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Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Maili school’s
bill rises

The decision to step up to a
central system will bring the cost
to $4.6 million from $3.4 million

By Crystal Kua


The cost to air condition Maili Elementary School to ward off heat, dust, livestock odors and flies has risen to about $4.6 million.

The original price tag was about $3.4 million.

"It's going to cost more because we changed the type of (air-conditioning) system," said Lester Chuck, state Department of Education facilities chief

Word of the increased cost came after the state House Education Committee approved a resolution yesterday that asks the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture to help pig and chicken farms near the school come up with ways to reduce the number of flies and the smell that result from farm activity.

The resolution also asks the DOE to come up with a plan to address the problems at Maili Elementary and send a copy of that plan to state lawmakers before the next session.

Maili Elementary has been trying for years to solve the problems. The increased attention to the school's plight came about after supporters rallied at the state Capitol last month.

The original estimate to air condition the entire school was based on the recommendation to install a split system, Chuck said. The cost included equipment, installation construction and increased electrical power capacity.

The state Department of Accounting General Services is refining its estimates after deciding to switch to central air conditioning, which is better for the school but more expensive, Chuck said.

He told the Education Committee that Maili Elementary is now ninth on the list of schools waiting for air conditioning. Chuck said it would take more than $20 million to take care of the projects ahead of Maili and current funding only allows for work to begin on the project at the top of the list.

Stacy Omori, a teacher at Maili Elementary, said the heat is compounded by the dust, flies and stench that overpower the school, its students, faculty and staff.

Rep. Mark Takai (D, Waimalu) said cases like Maili may need to be reassessed in some other category -- like health and safety -- to move them up the priority list.

Omori said after that she has heard of plans to secure emergency funding to help get air conditioning for the school.

The community is also doing its part to help, with the recent $45,000 donation from Campbell Estate to provide air conditioning to 15 portable classrooms and Kincaid's restaurant giving $10 dining certificates for every $5 contribution to Maili, Omori said.

Chuck said air conditioning won't solve all of the school's woes. For example, cafeterias aren't air conditioned, so flies may continue to be a problem in the eating areas.

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