Thursday, April 22, 1999

State of Hawaii

Local support
vital to Kauai
prison plan

By Craig Gima


If the community wants it, it may come.

That's what Kauai legislators and Gov. Ben Cayetano are saying about a proposal to build a medium-security prison near Lihue.

"I think the economic benefits are such that if an expression of support is expressed by the people of Kauai, we will do whatever the people will ask us," said Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Lihue), who said key community leaders are behind the proposal.

Kanoho thinks a prison can be built on Amfac land located about 10 minutes from Lihue Airport near the small community of Kapaia, or on Grove Farm land about three to four miles west of Lihue.

Kanoho said the Kauai Chamber of Commerce is planning a public meeting on the idea for the week of May 24.

The proposal to build a prison on Kauai is not new. Kanoho said he began exploring the idea at least two years ago. The option surfaced last year when Kau residents began expressing opposition to a prison.

Kanoho said he did not push the plan until now because he did not want to compete with the Big Island. He said it now appears that opposition in the Legislature to a Big Island prison may thwart efforts to provide funding.

Cayetano said he is open to the idea of building the prison on Kauai.

"If Kauai wants it and the people there welcome it with strong support, then we'll take a look at it because we don't seem to be getting support from the Big Island," Cayetano said.

Sen. Andy Levin (D, Kau), a co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, opposes building a new prison near the Kulani prison camp on the Big Island. But Sen. David Matsuura (D, Hilo) is still pushing another proposal to build the prison on private land four miles east of the Hilo Airport. Matsuura said he is trying to gather signatures of support for a Hilo prison and sees the Kauai proposal as a challenge.

"The competition is on," Matsuura said.

Kauai Reps. Bertha Kawakami (D, Hanapepe), Hermina Morita (D, Hanalei) and Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, Lihue) said they want to explore the possibility of building the prison on Kauai.

"I don't believe in opposition based on 'not in my backyard.' If there's going to be opposition, it should be based on the merits of any particular site," Chun said.

Kanoho said he believes it would be cheaper to build on Kauai than at Kulani.

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