LIHU‘E — Child care is the number one priority in the county’s plan to spend $10.8 million included in the latest round of American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The majority of the funding in the proposed budget — about $7 million — will go toward the renovation of the former Big Save space at the Pi‘ikoi Building in Lihu‘e into a child care and youth center.
“With the money on the table, we will be able to take a space that has been long left unutilized by the county and meet the needs of child care, which so many have raised as the biggest barrier to having people regain employment and join the workforce,” said Managing Director Michael Dahilig, who presented the proposed budget to the county council Wednesday.
The county purchased the 20,000-square-foot building from Alexander and Baldwin in the 1980s, and leased it to Big Save Market until 2011.
It was shuttered after the chain was sold to the group that owns Times Supermarket and has been dormant since then, with plans to turn it into an incubator kitchen failing to come to fruition.
The $7 million would only cover part of the cost of the renovation. Dahilig reported the complete remodel of the building, which has been completely gutted — could cost as much as $14 million.
The next step would be engaging with community partners and foundations to develop a clearer plan for the site, which could include a variety of services related to child care.
“We understand child care isn’t just limited to one age group and one set of needs,” said Dahilig.
In order to complete the obligation to the federal government, the county is required to complete the project by 2026.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021 in an effort to cushion the economic pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, provided $130 billion for local governments.
A memo sent from Dahilig to county council members details the plans for the rest of the funding:
• $2 million will fund the purchase of a heavy wash rack used primarily for garbage trucks.
• $1 million will fund the purchase of land in Kilauea for affordable housing.
• $600,000 will fund the hauling of soil from a Grove Farm development in Lihu‘e to be used at the Kekaha Landfill.
• $100,000 will fund the completion of plans and demolition related to the Kauai Police Activities League Sports Complex.
• $125,000 will be used for auditing requirements attached to the funding.
The funding for the Kilauea purchase will be combined with other funding sources for a total of $4 million, which will cover the purchase of about 25 acres of land.
The soil hauling is part of a deal with the Grove Farm — owned by America Online (AOL) billionaire Steve Case — in which they will donate the soil from their Waiola Site in Lihu‘e, valued at between $300,000 and $625,000, to be used at the landfill. The council agreed to accept the donation on Wednesday.
The plan was deferred Monday to give the council more time to debate the proposal. The council needs to provide authorization for the plan to go forward.
This is the second round of American Rescue Plan funding. The first round , also around $10.8 million, was used for a wider variety of projects, from housing construction to youth mental health recovery programs, to jobs programs, to grants for nonprofits and arts programs struggling during the pandemic. A large chunk of the funding was directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
There is still $4 million remaining in funding from the original round, including $2.1 million in funding for the emergency response.
Source: The Garden Island