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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2001

Barbers Point group runs short of money

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

KALAELOA — As the Barbers Point Redevelopment Commission moves toward completing its work transferring land and utilities at the former naval air base to government and private agencies, the commission's staff is all but gone.

In March, the staff of four vacated its Kapolei offices and moved into a small trailer on Fort Barrette Road, just outside the main gate to the former base. This month, they moved again, into two cubicles in the state office building in Kapolei. Two employees, Tomi Chong and Bennett Mark, were let go. Executive director Bill Bass now works part time for the commission as a contract employee.

Bass said Gov. Ben Cayetano last month vetoed Senate Bill 1028, which would have provided $160,000 needed to pay the staff for another year.

"We made money selling water, sewer and security services to the end users, so we used that to do a contract with me, so I've got a one year, part-time contract," Bass said.

Kristelle Batino was retained as secretary and is the only full-time commission employee.

The 16-member commission, which former Gov. John Waihe'e formed by executive order in 1994, has spent the past two years developing a special area plan for the 2,637-acre site, now called Kalaeloa. The volunteer commission will continue to operate, meeting quarterly instead of monthly.

The commission is charged with making decisions on implementing the redevelopment plan for Barbers Point since the Navy base closed in 1999, by overseeing the transfer of surplus property, monitoring the Navy's environmental restoration program, preparing a master plan for the site and coordinating security operations.

The Navy transfers titles to the commission, which in turn transfers titles to the appropriate entity or service provider.

Commission Chairman Rick Egged, who also is president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, has said the group's most important job was to develop a land use plan and see it adopted as a special area use plan by the city. That has been accomplished.

The commission was expected to dissolve June 30, but will need to operate for at least another year or until all work is completed.

Commission responsibilities could be taken over by the Hawai'i Community Development Authority if all surplus land and infrastructure title transfers are not completed by next year, Bass said.

The paid staff has been responsible for doing the commission's "leg work," writing up agreements, making public presentations and following through on legal documents.

"We've still got to transfer the roads," Bass said. "The papers are being reviewed by state Department of Transportation and the city. We still have to get the water and sewer services transferred over to the Board of Water Supply and Environmental Services. It's close but hasn't happened yet."

Bass said three parcels of land have come back to the commission for reassignment, two from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earmarked for a bird sanctuary and one from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"The DLNR decided not to take one of the two Heritage Park parcels, because they felt the Navy had adversely impacted the landscape when they dug up two feet of soil to sift for live bullets from the firing range," Bass said. "We think there will be a private group interested in it."

Planned uses for Kalaeloa include services for homeless veterans, public parks, housing and light industrial and commercial business uses.

The commission's new phone number is 692-7924.