Mayor Mufi Hannemann and wife, Gail, attended a prayer service yesterday at Kawaiahao Church.

Mayor stops all
Natatorium work

Hannemann makes good on
his promise to halt repairs
on the WWI memorial pool

Opponents pledge legal
challenges if the city moves
to demolish the structure

On his first full day at the helm of the city, Mayor Mufi Hannemann carried out his threat to stop repair work on the deteriorating Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

"This is to inform you that ... you are directed to suspend all activities and expenditures for this project until further notice," acting city Design and Construction Director Tim Steinberger said in a letter sent yesterday to Healy-Tibbits Builders Inc. President Rick Heltzel. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hannemann had vowed that one of his first acts as mayor would be to halt $6.1 million in remedial work.

"He's making good on a campaign promise," said Peter Apo, spokesman for Friends of the Natatorium, the group that wanted the structure restored. "We're disappointed but it's not unexpected."

But critics of the Natatorium restoration were pleased with the mayor's decision.

"We are very pleased with the sensible approach of our new mayor. We support his decision completely," said Rick Bernstein, of the Kaimana Beach Coalition. "There's finally responsible action being taken, and we celebrate the wisdom of Mufi Hannemann and this action."

After a prayer session yesterday morning, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and wife Gail gathered with religious leaders on the steps of Kawaiahao Church. They included the Revs. Romeo Gorospe, left, Curt Kekuna, Dan Chun, Ralph Morse (hidden), Wayne Cordeiro and Art Sepulveda.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris wanted to restore the 80-year-old memorial to World War I veterans, but legal wrangling, including formulation of rules governing the saltwater pool, brought the $11 million restoration project to a standstill.

A section of the pool deck collapsed in May, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall. After the incident, the city hired a contractor to begin work to stabilize the structure.

But the structure's future remains in question.

Hannemann contends it would be too expensive for the city to continue to maintain the Natatorium and instead wants to keep its arch as a tribute to the veterans. But he wants the rest of the structure -- including the pool -- scrapped in favor of expanding the beach, a plan endorsed by Bernstein's group.

Bernstein said he is gathering a group of experts to volunteer to make that happen and, as much as possible, stay with the $6.1 million that has already been set aside for Natatorium work.

He said the pool needs to be dredged, the structure demolished, the groins stabilized, new sand brought in and bathrooms built.

Apo said that if the city proceeds with demolishing the Natatorium, they should expect legal challenges from his group and others, as well as permit approvals that could tie up the project for years.

"It's not a threat. We will do everything we can to protect the Natatorium, and we'll see where it falls," Apo said.

Hannemann was expected to answer questions on the Natatorium at a news conference today.

Also at that news conference, he is expected to name the former chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and former chief executive office of a national teeth-brightening company as his managing director, the person who will run the city in Hannemann's absence.

John Reed is the retired CEO of the BriteSmile company. According to the San Francisco Business Times, Reed retired as CEO in April and stepped down from the company's board of directors on Oct. 14.

Prior to joining BriteSmile, he was chairman of Pacific retail development for international duty-free operator DFS Group Ltd.

Reed was also the first chairman of the HTA after the panel was formed by the 1998 Legislature.

Hannemann is also expected to name former state Deputy Comptroller Mary Pat Waterhouse as director of Budget and Fiscal Services, who will be charged with formulating the city's operating and capital improvement budgets.

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