Lingle drops plans for Maui prison


POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Lingle administration is shelving plans for a new $235 million prison complex on Maui based on public comments made by a key lawmaker.

“;Your clear expression of opposition indicates that we no longer have the legislative support needed to move this project forward, and we will therefore discontinue further effort to pursue development of this complex,”; Gov. Linda Lingle said in a letter, dated Friday, to Sen. Shan Tsutsui.

Lingle was referencing quotes attributed to Tsutsui, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, in a Sept. 13 article in the Maui News.

Tsutsui's comments indicated that lawmakers have had long-standing disagreement with the administration over the size, design and price of the prison complex, adding that the two sides were “;not even close”; on an agreement to proceed.

Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului) said he had concerns about the cost, and how the project would fit in the administration's overall budget plan.

“;I'm really disappointed the administration is going to make a $235 million decision based on a few comments that were in the newspaper,”; Tsutsui said by phone from Maui.

Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, called the governor's decision “;strange.”;

Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) said: “;We shouldn't just end all planning because one senator has some issues.”;

Lingle, in 2008, had highlighted the Maui Regional Public Safety Complex as a key component in a series of improvement projects statewide.

Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said the plans called for a 608-bed facility for minimum- and medium-security prisoners on 38 acres in Puunene. The complex also was to include support functions such as intake services, health care, drug and sex offender treatment programs, parole programs, education and vocational services.

An environmental assessment had begun and officials were aiming for a 2012 completion date.

“;When she saw the comments that were made by Sen. Tsutsui, she was a little perplexed and I guess disturbed that he was not supporting something that would provide job opportunities and a badly needed jail for Maui County, since the present one is really old and decrepit,”; Frank said in an interview yesterday.

“;She recognizes the price tag was really high, but we were looking at possible alternative means to finance the facility.”;

The new facility would replace the Maui Community Correctional Facility, which is housing 351 inmates, 142 more than it was originally built for, Lingle said in her letter.

Frank said the plans have been redesigned since lawmakers criticized them as being too large, and he still is trying to set up a meeting with Tsutsui and others. “;If he thinks that we can move forward and we need to iron out some stuff, we'll move forward,”; Frank said.