GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Maunalani Recreation Center in Kaimuki is scheduled to reopen today after being closed for more than five years. Here, a parks worker takes his lunch break near the center.
Park repairs see delays
A Kaimuki rec center reopening today is among sites affected by unseen problems
The Maunalani Recreation Center in Kaimuki, which has been closed for more than five years, will reopen today with a blessing ceremony.
Some residents are raising questions about why it took so long to repair the recreation center.
It is not the only city facility that has faced delays in Kaimuki. The city is expected later this month to reopen Kapaolono Pool at Kapaolono Community Park, which closed in August 2005 for what was supposed to be an eight-month project.
City Councilman Charles Djou (R, Hawaii Kai-Ala Moana), whose constituents use the recreation center and pool, said the long closure at Maunalani was "not acceptable" and supports an argument for alternative solutions, such as private management of parks, for efficient repairs.
"The public can accept a reasonable amount of time," he said, "but the length of these closures has gone beyond all reason."
"Unforeseen conditions" have resulted in some 900 days of combined delays at the two facilities.
At Maunalani, originally scheduled for six months of construction beginning in October 2006, workers found an electrical transformer with hazardous chemicals that had to be discarded and replaced. The water pressure had to be changed and the grass replaced.
Meanwhile, at Kapaolono Pool, crews had to level the concrete base before laying the ceramic tile and repair a crack in the basin.
"These are what we call rehabilitations or retrofit projects," said Eugene Lee, director of the city Department of Design and Construction. "These always are a little more challenging because we never know what's going to come up until we get into the facility.
"It's much easier to predict a schedule when we deal with something brand new," he said.
It is normal for renovations the size of Maunalani to take three to four years to complete from the time the project is funded, Lee said.
Many times, the facilities can stay open during the initial planning and design stages so facilities are closed just for construction.
It takes about two years for budgeting and design and a year or so for construction, Lee said.
In the case of Maunalani, the city had to close the recreation center because of an electrical safety hazard. But the design department did not get funding for the project until 2004, Lee said.
"It's just the whole process," he said. "It could be faster if they were to do the design and construction appropriations in one year."
There are about 1,000 projects in some stage in the city's design department, but it is unknown how many are delayed, Lee said.
McCully Pool and Gym and Waipahu Pool, which are extensively used by the community, are also experiencing delays.
McCully's pool, which is currently about 300 days overdue, is not scheduled to reopen until 2010. Problems there included separating the above-ground pool and the gym, which originally shared the same foundation. The gym, however, could open sooner. The city is still taking bids for a contractor for 210 days of construction work at Waipahu Pool, which closed November 2005.
Lee added that extended delays in reconstruction are normal.
"It's not uncommon," he said. "Change orders (additional work) are a fact of life when it comes to construction projects. You'll almost never have construction projects without a change order, almost never."
The repair work at Maunalani, originally slated to cost $1.17 million, was completed at about $1.3 million. Kapaolono, which was projected to cost $762,000, ended up costing about $822,000. Both projects were completed by general contractor Walter Arakaki.