center to stay

The Pearl City community wants
it out, but the state says it will take
years to evaluate a move


Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2003

>> State Health Department officials told Pearl City Neighborhood Board members that possible changes for a juvenile sex offender treatment program at Waimano Training School and Hospital include conversion into a drug treatment center by expanding the facility by 20 beds and heightening security. A Page A13 article Sunday incorrectly attributed the statement to Russell Pang, the governor's press secretary.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

The announcement that it will take up to six years to evaluate whether a juvenile sex offender treatment program in Pearl City should be moved has angered community members again.

State of Hawaii The facility, within a half-mile of Momilani Elementary and Pearl City High School, has drawn protest from area residents since it was established more than two years ago.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano and his administration promised that the location was only temporary and that the 10-bed facility would be moved.

But now the state Health Department, under Gov. Linda Lingle, says there are no guarantees the center will be moved .

"We've been given a lot of promises, but each time nothing seems to get done," said Pearl City Neighborhood Board member Joshua Kaye.

The news has also angered parents with children who attend the nearby schools, board chairman Albert Fukushima said.

"This matter's still a sleeping giant," he said. "The fear is something might happen."

The state commissioned a $1 million study in June to find existing state facilities that could house the program, currently at the Waimano Training School and Hospital.

The study will look at the costs and feasibility of relocating the facility.

"I think the evaluation is supposed to tell us what our options are," said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

"Our priority is to involve the community. I think we all probably recognize that this type of evaluation will take some time."

She said the state is "developing an appropriate timeline" for the evaluation, which is contracted until 2010, and a final decision on the facility.

The Health Department gave a presentation on the study to the neighborhood board last month.

The study and the future of the facility, including alternative uses for the site, will be discussed again Tuesday.

The meeting will be held at the Pearl City Library and start at 6:30 p.m.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and others have suggested that the facility be converted into a drug treatment center for prisoners.

The shift -- still in only the talking stages -- would likely include an expansion of the facility by 20 beds and heightened security, said Russell Pang, a spokesman for the governor.

"The community will not accept it," said neighborhood board member James Pickard. "It's too close to the school. They don't want anything up there, period."

Kaye agreed.

"I definitely wouldn't call it a good alternative. I don't think any kind of incarceration facility is appropriate next to a school," he said.

The principals of the elementary and high schools say having the sex-offender facility so close has raised concerns about the safety of their students.

Pearl City High School Principal Gerald Suyama spoke out in 2000 against having the center near his school, where teenage offenders could easily blend in with the student population.

"We stated our case. We went through the public hearing," he said last week.

Now, he said, "we accept the fact that our voice is not going to be heard anyway."


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