City & County of Honolulu

Council plan
halts new pools,
skate parks

Members cite safety and financial
issues in giving initial approval
to a construction ban

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Don't count on the city to put up a skateboard park or swimming pool in your neighborhood anytime soon.

The City Council Budget Committee gave initial approval yesterday for bills that would place moratoriums on construction of both types of facilities.

Committee members said they want to know more about liability at skateboard parks and want the Legislature to absolve the city from liability.

They want the halt on swimming pool development for three years, citing fiscal worries and the high cost of maintaining pools.

The administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris, which has a number of skateboard parks and swimming pools in the budget for the upcoming 2003 fiscal year, opposed both moratoriums.

Skateboard advocates testified that there is no proof they are more dangerous than other recreational facilities the city puts up, like baseball diamonds or soccer fields. At the same time, the skateboard parks take riders off the sidewalks or other unwanted arenas, they said.

Kaimuki resident Peter Vinci, a skateboarder for 40 years and the father of two who share the interest, called a moratorium "backward thinking."

Councilman Romy Cachola, lead author of the skateboard bill, said the city "might end up paying a big sum of money" if sued by a skateboarder sustaining an injury. Cachola said he sought unsuccessfully to get the city exempt from liability at skateboard parks this past year, and hopes to gain an exemption next year.

But Councilman Duke Bainum, the only committee member to vote against the skateboard park moratorium, said the city is vulnerable to liability lawsuits at standard parks or even on sidewalks. "If we're worried about being sued, maybe we should just shut down the city," Bainum said.

The city now has seven skateboard facilities, including four -- in Makiki, Keolu Hills, Mililani and Aala Park -- that were done in the past two years.

Two others, in Kamiloiki and Kaneohe, are under construction, while five others are in the planning/design phase. Eight more have been requested.

The facilities under construction would still be allowed to be completed if the bill is approved.

The proposed moratorium on swimming pools moved out of the Budget Committee by a unanimous vote.

Councilman Gary Okino, lead author of the pool moratorium bill, said the city should consider partnerships with nonprofit or other groups, such as the YMCA, to fund operations and maintenance given the city's financial situation.

"My bottom line is, I think we do have a serious fiscal situation here that we need to attend to," Okino said. "Once we build these pools, the city is committed to paying the operating costs forever."

Parks Director Bill Balfour told committee members that it costs $154,610 annually to maintain a 25-meter pool and $206,008 for a 50-meter version.

A pool at the Salt Lake District Park will be the city's 20th when it opens later this year. Besides the aquatics center at Central Oahu Regional Park, which would be exempted, the city is planning and designing pools at Lanakila, Mililani, Ewa Mahiko, Koko Head, Waianae and Kahuku.

City & County of Honolulu

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