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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

North Kona meeting room to reopen

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — Mayor Harry Kim has ordered Big Island police to reopen their main meeting room in North Kona for public use.

Police shut down the Kealakehe site last month because of concerns about access by disabled people. The entryway and bathrooms do not meet accessibility standards, so the decision was made to close the meeting room to all instead of excluding just those with disabilities.

Police had said the closure was prompted by an advisory legal opinion by a deputy corporation counsel. But deputy corporation counsel Lester Ishado and police have declined to make the legal opinion public.

Police Chief Jimmy Correa was not available for comment yesterday.

Kim said he regarded the closure — which he never approved — to be an unreasonable option since meeting rooms are hard to find in fast-growing West Hawai'i.

"I know from experience this one is well-used," said the mayor, who worked for more than 20 years as county civil defense administrator before his retirement from that job six months before launching his political career.

The shutdown stemmed from a January complaint by an O'ahu advocate for the disabled, who said he never suggested the closure but did call for county compliance with federal accessibility standards.

Twenty-six community groups had been using the room, including senior citizens, the American Red Cross and youth sports organizations.

Police Maj. Harry Kubojiri, who heads field operations in West Hawai'i, had said earlier that changes to the facility will have to wait until at least mid-2006, when modifications are scheduled for the Kealakehe Police Station.