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Former terminal building at Old Kona Airport Park to be demolished

KAILUA-KONA — The former terminal building at Old Kona Airport Park will soon be a sight of the past.

The county Department of Parks and Recreation confirmed Tuesday that $3.5 million was allocated for demolition of the structure as well as construction of a new facility in its place. A portion of the funds is earmarked for repairs to the Kona Community Aquatic Center pool.

Actual cost of the work will depend on results of the bidding process, but most of the $3.5 million will be used to clear space for the construction of a new comfort station and concession area to replace the defunct terminal. The comfort station will be smaller than the existing building, which will create extra parking spaces.

Structural damage, termites and concerns about homeless occupation led the county to its decision.

“The structure has become unsafe,” said Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Maurice Messina. “Basically it’ll make (the area) more user-friendly, and at the same time it’ll be helping us to alleviate a homeless problem that has cropped up in that old terminal building.”

The Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t expect swapping one structure out for another will solve the homeless problem at the park, Messina added. However, the department has run into problems with homeless bypassing fencing and other impediments to camp out in abandoned areas of the terminal. Those areas won’t exist as part of the new structure.

The department on Wednesday initiated a month-long pilot project at Hale Halawai, installing a security guard at the facility from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day. Homeless individuals there have grown increasingly aggressive, Messina said, and the same measures might be taken at Old Kona Airport Park’s new comfort station should similar problems arise.

Cost to the department for 12-hour security at Hale Halawai will run $8,500 total for the month. Messina said the funding is currently in the department’s budget.

Timeline for demolition and construction of the old terminal building remains unclear, but the county is currently involved in the consultant selection process. Contract preparation and drafting also are underway and must be completed before the department releases a request for proposal, initiating the bidding process.

“As far as our timeline, this is a priority,” Messina said. “We want to get this done as soon as possible. There’s nothing holding us up from doing this.”

Construction work won’t impede motorists or access to any section of the park save for the bathrooms that are part of the standing terminal, Messina said.

Concessions won’t be sold daily out of the comfort station, but rather that portion of the new structure will be reserved for event-based activities.

Email Max Dible at mdible@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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