By ERIN MILLER
Funding for the Kona Judiciary Complex and the Hawaii Community College at Palamanui top two West Hawaii legislators’ lists of capital improvement project successes this session.
In all, West Hawaii Sen. Josh Green said, state legislators approved more than $180 million for projects on the west side of the island, including $113.5 million for Kona International Airport, another $2.4 million for the community college project and $9 million for the Kona Judiciary Complex.
The Judiciary branch requested $90 million for the courthouse complex, which West Hawaii attorneys, judges and court staff have requested for years. Legislators opted to earmark only 10 percent of that request, but Green said that isn’t a sign they intend to shortchange the project.
“My colleagues indicated they expect to move forward fully with full (funding) next year in the supplementary budget,” Green said Friday.
Rep. Denny Coffman, a Democrat whose district runs from Kailua-Kona through parts of western Ka‘u, said he was OK with that initial appropriation.
“It’s a placeholder,” Coffman said. “We’re about $12 million into the project. The Legislature is committed to building the building.”
Coffman was also pleased to see the University of Hawaii come up with funding to fill the gap between earlier appropriations and the bids for the Palamanui project. He and other Hawaii Island legislators had expressed their concerns to university officials about the funding issues facing the project.
“I didn’t want to stop that project,” Coffman said. “I’m somewhat amazed it’s continuing.”
He was also able to secure about $2.5 million for irrigation work in Ka‘u in areas previously used by sugar companies to irrigate their fields. That appropriation will combine with $2.5 million Rep. Richard Onishi got for his half of the Ka‘u District, Coffman said.
Legislators approved $9.7 million to build a frontage road and new connections to Kaiminani Drive and Makako Bay Drive. The road will provide a route for Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii tenants to more easily access Queen Kaahumanu Highway, via a traffic signal at Kaiminani. Business owners at NELHA complained to state Department of Transportation officials about the plan to end left turns out of Makako Bay Drive when the highway widening project is completed.
Another road project on this year’s capital improvements list is the Saddle Road extension from Mamalahoa Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. This final portion of the road would intersect with the highway near Waikoloa Beach Drive. Green said legislators set aside $15.8 million to design that roadway extension, acquire land and build a road maintenance facility.
The DOT also got $6 million for drainage improvements to Mamalahoa Highway near Puuwaawaa Ranch Road.
A community organization has been working toward a public, West Hawaii shooting range for more than a decade. Green said legislators this session approved $13 million to plan, design and build the range on state land near the Puuanahulu landfill.
Kona Community Hospital got $4 million for renovations and upgrades, and Kohala Hospital got $1 million, Green said.
Manuka Natural Area Reserve in South Kona will get $3.5 million for a boundary fence, while Kealakehe High School will see its track upgraded to an all-weather, synthetic surface. Legislators appropriated $300,000 to design those upgrades.
Emai Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.