Wednesday, April 28, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Ewa Villages
project costs rising,
report shows

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The city has spent roughly $156 million to rehabilitate Ewa Villages -- so far.

That's according to an updated strategic report released by city Managing Director Ben Lee yesterday.

The administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris has been trying to come to grips with a project that some critics charge has lost focus and become an embarrassment for the city.

The Ewa Villages project resulted in the indictments of 20 people, including two city employees, suspected in a scam that resulted in the siphoning off of more than $5 million in relocation funds.

The report notes that the city must deal with a $43.5 million bond note, associated with the project, that is due October 2000.

City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann cut short an Executive Matters and Economic Development Committee meeting yesterday because he and his colleagues did not get the 175-page report until late Monday. The committee will meet again May 20.

Council members and the auditors of the project -- KPMG Peat Marwick -- also said they have additional questions that have not been answered by the report and want responses by then.

Council members last month blasted the administration for delays in providing information to KPMG for the city's overall audit, contributing to a $19,000 jump in price.

Hannemann said it's critical that he and his colleagues get a better picture of the overall project. The administration is asking for about $8 million in construction funds for Ewa Villages in the upcoming year's budget and the council needs to know if it should approve the funding.

The updated plan shows the city has sold 655 homes in Tenney and Renton villages but 199 homes and lots still in inventory.

The plan calls for enticing buyers for the remaining properties with self-help, rent-to-own and other incentive programs. It also acknowledges the struggle in trying to sell the properties.

"A slow housing market in the Ewa area continues and the project must compete with a substantial inventory of completed new homes in neighboring private developments," the report said.

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