Housing, safety at forefront of county requests

LIHUE — What do housing and hangars have in common?

They were the two items recommended by county administration to receive state funding.

“Let’s try to deal with the issues we get,” said council chair Mel Rapozo. “Housing issues and public safety issues I understand, but what about other issues that affect our people everyday?”

On Wednesday, the county committee meeting began dialogue regarding the priorities for formulating the 2018 Kauai County Legislative Package.

The special planning committee requested $1.5 million in state funding for the pre-development and infrastructure costs of an affordable housing project. The proposed 1.4-acre parcel would be situated in Lihue adjacent to the Department of Water on Pua Loke Street behind Kukui Grove Cinema.

“The vision for this housing project is to incorporate transit-ready accessibility services to include sidewalks,” said Housing Director Kanani Fu. “We are requiring the developer to propose a plan that includes a mix of units that incorporate permanent housing.”

The housing project could support up to 50 permanent and residential units, although the exact quantity will be decided by the developer, who will be responsible only for vertical costs.

“Permanent units can only be utilized by families who were experiencing homelessness and enter into the coordinated entry system with the homeless service provider,” Fu said. “We envision that the Pua Loke development will have some units where families can permanently reside.”

The potential developer will receive incentives with little or no land development expenses but responsibility for all construction costs, which can be subsidized or paid back by proposed owners, Fu said

“We hope that because there is a lot of subsidy being provided — land is free — that perhaps the vertical construction minimizes the cost of the units,” Fu said.

County engineering reports will determine requirements for parking while maximizing housing and providing exemptions that allow for one parking stall per unit.

Another state funding request was for $1.4 million to design and construct a rescue helicopter hangar and secure a 35-year lease at Lihue Airport.

Kauai Fire Department’s four-year old helicopter executed 108 rescue missions in 2016, in which 80 were visitors, eight of them deaths, said Fire Chief Robert Westerman.

“Without added protection for the helicopter when it’s not flying, it starts to corrode it pretty fast,” said county managing director Wally Rezentes, “and it’s a big investment.”

One set of rotating blades for the helicopter is estimated to cost $45,000.

Capital Improvement Funds were also proposed for bonus projects, like funding a shooting range with additional money received from a percentage of Transient Accommodations Taxes.

“I agree this is two good projects, but I want some more,” said councilman Arthur Brun. “Homeless camps and our sewage treatment plant, how can we get funds for that? We should be looking at all this, too.”

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