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Vets Lawsuit Nears End

The Molokai veterans group said it has discussed a tentative agreement with Maui County which would OK the permit for a new veterans’ center in Kaunakakai. The permit was submitted nearly five years ago by the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans.

“It looks like there’s a light,” said Larry Helm, commander of the veteran group.

“This administration is committed to finishing the project as soon as possible,” said Zeke Kalua, Mayor Arakawa’s executive assistant for Molokai and West Maui.

County lawyers and veterans’ attorney James Fosbinder will meet this week to discuss a settlement of the veterans’ lawsuit, filed in September 2010. Each party has made a settlement offer, according to Jane Lovell, deputy corporation counsel for the county.

Installation of a fire suppressant system in the planned new center is a requirement of the suit, according to Helm.

According to county documents, the Department of Water Supply would not sign off on the permit because the project’s water source did not meet safety standards. However the Department of Fire and Safety signed off on the permit more than a year ago.

“[Sprinklers] take less fire-flow…so [the building] doesn’t need so many gallons per minute,” Lovell said.

Helm said the veterans are also asking for “fair compensation” and an apology “on the abuse we went through.” In the lawsuit, the group claimed the county violated their due process rights and caused some members to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Helm said he hoped to have the permit within a month. The planned veteran’s center will be a 3,000 square foot building along Wharf Road; the group is currently operating out of a 250 square foot storefront in Kaunakakai.

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