Friday, February 9, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2001

'Ewa says no to sex offender facility

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

EWA BEACH — Ewa Neighborhood Board members last night voted against a proposal to move a juvenile sex offender treatment center to their community.

The board voted 9-0 against a plan to move the facility from the Waimano Training School and Hospital in Pearl City to the private Kahi Mohala psychiatric hospital in Ewa. In fact, the board voted against relocating the facility to any site.

The action was taken after the community heard a plan from a private consultant who was hired by the state to select alternate sites. In addition to the Kahi Mohala site, consultant Kimura International suggested two other locations — in Wahiawa near Kemoo Farm and at Kalaeloa, formerly Barbers Point.

Fewer than 20 people were on hand to hear the presentation and to question representatives from the state Department of Health, Kahi Mohala and Kimura International. But most of the residents and board members said they did not want the center moved to Ewa.

Board member Tesha Malama said it didn't make sense for the state to pay to lease space at Kahi Mohala when taxpayer's money already was spent to build the Pearl City facility.

"It's already there and we've already spent the money," Malama said. "I'm not willing to spend $645,000 (in estimated lease rent) every year of taxpayer's money."

The state in December opened the treatment center for juvenile sex offenders at the Waimano Training School and Hospital in Pearl City. The center treats boys ages 12 to 17 who have had sexual relations with family members. They are not classified as sexual predators or violent sexual offenders.

The boys had been housed in facilities on the Mainland, but were returned to Hawaii to meet a deadline set by the 1994 Felix consent decree. The court order requires that the state improve mental health services for students with special needs.

But Pearl City residents complained that the center was too close to Pearl City High and Momilani Elementary schools.

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the state would move the center from Pearl City if a suitable location were found.

The Kahi Mohala facility received the highest marks among the three alternatives by Kimura International because it already provides services to adolescents, and there is just one school within a one-mile radius.

But the Ewa community last night sent a message to the Cayetano administration that there is no reason to build a new facility since an adequate one already exists. Board member Karen Wenke hinted that there may be more to the selection of Kahi Mohala than is being presented to the community.

"I think that it is extremely convenient that you would pick Kahi Mohala which has vacancies there and they could probably use some renovations and you chose a community that's not very vocal," Wenke said.

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