West Hawaii campus moving forward


By ERIN MILLER

Stephens Media

The University of Hawaii has issued a notice of award to F&H Construction for the Palamanui campus construction project.

Officials were able to renegotiate F&H Construction’s cost from about $25.5 million to $22.7 million. John Morton, vice president for community colleges, said they did so by agreeing to leave out some items from the project, such as the photovoltaic panels, to lower the project cost.

The next step, Morton said, is a five-day period for bid protest. That runs from April 1 to 5, he said.

“After we get past that, we’re looking forward to breaking ground,” Morton said. “We’ve been waiting a long time, haven’t we?”

The renegotiation process went smoothly, Morton said.

“We were able to work out something to keep us in the money (range) without jeopardizing the project in the long run,” he said.

University officials were left scrambling in January after the low bidder for the project, Nan Inc., withdrew its bid. The university had about $17 million set aside for the project between state money and contributions from Palamanui LLC, the overall project developer. Even Nan’s low bid was $21 million, higher than the amount of money available. The gap between the available funding and F&H Construction’s bid was about $8 million.

In February, the Board of Regents voted to use about $6.5 million in leftover revenue bonds for the Palamanui campus, which will be located mauka of the Kona International Airport. The first phase of work includes a culinary arts building and a health science and student services building, according to the notice to proceed, posted on the University of Hawaii’s website.

Big Island legislators had serious concerns about the situation in January, after learning Nan had withdrawn its bid. Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, said at the time legislators made clear to university officials the Palamanui project — a long-awaited community college campus for West Hawaii — had to come before several other university projects in the works.

Palamanui Global Holdings’ Roger Harris said the developer is continuing to build the main waterline to the campus, as promised. He said he was happy to see the notice of bid award.

“It’s good news,” he said. “This is it. … We’re hoping there’s real construction on the college (soon).”

He said he could see work beginning as early as next month. Morton said once the university gets through the bid award protest period, when work will begin depends upon the developer’s schedule.

University officials last month said they now expect the college to open in January 2015.

Attempts to reach F&H Construction, which is based in Lodi, Calif. and has a Kahului office as well, were unsuccessful Monday.

The campus has been in development for nearly a decade, with the land developer, Palamanui, initially agreeing to build the first campus building itself. More recently, the state and the developer reached an agreement in which the developer paid the state $9.7 million, to be combined with $7.5 million in capital funding, to have the first phase built. Palamanui is also doing about $10 million in infrastructure work.

Right now, students attending Hawaii Community College in West Hawaii do so in classrooms scattered across a retail center in Kealakekua. The new campus is expected to be about 24,000 square feet, encompassing classrooms, learning kitchens and science laboratories. The campus should support about 700 students, UH officials said.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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