Natatorium project under way

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Crystal Kua
ckua@starbulletin.com

But some City Council members are still trying to derail spending

Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration is moving ahead with the $6.1 million project to shore up the aging, crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

The city has given contractor HealyTibbitts Builders notice to proceed with construction, Managing Director Ben Lee said yesterday.

“We cannot afford to have the pool deck continue to collapse into the ocean. … We’re going to move forward with making sure that the health, life and safety of our residents and visitors are intact,” Lee said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

But City Council members who oppose spending millions of dollars more on the deteriorating structure are searching for a way to stop the project.

The Council followed the recommendation of Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi to send back to her committee one of two resolutions urging the administration to stop or curtail the planned work on the Natatorium.

Kobayashi said after yesterday’s meeting that she will research options available to the Council.

“There’s a way the Council can take action to stop if it’s a (special management area) project,” Kobayashi said. “They’ve spent $4.4 million. They’re going to be spending over $6 million more. What is the plan? So I think they should not spend money until there is a plan and we know what we’re going to do in the future.”

Lee said that construction could start within the next 30 to 45 days. “They need time to mobilize and order some new equipment.”

Rick Bernstein of the Kaimana Beach Coalition said the group is pursuing going back to court to try and stop the city’s work. “I kind of resent that we’re back in this position.”

Lee called the coalition’s complaints “frivolous.”

A 1999 court order allowed the city to continue with part of an $11 million restoration but prevents restoration of the saltwater pool until the city abides by state rules, a requirement that has stalled the project.

In May the city closed the restrooms at the Natatorium after a section on the pool deck collapsed, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall.

The city received reports from two firms that the entire structure is at risk of collapsing and that work should be done to shore up the pool deck and stabilize the sea walls.