-Ewa-Ewa Beach-West Loch) said he had talked with his colleagues and expects the money to be funded.
"I don't expect any surprises compared to last year," Espero said, admitting he had not expected surprises last year, either. "It is still a priority for the Senate."
Sam Callejo, the UH vice president for administration, said most of the university's construction projects are still alive going into the conference committee, including a new library for Windward Community College and renovation of the Campus Center at UH-Manoa.
Details of the Senate's construction budget emerged as UH-West Oahu celebrated its 31st anniversary yesterday at its current location, in portables next to the Leeward Community College campus.
Awakuni, Gov. Linda Lingle and other speakers spoke optimistically about the new campus that, if funded, will be ready for occupancy in 2009.
Awakuni said plans are still on track to sell 298 acres of state land next to the campus to raise $100 million for construction of the new campus.
He said the sale is dependent on the city making zoning changes to allow Hunt LLC to build housing and retail space. The sale will close even if the Legislature doesn't fund the infrastructure, Awakuni said.
He said that if the $35 million for UH-West Oahu slips through the cracks again this year, construction might still move forward. But he will have to go back to the Legislature yet again to find the money to complete the project.