New Police Station Funds Pending Approval
The purchase of the latest site picked by Maui Police Department to relocate Kaunakakai’s Molokai Police Station is only pending approval by the Maui County Council.
“We’re very close to actually moving forward to getting a new police station,” MPD Capt. Gregg Okamoto said in a town hall meeting at Kaunakakai’s Mitchell Pauole Center Jan. 13.
The current police station, more than 40 years old, sits on a floodzone in Kaunakakai. The proposed site for the new police station is an 11.4-acre parcel on Holomua Junction, on the corner of Kalae and Mauna Loa highways.
The original price asked by the landowner was $2.98 million, but MPD was able to negotiate a substantial reduction, and the agreed purchase price is now $1.4 million, according to Okamoto.
Maui County Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who hosted the town hall meeting, said a total of $1.8 million has been allocated in the Capital Improvement Projects budget for MPD. The additional money is for a preliminary Environmental Impact Statement and “a couple other things,” she said.
Though the money has already been allocated, MPD will only be able to use it after the council approves it, according to Rawlins-Fernandez.
“As soon as the funds are released by county council, we can go ahead and purchase the property,” MPD Assistant Acting Chief Derrick Lopez said.
This is the fourth site picked by MPD for the relocation of the current police station. The last site was a 2-acre parcel at the Molokai Industrial Park, with a $1.5 million price tag.
“Obviously, this property is five times bigger and costs less, so it’s a deal,” said Okamoto, adding the purchase price is pretty much set; now it’s just a matter of getting the funds to proceed.
The new site would have room for many proposed uses, including dormitories for police personnel, training rooms, community rooms, a helicopter pad for emergency medical services, to bring back 911 dispatch and MPD under the same roof (dispatch is currently at Molokai Fire Station), impound lot, evidence storage building, safer prisoner holding cells, outdoor and indoor firing ranges and even other county departments.
“We are very open to share our parcel with other departments in the county,” Okamoto said. “Once our structure is up, we can look into maybe moving other county departments and offices up there.”
Some residents in the small crowd attending the town hall meeting still had concerns.
Lori Buchanan said many fatal traffic accidents happened near Holomua Junction. Okamoto had said MPD would do its due diligence before proceeding with building the new station, but Buchanan said “due diligence comes before the purchase, because it’s our money.”
Lopez responded MPD will look at the traffic if they purchase the property, and will reach out to the community for additional concerns.
“Right now, this $1.4 million for 11 acres, this is the best thing we can come up with the here-and-now to protect Molokai, the public, its citizens, our future of Molokai, our kids for the next 20, 25, 30 years,” Lopez said. “Eleven acres is a huge amount of property, we can do so much with that property.”
Zhantell Dudoit questioned about a long-term strategic plan for the facility, including the costs of running a property where the water is not provided by the county, but by Molokai Ranch.
“Why not sit down a little bit longer? Don’t be governed by the fear of losing the 11 acres,” said Dudoit, asking to think about the best way that would benefit the community.
The proposed site currently houses a few businesses. One of the business owners was concerned with their future, and asked if it was possible to keep their location.
Others were concerned with police response times once the Kaunakakai location is relocated. From the new site, police officers would take just over 5 minutes to get to Kaunakakai if they follow posted speed limits.
Okamoto said the building for the current police station will still be owned by Maui County. Ideally, he said, MPD would like a substation there, as well as on the East and West ends.
Lopez said MPD will “more than likely” keep the old Kaunakakai facility to house certain things and for officers to be able to do foot patrol in town.
The Maui County Council’s Economic Development and Budget Committee will be on Molokai Jan. 28 for a site visit at 11 p.m., followed by a meeting at Mitchell Pauole Center at 1 p.m. Rawlins-Fernandez, the committee’s chair, said there will be a similar presentation, plus slides with the preliminary site plan showing the proposed structures, including the police station and the dispatch, the potential helipad, cottages, firing range, animal shelter, community facility and the number of acreage left untouched.
“I don’t think anyone is opposed to the police relocating, everyone is on board with that, everyone would like that to happen as soon as possible,” Rawlins-Fernandez said. However, she added, everyone’s concerns need to be addressed to make sure there are no problems in the back after all the money is spent.
“We are moving forward, but we are going to forward together and make sure that this is the best possible plan,” Rawlins-Fernandez said.
Okamoto said MPD wants to grab the opportunity when they can, but they want to do it in the right way, and we will look into everything the community has said.