Thursday, April 26, 2001

Ewa Villages
residents ask Council
for their park

But budget chairman
Steve Holmes puts
health concerns first

By Leila Fujimori

William Gonsalves looked forward to his family enjoying a district park when he bought an Ewa Villages house in 1996. Five years later, the park, which was part of the master plan, still hasn't materialized.

"It seems like the city hasn't held up their end of the bargain," Gonsalves testified before the City Council at last night's budget hearing.

Gonsalves was upset that $4.7 million of the original $9 million requested by Councilman John DeSoto for the park and an access road was cut from the budget.

"People are asking for world-class pools, tennis courts to attract world competition. All we're asking for is a district park -- simple," Gonsalves told council members. "Simple people, simple needs."

About 78 people testified last night on the capital improvement projects in the budget, many asking the city to spend money on more parks.

Councilmembers say however that they must balance what the public wants with the money available.

"The budget chair has to perform some magic to address the many needs island-wide," said Steve Holmes, City Council budget committee chairman.

Holmes believes priority should be placed on public health and safety projects.

Of the $500 million budget for capital improvement projects, about $200 million has been slated for upgrading or repairing wastewater treatment facilities, Holmes said.

Wastewater treatment has to comply with federal court orders, so the proposed budget for such facilities was twice the typical $100 million, he said.

But Gonsalves' sister, Teresa Gonsalves, who also bought a home in Ewa Villages, said what they're asking for are basic needs, citing bathrooms at parks besides the single portable bathrooms and sidewalks in front of schools.

She and other residents testified their biggest concern was having an alternate access road, crucial to public safety.

"Our community is held hostage," she said. "Why wait for a catastrophe?"

As an alternate route, they proposed the dirt portion of Park Row between Renton Road, formerly a sugar mill access road that passes between the existing portion of the mill and the proposed district park site.

The area, however, has been mired in litigation due to soil contamination.

"The city just turned their back on us and instead of providing a district park, we get an industrial park," William Gonsalves said.

He complains the city continues to allow noisy industrial use of the area.

Tesha Malama, an Ewa Neighborhood Board member, said, "It's like having Campbell Industrial Park next to the school, next to the park where kids play at and in the middle of homes."

After Malama's testimony, DeSoto proposed an amendment to the budget to build a different alternate route --- a portion of Kapolei Parkway yet unbuilt --- to avoid the contaminated area as well as any litigation that might hold it up.

Holmes said DeSoto has already been given considerable funding for projects, but said he will check on the status of that road. He anticipates more budget proposal amendments.

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