DOW seeks new home

LIHUE — Kauai Department of Water officials are moving forward with plans to construct an at least $6 million building to replace the department’s aging main administrative office.

Officials say DOW’s exisiting 42-year-old, one-story office building at 4398 Pua Loke Street has, in recent years, cost the water department tens of thousands of dollars to maintain and fix longstanding problems, ranging from insulation issues to mold growth.

“If you lift up the ceilings and look at the roof, there is no insulation in the roof, so the building costs a fortune to maintain,” DOW Manager and Chief Engineer David Craddick said after a finance committee meeting Monday in the water department’s microbiology lab building. “It’s nasty over there. You’re either roasting or you’re freezing — one or the other.”

Craddick said the 7,800-square-foot building, which houses its engineering and accounting departments, costs the water department about $28,000 each month on electricity alone.

But these aren’t the only problems that employees have faced in recent years.

Craddick said the water department had to install hospital-grade air filters and rip out some of the carpets in the building’s accounting offices about three months ago to address longstanding green mold problems.

The water department, he added, also has enough money available in its budget to add an additional five to six employees, but the problem is that there is no place to put them.

“I can understand the need for the new building and I think it’s being budgeted for appropriately,” DOW Finance Committee Chair Larry Dill said. “I feel that it’s something that should be addressed as a specific item during a meeting with the entire board.”

Craddick said the water department has budgeted about $6 million to construct the planned 15,000-square-foot office building on land owned by the county across the street from its microbiology lab building along Kaumualii Highway.

According to county planning documents, the project would also include two loading stalls; a two-story,16,500-square-foot storage building and 54 at-grade parking stalls — 42 stalls for employees and 12 for visitors.  

A July 18 report issued by Planning Director Michael Dahilig found that DOW’s proposal “is compatible with other uses in and around the area” but stated that a designated parking area behind a street frontage building should be required to “further facilitate pedestrian activity and walkability in and around the area.”   

Under current DOW plans, Craddick said the current administration building would be renovated, retrofitted with insulation and later converted into an office space and storage area for company equipment.  

The project, he said, could be ready to go to bid in the next several months once the water department resolves a sewer line connection issue with Grove Farm Company, Inc.

Craddick said the water department’s estimate on the total cost to construct the new building is not available for public release, citing the upcoming bidding process.  

A county Planning Commission hearing to finalize the land subdivision for the planned project is scheduled for Aug. 13.

This transfer of 1.9 acres of land from the county to DOW, Craddick said, is mandated by state law, which requires the county to provide the base yard facility and office space to the water department.

“We don’t want to build something that’s not on our land,” Craddick said. “It doesn’t make much sense to build something that’s not on your property.”

The water department, he added, could pay off the cost of the building by electricity cost savings alone over the 25-year repayment life of allocated, federal government-backed Build America Bonds, if board members choose to use that option.

“You can make an argument that we should be doing pipeline projects but there’s no project that we could do to save us more money than this,” Craddick said.

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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