Kapolei fountain project too expensive, city says
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
The city has dramatically scaled back plans for a $524,000 fountain in Kapolei that was to have featured two pools connected by a waterfall, topped by a ring of gas-powered flames surrounding a 7-foot-tall statue of a hula dancer, a concept the artists said was Mayor Jeremy Harris' idea.
After deciding the project had become too expensive, Managing Director Ben Lee said the city scrapped the waterfall and flames for a simple pedestal and landscaping that will hold the statue and be placed near the entrance of Kapolei's police station.
The city already has paid $120,000 for the statue, which was set in bronze at a Utah foundry and is now awaiting shipment to Hawai'i. The city will spend an additional $10,000 for the pedestal and landscaping and it has also paid three consultants who worked on the fountain design an amount Lee said he didn't know and could not provide.
As recently as two weeks ago, however, the city was still discussing with its architects a redesigned fountain, flames included, for $360,000, according to a March 13 memo from a city-hired architect working on the project.
"On March 8, the MD (Managing Director Lee) informed us that the mayor has accepted Groark Design's proposed redesign concept," architect Bill Chang wrote to the other architects on the project and the city's design and construction department.
"Additional cost savings measures to bring the base price down from $524,000 to $360,000 may require additional cuts such as the city parks division completing the landscape planting," Chang's memo said. "Mayor is hopeful that we can have construction under way soon and Kapo's statue in place by midsummer."
Lee said the city went back repeatedly but unsuccessfully to the consultants and artists to get the project downsized and the price lowered.
"We've been working and working and working with the design team and the artists and so forth but they couldn't get the price low enough," he said. "And so we basically canceled it. We're not going to spend that much, we're not going to spend half that much. We're not going to do it."
Lee said the elaborate flaming fountain design was the idea of the consultants and local artists Lynn Liverton and Karen Lucas.
"That's the artists' concept, and we certainly support that," Lee said. "I mean, that's the design, the creative part of the project and they came up with a great idea. It's a neat idea. But we're certainly not going to spend that much money on it."
Asked if the city, or the mayor, specifically wanted a fountain and a ring of flames surrounding the statue, Lee said, "Absolutely not."
But artist Liverton of Kailua disputed Lee's comments.
"Oh, he's full of it," she said. "It totally came from the mayor's office. They told us, when we bid the project, it was to be a fountain. Then (later) they said, 'Okay, the mayor wants fire.' "
That message came from Peter Radulovic, head of the City Culture and the Arts Office, Liverton said.
"Pete told us this. We said, 'Fire? What do you mean, fire?' " Liverton said.
Radulovic did not return repeated calls.
Lee, who is Radulovic's boss, said that the city participated in discussions about the plans for fire and a waterfall but only as a concept.
"I think it's always a collective, collaborative process," Lee said. "They show something to us, and we basically have some comments, some suggestions and so forth."
News that the city had dropped plans for the fountain surprised Lin Khoue, a consultant with Groark Design, who worked on the fountain redesign.
"You're kidding," Khoue said last week. "Ben Lee told you that?"
Khoue declined comment about whether the fountain and fire concept originated with the artists and designers or the city.
"I don't want to say anything out of line," he said, "but I get my instructions. The design was based on what I was instructed to do."
Chang and artist Liverton had also not heard of plans to cancel the fountain until contacted by The Advertiser.
The lead designer, Stan Yasumoto of Architects Hawaii Ltd., was unavailable for comment.
Liverton said the statue is finished and ready for shipment to Kapolei.
"The unveiling was supposed to be in February," she said. "We've just been waiting for word from the city."
Reach Jim Dooley at email@example.com or 535-2447.