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Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Purchase of
ex-YMCA building
was sensible

Bullet The issue: The state has bought the former Armed Forces YMCA building.
Bullet Our view: The $22.5 million was reasonable in view of the magnificent restoration of the building and the state's need for a place to show its art collection.

THE Cayetano administration has completed the purchase of the former Armed Forces YMCA, more recently known as the Hemmeter Building, and a sensible purchase it is. The state has been renting most of this historic building to house various government agencies, so the purchase could save money in the long run. Moreover, the price, $22.5 million, is a bargain compared to what the previous owner, BIGI Corp., paid developer Chris Hemmeter in 1990 -- $80 million.

Hemmeter did a magnificent job of restoring the building to its original grandeur. In its restored state, it is one of the most beautiful structures in the city -- and an excellent setting to showcase the state's art collection.

Under a law requiring that 1 percent of state construction projects be devoted to the acquisition of art -- enacted as a means of encouraging local artists -- the state has accumulated hundreds of works. Many of these are on display in the public schools and government buildings but many are in storage.

Governor Cayetano indulged in fanciful rhetoric when he voiced hope that the state museum would become some sort of equivalent of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Certainly it is the Honolulu Academy of Arts that is the Metropolitan's counterpart here, and the state should not be in competition with the academy.

However, it is entirely fitting that the state show off the art it has acquired rather than let it languish in warehouses. And this building is a great place for it, both in terms of its physical attractiveness and its location in the Capitol District.

The first two floors of the five-story building will be devoted to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for offices and show rooms.

The plan is to have the main entrance lead into a sculpture gallery and lobby. There will be an Ewa Gallery showing about 150 works created since statehood, and a Diamond Head Gallery with rotating exhibits and other programs. The swimming pool may be converted into a fountain and sculpture garden.

The state foundation plans to ask the Legislature to approve use of $3.2 million from the works of art special fund to finance renovation of the second floor. Funding for renovation of the ground floor, estimated to cost $734,000, has not been determined.

The museum could be an important addition to Honolulu's art museums, specializing in the work of local artists. The governor is not known as an art lover but he has shown foresight in buying this beautiful building that the state can put to good use as a museum and for other purposes.

State opens juvenile
sex-offender facility

Bullet The issue: The state Health Department has opened a treatment facility for juvenile sex-offenders despite Pearl City community protests.
Bullet Our view: The facility's security features seem adequate for the type of patient who will be treated there.

DISCLOSURE of the state's plans to house juvenile sex offenders near public schools set off an eruption of angry protests by Pearl City residents. But the Cayetano administration refused to back off. Now the facility has been completed -- with safeguards added to address community concerns -- and is ready to receive inmates.

Previously juvenile offenders had to be sent to mainland institutions for lack of facilities in the state. Under a federal court consent decree, the state is required to provide mental health services for children and adolescents.

The $1.8 million treatment center is located in a renovated building at the Waimano Training School and Hospital, near Momilani Elementary School and Pearl City High School.

A maximum of 10 male adolescents aged 12 to 17 will be housed there. These will be youths with a history of sexual relations with relatives, children in their care and acquaintances. The state maintains that the inmates will not pose a high risk of engaging in predatory behavior.

Security measures include magnetic door locks, an alarm system, video cameras and secured windows. A 12-foot-tall fence with a 3-foot, inward-leaning overhang encircles the facility. A centralized work station allows the staff to view every bedroom and doorway.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said, "We wanted everything to be totally safe for kids, staff and for the community." He said it is important for the youths to be treated in the state so their parents can become involved in the treatment process.

However, Anderson said the Health Department will ask the Legislature for $5 million to construct a new facility, in keeping with the department's pledge to Pearl City residents.

Breene Harimoto, a member of the Pearl City Neighborhood Board, toured the facility and described it as impressive. He said he hopes residents will agree that it is secure.

The project got off on the wrong foot because officials did not consult the community before deciding to locate the facility at Waimano. The state's insistence that the inmates won't be dangerous has been received with skepticism.

However, the completed facility seems adequate in terms of security. After seeing it, perhaps the community will be satisfied and no longer insist that it be moved, which does not seem necessary.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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