Friday, July 16, 1999

Natatorium opponents
say mayor stalling

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Opponents of restoration to the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium say new evidence suggests that the issue of full restoration is a question of "when" rather than "if."

Last week, Mayor Jeremy Harris indicated the future of the pool is ambiguous. He announced he is canceling pool or other underwater work, about 60 percent of the project, and would proceed only with renovation of the facade, restrooms and bleachers.

Harris did not rule out restoration for the pool at a future date, although he noted it would take a new funding appropriation.

But James Bickerton, attorney for opposition group Kaimana Beach Coalition, said recent actions show Harris merely wants to postpone, not cancel pool restoration.

He slammed the city for continuing to seek a water certification clearance from the Health Department, a precursor to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that is necessary for construction of underwater groins.

"If the mayor says, 'I'm not going ahead to build the pool,' why is he going ahead and getting the permits for them?"

Memo called proof

Bickerton also pointed to language in a memorandum by city attorneys that said "the master development plan has not changed" for the natatorium.

"The city's plan envisions restoration of the pool, at some indefinite time in the future," the memorandum said.

The city is in court as a result of a suit brought by the Kaimana Beach Coalition that seeks to stop the $11.5 million full restoration of the dilapidated natatorium.

Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani has slammed several delays on the project, indicating the city will need to get all its permits before it can begin construction.

Following orders

Carol Costa, spokeswoman for the mayor, said Harris is simply doing what the judge wanted him to do.

"The judge has indicted that if we want to pursue the land side (of the restoration), we must have the water permit," she said.

"While we don't agree with that, we are continuing to pursue the application."

Costa said Bickerton is overreacting because funding for the pool portion will soon lapse. Harris would need to find new financing if he does want a pool at a later date, she said.

She noted that the city is currently negotiating with the project contractor to cancel the pool portion for the time being.

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