Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Kalanimoku office
behind on yardwork

Question: Who owns the Kalanimoku Building? Why is it in such dreadful condition? All the trees and bushes and grass around it are dying, and there's garbage all over the place. Who should we complain to?

Answer: The state-owned Kalanimoku Building at 1151 Punchbowl St., across from the state Capitol, is headquarters for the Department of Accounting and General Services and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DAGS provides building and ground maintenance, and custodial service for the building, as well as other state facilities.

Russ Saito, head of DAGS, acknowledged your assessment, saying, "The poor condition of the grounds is a combination of several things, including neglect based on resource limitations."

Volunteers with DLNR's Forestry and Wildlife Division will be sprucing up the overgrown native Hawaiian garden outside the director's office this weekend. DLNR had permission to create the special garden a while ago.

Meanwhile, native wiliwili trees are being attacked by tiny wasps, just recently identified, that are defoliating and threatening to kill wiliwili and coral trees around the state.

State Department of Agriculture and University of Hawaii personnel are trying to find a solution, Saito said.

As for other areas around the Kalanimoku Building, Saito said workers will be weeding and cutting back, essentially trying to restore the lawai ferns and other plantings.

In an earlier complaint about the state of the Iolani Palace grounds, Saito told "Kokua Line" (May 22) that maintenance at all state properties was a big problem, citing aging irrigation systems and equipment and a shortage of maintenance crews.

He currently is in the midst of visiting all properties under DAGS' purview. On Oahu this includes 42 facilities, from the state Capitol to the Kakuhihewa Building in Kapolei, the Wahiawa and Kaneohe civic centers, 25 public libraries and four cemeteries, he said.

To bring facilities up to par, Saito said he was trying first to determine if the state has the staff that is needed. That involves tallying the "total acreage that we're taking care of," then dividing that by the number of workers. He will then compare the figures with commercial landscaping/maintenance companies.

His challenge to groundskeeping managers is to keep state grounds "as well as a good commercial company would."

While prison work lines are used whenever possible, Saito said, "It's clear that we need to find ways to use our resources more effectively, as well as obtain more resources to address specific areas of concern."

One big problem is that "we don't have enough people dedicated to just maintaining sprinklers," which continually are breaking down, he said.

Overall, "It's a big task, but we are confident we can show some improvements as a result," he said.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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