A Hanauma Bay tram, unused and parked on the side of the road, has grass growing around it.

Snafus persist
at Hanauma

2 new broken trolleys and
unfilled positions rank among
difficulties plaguing the city park

They are the little engines that couldn't: Two trams that no longer work, and their trailers sit alongside the roadway to Hanauma Bay with grass growing around them.

At $124,000 apiece, two trams purchased by the city less than two years ago can't shuttle visitors up the steep hill between the beach and the visitors' center.

An older trolley with a heftier modified truck engine now makes the rounds up and down the hill.

Some see the broken-down trams as a symbol of problems that continue to plague Hanauma Bay, recently recognized as the No. 1 beach in the nation.

"We have a world-class facility and yet we're not giving it world-class treatment and that bothers us at the bay," said John Norris, president of Friends of Hanauma Bay, the nonprofit group whose 100-plus members volunteer at the bay.

Criticism about the bay's management goes back to the construction of the bay's visitors center in 2001 and 2002, when change orders led to millions of dollars in cost overruns.

And City Council members question whether the administration is stashing Hanauma Bay receipts to use elsewhere in the city government -- something denied by budget officials.

The trams were purchased in August 2002. They consist of a driver's cab, where the engine is housed, with the capacity to seat 14 passengers. The driver's cab can be hitched to a passenger trailer which can hold up to 28 more passengers.

The older tram now used at the bay can hold up to 21 passengers.

About a month after the trams were purchased, they began to break down and they have been in an out of service since then.

"The vehicle drive train components become overstressed during operation," Carol Costa said in an e-mailed response. "The company has tried to modify and fix the vehicles."

Where the cabs are is not clear. "The trailers are unhitched from the cabs because the city is trying to investigate the cause of the mechanical breakdowns and whether the cabs can operate without the trailers," Costa's e-mail said. At first, the city said that it would file legal action to fix or replace the units at no cost to the city if trams aren't fixed, but later backed off that statement in a subsequent e-mail.

Two phone calls for comment to the vendor, Trams International, were not returned.

City Councilman Charles Djou, whose district includes Hanauma Bay, and others said the trams epitomize what's wrong with the way the city has managed the bay.

"This is potentially a big problem. We went out and spent a whole heck of a lot of money buying all these nice things and they're not going to work," Djou said.

The Council had raised questions about the administration's proposal to transfer $1.1 million in concession revenue from the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Fund to the city's general treasury fund.

The Council rejected the transfer even though the administration said there would be a $1.3 million surplus after paying $4.5 million in operational costs.

The Friends of Hanauma Bay reported that crucial positions weren't filled and that equipment hadn't been purchased.

"The city continually claims there's a surplus of money in the Hanauma Bay fund and yet we know that there are positions that are needed," Norris said, noting that three maintenance jobs and one office position are unfilled.

Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she thinks the Harris administration isn't spending the money because officials want to build up the fund to raid it and balance the city budget. "It certainly appears that way," Kobayashi said.

Not so, the administration said.

In a written statement, Budget Director Ivan Lui-Kwan said that prior to 2000, concession revenue from the bay went into the general fund.

Because of a 2002 federal court ruling, the city can only use admission fee and parking revenue for the upkeep of Hanauma Bay.

Lui-Kwan said the city feels the ruling does not affect concession revenue.

Transferring the concession money to the general fund would enable the city to fulfill the original intent of the Hanauma Bay fund which was to provide funding for not only Hanauma Bay but also for neighboring parks -- Koko Head District Park, Maunalua Bay Beach Park, Koko Head Rifle Range and Koko Crater Botanical Garden -- on lands that were deeded to the city in 1928, including Hanauma Bay, he said.

Djou is calling for an audit of the fund, and he's also calling for the city to consider privatizing the management of the park with a semi-autonomous entity running things.

"I do think the city has a legitimate role in overseeing all the operations, but why they need to micromanage it when you have so many volunteers there," Djou said. "You have this wonderful organization over there, the Friends of Hanauma Bay, and we have a supposedly dedicated fund out there. It would seem natural to marry this up."


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