New Kaunakakai fire station breaks ground.
By Melissa Kelsey
Molokai fire fighters may be experts at putting out flames, but they have not put out their faith in the construction of the new Kaunakakai fire station. When community members picked up golden shovels to dig up earth last Monday for the groundbreaking of the new station, it had been more than seven years since the idea for the project was originally conceived. At its future location just east of town, across the street from the Molokai Education Center, Reverend Jimmy Duvauchelle said a blessing and spoke on the importance of keeping faith.
Time for an Upgrade
There are several reasons community members want a new fire station, according to firefighter Greg Jenkins, the County of Maui coordinator for the project.
The Kaunakakai fire station is currently located next to Mitchell Pauole Center in an area that frequently floods, and Jenkins said water in the building can impede efficient operations.
“We have waded to our trucks in a foot of water,” he said.
More importantly, the current station is so central in town that first responders have to immediately drive past baseball fields, Kaunakakai Elementary School and other congested community centers. Firefighters point out that on occasion, this creates delays and safety issues for pedestrians.
In addition, firefighters and their equipment have outgrown the station, and there is not enough storage space.
The new station will have the most advanced fire fighting training facilities in the County of Maui, and will rank among the top in the state. The building will include a large classroom for public safety training. Towers in the new station design will be used for rope rescue training, confined space training and ladder training. A smaller tower will be used to simulate second story building rescues. Jenkins said the training space may attract educational programs throughout the state and nationally, possibly being significant enough to boost local economy.
“People could come to Molokai for training and stay at Hotel Molokai,” said Jenkins.
A Long Road
The Maui-based construction company Maui Master Builders won the contract to build the new station from the County of Maui for $11.8 million, according to Jenkins. Construction is expected to take 18 months. Even after seven years, however, the company cannot begin building until they secure two final permits, according to Duane Ting at Maui Master Builders. Ting said they are still waiting on a building permit from the County of Maui and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the Clean Water Branch of the State of Hawaii Board of Health. The NPDES permitting process checks building projects to ensure that they will not pollute local water sources.
Jenkins said planning personnel put a great deal of thought into making the new fire station environmentally friendly. As a result of the architectural design, fire fighters will be able to turn off air conditioning and utilities in individual rooms that are not being used. Due to financial constraints, the fire station will not be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. The building design, however, does allow for green additions in the future if grant money becomes available. Fire personnel hope to eventually add a solar water heating system and a photovoltaic lighting system, according to Jenkins.
Word of Mouth Employment
The new fire station will not immediately create jobs for the County of Maui Fire Department because the fire fighters who work at the current station will simply be transferred to the new station, Jenkins said. Maui Master Builders will bring some of their own workers and subcontractors for the building construction, but a limited number of construction jobs may become available for Molokai residents, according to Ting. However, Ting said that Maui Master Builders does not have a system for advertising job opportunities and instead relies on word of mouth for hiring. Interested workers should contact Maui Master Builders, where the company is keeping an inventory of people who call inquiring about jobs. In addition, the company is surveying its own employees, many of whom are from Molokai, to ask whether or not they want to work on Molokai.
“Some of the workers for the project will be returning home to Molokai,” said Ting.
Jenkins pointed out that the construction project will likely include increased business for Molokai trucking, cement and other building materials suppliers.