Monday, February 1, 1999

UH's Coconut Isle lab deserted

The $7 million building has
been unused since its dedication
because no maintenance
funds exist

By Helen Altonn


A new University of Hawaii marine laboratory on Coconut Island has been vacant since dedication ceremonies four months ago.

The reason: No maintenance money.

This problem isn't confined to the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said Alan Teramura, UH senior vice president for research.

The university has added one million square feet of space in the last five years while maintenance and repair funds have shrunk each year, he said. "It's been a terrible problem.

"That's (the marine lab) a $7 million building. POST (Pacific Ocean Sciences and Technology) is a $50 million building, and we didn't get any additional resources to maintain that building."

C. Barry Raleigh, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, said there was a fight with architects over air conditioning and duct systems for the new marine lab. "We lost."

Yearly costs to operate the lab and maintain the grounds were estimated at about $400,000 and neither SOEST nor the UH administration had the money, he said.

The Marine Biology Institute had proposed an air-conditioning system that cost more upfront but would be more efficient to operate, explained interim director E. Gordon Grau.

The architects chose a system that was cheaper to buy but more costly to operate, he said. "We're hoping at some point to retrofit what we've got with a system that's more efficient."

Although lack of money has delayed occupancy of the lab since the Oct. 3 dedication, Grau said the UH administration "fully delivered on everything we needed" early last month.

He said $200,000 was provided for personnel to operate the building and maintain the grounds.

Additional money will be provided for electrical costs when they're determined, he said.

The Pauley Foundation donated $9.6 million so the university could buy private lands on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay and build the Edwin W. Pauley Marine Laboratory.

Scientists start moving in

"It's a gorgeous new building," Grau said. "We're in the process of moving in. Within the next month or two we will be working in the building."

The institute's scientists last year drew $6 million to $7 million in research grants.

Among other projects, they're doing advanced work to enhance growth and quality of fish in collaboration with the Monsanto Co.

"You cannot have a first-class operation if you're not willing to invest, and the investment has to come upfront," Grau said, pointing out the UH administration has "horrible, daunting (financial) problems."

Teramura said the UH maintenance budget is "below the norm and what standards should be."

He said, "We are literally allowing small repairs to go unrepaired. We're just putting out fires."

Money needed by the marine scientists to use their new laboratory had to come from other places, he said.

The UH also has no new resources to maintain and repair a new agricultural sciences building being constructed next to the biomedical science building, Teramura said.

"It will have to come out of what we currently have."

Maintenance deficits prevail

UH President Kenneth Mortimer at one point was saying the university should have no more new buildings because it can't maintain what it has, Teramura noted.

"But on the other hand, we're in desperate need for quality laboratory space. We set records for research in the past two years (from out-of-state sources)."

Grants and contracts each year totaled about $160 million and they're running about 20 percent higher this year, he said.

"But there's going to be a limit as to our ability to continue to expand our research effort," he said, pointing out that a lot of proposals require specific space.

For instance, the National Science Foundation attached certain space conditions to a $12.4 million grant to the UH for a Marine Bioengineering Center.

"New initiatives are going to take potential resources other initiatives have relied upon," Teramura said. "There's going to be a finite limit to what we can and cannot continue to do."

"In a way we're becoming a victim of our own success," he added. "We're attracting all these world class centers and people, and they require facilities to make that happen.

"We're basically stretched out extremely thin now."

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