The long journey to finding Kaua’i’s protectors a new home is finally complete with the grand opening of Ka Hale Maka’i ‘O Kaua’i, the 65,000 square foot culmination of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s enduring dream.
Employees of the County of Kaua’i Police Department, Prosecutor’s Office and Civil Defense Agency are gradually moving into the building.
“This will transport Kaua’i into a new era of modernization,” Kusaka said.
Centralizing critical county services will maximize effectiveness, and the many hands, heads and hearts that helped complete the project made sure to include state-of-the-art equipment for operational and technical requirements, she said.
“The building is about the future. But the building is about the past, and it’s built on a strong foundation of integrity, bravery, loyalty and mutual respect and trust. It was built by the ones who came before us,” said Police Chief George Freitas.
Council chairman Ron Kouchi said he realized what a long journey it had been after it took five people to bring in stacks of files for him to review the history of the building. He remembered that talks began in 1985 under Mayor Tony Kunimura’s administration, and the groundbreaking took place in 2001.
In 1998, a $1 million grant allowed the county to hire design consultants and purchase the land from Amfac, Kouchi said.
Meetings early in Kusaka’s administration revealed the need for a large-scale project that would require funds that would be hard to come by in the economic downturn of the mid-1990s, said Doug Haigh, building superintendent.
With a $16.1 million budget, $15 million from a state and the lowest construction proposal of $18 million from the Kaua’i-based Shioi Construction, architect Mel Ventura was hired to design the modern Hawaiian-style building and “value engineer” $2 million out of the project without excluding any of the three agencies from the plans, Haigh said.
Conrad Murashige, president of Shioi Construction, said he was very thankful for the project, as it helped revitalize construction with workers who hadn’t been working in the field for years because of building slowdowns.
Freitas, starting his seventh year heading the KPD, said a new police headquarters has been talked about since 1975, but Kusaka eight years ago “made a commitment and she stuck to it,” said Freitas.
The staff of the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney are the building’s first tenants, and moved in last week. For about 20 years, the agency’s operations were run from a row of portable buildings between the Lihue Baseball field and the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
Mike Soong, chief prosecutor, quoted former president Theodore Roosevelt: “Far and away, the best prize in life is to work hard at work worth doing.” Soong said that there is no more honorable work than the work by the “Kaua’i protectors” that will be done in the building.
Mark Marshall, Kauai Civil Defense director, said he was elated to be moving into a new center. The Kauai Civil Defense Agency had been housed in the basement of the Historic County Building, in a former morgue that was built in the 1910s. The new EOC has top-grade security measures, briefing rooms and more office space. Communications and computer equipment have also been upgraded.
Paul Ciccarelli, special agent in charge, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, presented Freitas with the flag that flew over the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial on Sept. 11, 2002, the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Kusaka presented Mel Ventura and Larry Bowman with koa paddles. Bowman donated $90,000 of equipment for the KPD’s second-floor exercise room.
KPD officers led a presentation of colors and raised the American and Hawaiian flags. Nalani Brun, tourism specialist for the Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, sang the Star-spangled Banner and Hawai’i Pono’i. Leon Gonsalves served as master of ceremonies. An invocation and blessing were led by the Rev. Richard Kamanu, pastor of the Kapa’a First Hawaiian Church. The traditional untying of a maile lei was done by retired KPD officers Ernest Almeida, Richard Sakoda and Michiyuki Uchida.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).