Hilo colleges seek
repair funds

The money would go to renovate
buildings and expand services
at UH-Hilo and HCC

HILO » Specks of rust from the ceiling are raining down on students and valuable lab equipment in the science building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, says biology professor Don Hemmes.

In buildings on the campus, space is so cramped, staffers have to use closets as offices, said Dwayne Mukai, president-elect of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii.

The Hawaiian studies college has the only authorized doctoral program at UH-Hilo, yet one of its divisions works out of mildewing wooden buildings while computers go unused for lack of space, stored outside in a metal shipping container, said program official Niniau Simmons.

The state House Higher Education Committee was to hear testimony today from students, faculty and community leaders supporting university requests for $88 million to correct these problems and to expand UH-Hilo and nearby Hawaii Community College.

At UH-Hilo, $62 million would go for new construction, including a Hawaiian language building, a science complex, expanded student services space and renovation of the campus center including dining and bookstore facilities.

About $5.9 million would be added to UH-Hilo's annual operating budget of $25 million.

At Hawaii Community College, $18 million is sought for planning, infrastructure and the first buildings in what is planned to be a $200 million new campus for the college.

Some $2.27 million, to be added to the college's $9 million annual operating budget, would allow the college to take over functions now done for it by UH-Hilo, such as paying electricity bills and maintenance costs.

As the rusting ceilings show, buildings from the 1960s on both campuses are decaying.

"The condition is just horrible," said Mukai, who planned to testify for the money today on behalf of the Japanese chamber.

Students are breathing the same chemical fumes that are causing lab equipment to corrode, said biologist Hemmes.

The weakening ceiling is similar to one that collapsed on students and a teacher at Kailua Intermediate School just two weeks ago, he said.

UHH student body President Ginger Takeshita said students need to be free of the worry, "Am I going to survive this class?"

University of Hawaii at Hilo

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