By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Renovation of the Pahoa Community Aquatic Center has been slowed since work began in January, but the $1.55 million pool project should still be completed on schedule by mid-July.
County parks planner James Komata said Tuesday that issues over terms of the construction contract that arose in January were resolved and Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd., expects to have workers busy at the site again on Monday.
The pool was closed on Jan. 7 for work on pumps and installation of solar hot water heating panels that was expected to take about six months. But this week, a spokesman for the county Department of Parks and Recreation said state and county permits were needed to proceed with the project, which caused it to be shut down in January.
Spokesman Jason Armstrong said Tuesday morning that the permits were still pending approval for the project and that officials didn’t know when the pool will reopen. Komata contradicted Armstrong on Tuesday afternoon, however, and said that after discussion with Isemoto, the scheduled six-month project is expected to be completed on schedule by July 16.
Armstrong said later that he was working with “old information,” which he’d also provided to Kaimu resident and frequent pool user Bill Newman. Although Armstrong said the county had received “no real complaints” about the closure, Newman said he spoke to Armstrong on Monday. “I complained,” Newman said. “They’re not working on (the pool).”
Newman, 73, who exercised at the pool several times a week when it was open, told the Tribune-Herald on Tuesday that he had no issue with the need for the repairs. “Every time there’s a power outage, we lose the pool for a day,” he said. But Newman was critical of closures due to what he perceived as poor planning. “They closed it first then started the planning.” But Komata said that’s incorrect.
And though the pool still looks inviting, Komata said there is an area of open excavation on the site that renders it unsafe for public use.
Isemoto is expected to expand the pool’s equipment building, reconfigure the pool’s pumps, circulation piping and filtration system, and fix leaks that have caused frequent shutdowns of the pool. Armstrong said the work would improve water quality and reduce operating costs. “It’s a pretty significant upgrade.”
The work was initially scheduled to begin in November but the contractor who won the bid was disqualified. Isemoto was awarded the contract in December. A spokesman for Isemoto deferred all questions about the project to Komata.
Up to 16,800 users a month enjoy the 15-year-old pool during the peak summer season, Armstrong said. During winter months, that number drops to about 5,000.
“(Closure) is an impact to the public, we understand that,” Armstrong said. He suggested the public could use other county pools in Hilo and Pahala, but acknowledged the inconvenience due to their long distances from Pahoa.
Email Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.