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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Waipahu plans care centers

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

WAIPAHU — With an eye toward caring for its most vulnerable residents, the Waipahu Community Foundation plans to build an Adult Day Health Care and Children's Day Care Center on Hikimoe Street in midtown Waipahu.

 •  Comments sought

Send comments on the Waipahu Adult Day Health Care and Children's Day Care Center by May 23 to the City and County of Honolulu, Department of Community Services, 715 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813 (attn: Arnold Wong). Include three copies — for the applicant; consultant Gerald Park, urban planner; and the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

With one adult daycare center already in operation and another planned, the community foundation's $2.7 million facility would be the third dedicated to caring for Waipahu's aging population. Many of the residents are former sugar workers.

The group has filed a draft environmental assessment with the state Office of Environmental Quality Control and is seeking public comments on the project.

Sen. Cal Kawamoto, an officer with the Waipahu Community Foundation, said the center not only will provide daycare for the oldest and youngest residents, but also is a pilot project to assess and maintain the health of the elderly, which could save taxpayers money.

"Waipahu is over 100 years old, and we've got a bunch of elderly people and our income in that area is below moderate," said Kawamoto, D-19th (Waipahu, Pearl City). "We're concerned about the amount of money the state spends for elderly intermediate care facilities if they get sick and unable to take care of themselves."

Kawamoto said it is cheaper to pay for preventive care rather than the expensive hospital bills often picked up by state and federal government services after illness strikes.

The proposed project will consist of three detached structures, parking, landscaping and off-site improvements.

The Adult Day Health Care Center, the largest of the three structures, would have a building area of about 6,300 square feet.

Two detached classroom buildings are proposed for the Children's Day Care Center. Each building would have an area of about 1,420 square feet and could accommodate 20 students.

Off-street parking for 37 vehicles is planned and a turnaround/dropoff area will be at the end of the lot.

The center would be near the city's bus transit center, and the foundation has agreed to allow the city to construct covered bus shelters and a public restroom on the center's property fronting Hikimoe Street for bus users.

Construction of the overall project would be paid by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development program of community block grants. Kawamoto said the city and state are also being asked to provide some money for the project.

Construction is projected to start this fall, with completion a year later.

In 1852-1946, nearly 400,000 workers from places such as Korea, Japan, China, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Portugal immigrated to Hawai'i as sugar workers, living in company-owned plantation homes.

With the closing of O'ahu Sugar Co. in 1995, the last of those workers in Waipahu were laid off. In an attempt to meet the needs of those aging workers, adult daycare centers are becoming common.

In January, Bethel Chapel Assembly of God announced plans to build an adult daycare center, and Waipahu Hongwanji Mission's adult center, opened in 1998, recently expanded its program.

Darrlyn Bunda, executive director of the Waipahu Community Association, said that although the community is moving forward, planning a future after sugar, residents have not forgotten their past.

"When you are talking about the rejuvenation of Waipahu and making it an attractive place to live, it includes the seniors," Bunda said. "The care of the seniors and how they live is very important, just as is daycare for the young ones. It is part of a healthy, vital community."