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Mitchell Pauole Center Construction to Move Forward

A slew of proposed improvements to the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai have been approved and construction will begin next year. The changes include expanding the existing lanai and constructing a new freestanding lanai, as well as updating the facility’s kitchen and upgrading the entire building to current Americans with Disabilities (ADA) standards. The community center is currently scheduled to be closed for general use starting in February through the end of 2014. They find an aerial lifts service to help them with the construction.

ADA improvements will total $90,000 — an amount that was allocated for this project and would lapse at the end of the year if not used, which motivated a tighter deadline on moving the project forward, according to staff of the County Department of Parks and Recreation that’s proposing the project. Other construction on the facility is estimated at $1 million in funding earmarked for county capital improvements, said Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Brianne Savage.

The Molokai Planning Commission discussed the improvements at their meeting last month, but deferred approval of the Special Management Area minor permit over concerns that the community did not have sufficient input on the project. Parks and Rec held a community meeting several weeks ago in response to the commission’s concern. The majority of testimony was in favor of the project.

Councilmember Stacy Crivello explained that the project proposal originally arose in response to community need and feedback.

“People wrote in [to Parks and Rec] when they rented the place and put in their recommendations,” she said. “[The department] listened, they’ve heard you.”

The floors and restrooms are in dire need of improvements, she said, and every time a community event is held, organizers need to use easy-up tents to protect attendees from the elements outside. The covered lanai will solve that problem, she said.

“Personally, I feel this is something that is needed,” Crivello testified. “We don’t have that many [community] facilities, but I hope that what we have, we can extend their use for future generations.”

Savage said only a few of the facility’s regular uses utilize the indoor space.

“Ninety percent of permitted activities currently utilize outdoor area, and that’s what the lanai is for,” she said.

However, Barbara Haliniak, representing the Molokai Island Foundation, testified that substantial expansion of the facility is, in fact, needed. She said the building’s current capacity is 248 people, which does not accommodate many community events.

“I’ve been doing these events [Christmas ho`olaulea and senior dinner] for seven years and we’re overflowing,” she said. “I have to put seniors outside because there isn’t enough room…”

Resident Judy Caparida, who had expressed disapproval of the project at the first Planning Commission meeting, said she appreciated the opportunity for further discussion.

“When I came to the planning commission meeting, I didn’t understand what you were talking about… On Molokai, we have a community meeting, not just review it during a planning commission meeting.”

One Molokai Parks and Rec employee suggested several alterations to the existing plans, including added drainage, screens to prevent fallen leaves from clogging the new lanai, and solar panels on the center to save money on electricity.

“Our crew does the set ups here and we’re going to be happy not to put up easy-ups, but we need to work together,” she said.

County officials said they are looking at including renewable energy designs to county buildings but not as part of this particular improvement for the Mitchell Pauole Center.

Many residents also asked that the design of the proposed lanai pillars be adjusted so event attendees would not have to position themselves carefully in order to see around them.

The project has already gone out to bid for contractors, but Parks and Rec staff said smaller, aesthetic adjustments could still be made to the plans.

At last week’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners again discussed the project, and this time unanimously approved construction to move forward.

Savage said the exact timeline of the project will depend on obtaining the remaining permits required. If construction is not set to begin in February, its closure will be bumped back.


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