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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 19, 2002

Hanauma Bay project costs extra $2.4 million

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

City officials issued two dozen change orders to the construction contract for the Marine Education Center and related improvements at Hanauma Bay, sending the project 23 percent over its $10.6 million budget and prompting the City Council budget chairwoman to schedule a special hearing on the costs.

A sculpture of a humuhumunukunukuapua'a stands of the makai side of the new Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center. Numerous change orders tacked on another $2.4 million to the project's cost.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Two related change orders, issued in August and November 2001 and totaling $674,000, included the cost of lowering the roof by five feet after it was found to be too high.

Other changes include change order No. 1, issued in July 2001, just two months after work began, for $563,755 needed to fix plans referred to as "incomplete and uncoordinated" and requiring "substantial changes ... to drawings affecting all phases."

In all, the changes to the Marine Education Center and other bay improvements added $2.4 million to the price, bringing the total cost to $13 million, not including $1.5 million for landscaping, said Eric Crispin, deputy director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

City officials have acknowledged that the project was over budget but said many of the changes were in response to residents' requests and that total costs were still within the amount originally set aside by the City Council.

Two City Council members have been asking for information on the costs of the project since January, and said they have yet to see all the change orders.

City Council budget committee chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she has questions for the administration, and she will ask them at a special budget hearing Sept. 12.

"I'd like to find out about the change orders and why they were necessary," Kobayashi said. "We have asked before but the answers were never clear. The city is always rushing to do things. We cannot continue to operate this way. The bad part is this is not the only job where there are change orders."

City officials had assured residents and the Friends of Hanauma Bay that the education center would not be visible from the beach below. When it was determined in May 2001 that the building was visible from the beach, officials ordered the roof lowered. Two change orders — Nos. 6 and 12 —Êcover that additional work for a total cost of $674,000.

City officials have said repeatedly that lowering the roof cost about $80,000. Thursday evening during the Marine Education Center's invitation-only grand opening party at Hanauma Bay, Crispin reiterated that, saying that only $76,288.51 was directly related to the lowering of the roof and that many other unrelated changes were added to the same change order.

"It's a flowing process," Crispin said. "The revisions are done in conjunction with other moving parts. It would be a disservice to the project to say the $606,000 (the amount of change order No. 6) is the entire cost for lowering the roof."

City officials have said that many of the changes were necessary because of typical problems encountered during any construction project.

Change orders "are not the demons everyone makes them out to be," Crispin said Thursday. "(They) are an integral part of the construction process."

City Councilman John Henry Felix agreed that changes to a contract are often necessary when workers unexpectedly encounter pipes or other special conditions during the building process.

But typically those total about 5 percent of an overall construction cost, at least on private sector projects, Felix said.

The Marine Education Center opened to the public Friday to rave reviews for design and its ability to blend into the natural surroundings of the volcanic landscape. The city has said the center was essential to educate visitors and protect the fragile nature preserve, which draws more than 1 million visitors per year.

Even Felix, who questioned costs throughout much of the project, acknowledged that the center was state of the art.

"The end product turned out all right," Felix said. "However, to have it increased in price by 23 percent due to change orders, mostly initiated by the administration without proper consultation of the council and the Friends of Hanauma Bay, is just another example of how this administration operates. Changes repeatedly were made on the spur of the moment and not thought out. It's micromanagement. That's very costly."

Changes ordered for the Hanauma Bay improvements ranged from rerouting sewer lines to changing the kind of plants, railings and planters, adding air conditioning, and changing the kind of tile in the bathrooms for aesthetic purposes.

In change order No. 6, the city paid $184,000 to reconfigure the slab, beams in the buildings in the area where the education training facility and remove docent rooms. After members of the Friends of Hanauma Bay complained, those spaces were put back into the design, but Crispin could not say how much it cost to put those rooms back in.

Among the other change orders:

  • No. 11, issued Oct. 31, 2001, to reroute overhead electrical lines to underground and demolish and remove existing overhead poles, lines and other equipment for $127,190.
  • No. 14, issued Dec. 10, 2001, to redesign the bathhouse in the lower bay improvements, rock work and entry to the women's bathroom, redesign three lifeguard storage buildings and delete the sprinkler system to the kiosk bathroom entry in the lower bay improvement for $298,796.
  • No. 13, issued Dec. 10, 2001, to add drain inlets, delete security fencing, revise the service entry walkway to the snack shop, revise the landscaping and rock work to disguise the entries, and delete the skylights at the staff offices for $156,525.

The largest of the 16 change orders obtained by The Advertiser was No. 6, which included lowering the roof.

Kobayashi was not satisfied with the city's explanation.

"We have to get to the bottom of this," she said. "We need answers. We need to find out how much everything cost and why."

Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawai'i, a nonprofit watchdog group, said there shouldn't have to be so many change orders. Their presence is an indication of "how poorly our public facilities are planned."

Crispin disagreed, saying that 24 change orders is typical for a project of this magnitude.

"The changes and revisions that were made resulted in the world-class facility it is today," Crispin said. "Every change added value. It is physically impractical to get every detail in the drawings and specifications. Once a building comes up in three dimensions, there are certain revisions that if you don't make you'd regret.

"The difference between excellence and mediocrity is that attention to detail."