KAPAA — There is an idea floating around the county to convert the Kapaa Neighborhood Center into a police substation, and some residents aren’t happy about it.
The oceanfront building in the heart of Kapaa offers myriad classes — from zumba and yoga to ukulele and Hawaiian quilting — daily.
“The elderly are attached to this space, and it’ll be emotional for them to move,” said Thomas Eisendrath, a Kapaa resident.
Rhonda Lamaza, who goes to the Kapaa Neighborhood Center twice a week for zumba class, agreed.
“I’ve been coming to the community center since I was a kid — it’s comfortable,” she said.
If all goes according to plan, the neighborhood center will move to the old Kapaa Armory, on Kahau Road, where the police substation is located.
“It’s not a good exchange for people who have been here a long time,” Eisendrath said.
Eisendrath, who serves as the coordinator for the Kauai chapter of the Hawaii Vegetarian Society, holds monthly meetings at the neighborhood center. He believes placing a police substation in the middle of town, right on Kuhio Highway, would detract from the beauty of downtown Kapaa.
“It’ll be an eyesore, because they are going to have to build fences and make it look like a police center,” he said. “I’d think you’d want a police station out of sight, out of mind.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation held two meetings about the conversion idea, which is not set in stone — one in August, one on Sept. 8.
But residents believe the meeting left them with more questions than answers.
One question that hasn’t been answered is how much the conversion will cost and how it will be funded, said Bill Peterson, a Kapaa resident.
Peterson, who goes to the neighborhood center weekly to attend yoga and zumba classes, attended the Sept. 8 meeting at the Armory.
“It was clear from the beginning of the meeting that this proposed change is actually a done deal,” he said. “The meeting was not to gain public approval, but to introduce the public to the new facility and start the process of determining community needs.”
Other issues with moving the center to the Armory are no convenient bus stop, industrial noises from Esaki’s Produce and no ventilation, Peterson said.
“It needs substantial work to make it a suitable neighborhood center,” he said. “It needs better flooring, lights and ventilation.”
Traffic from Wednesday’s Sunshine Market in Kapaa Town Park is another concern, Eisendrath said.
“There’s a lot of liability there,” he said.
Peterson said he is against moving the center to the Armory.
“This (the current location) is peaceful and has a good ocean breeze,” he said. “The Armory is very much closed off, on a dead end road.”
The public wasn’t given a reason for the conversion, other than that the Armory was temporary, Peterson said.
Councilman Mason Chock attended September’s meeting.
“The kupuna were not happy with the proposed move,” he said. “It is my understanding that the county is seeking a consultant to determine feasibility of the newly proposed uses of both the armory and neighborhood center.”
Chock said he plans to follow the issue.
Darryl Perry, chief of police, met with Kauai residents Friday to discuss the the proposed plans.
“The explanation given was that KPD’s move to the Armory back in 2013 was only a temporary because KPD had out-grown the old unpermitted Kapaa Substation, and had to move out,” Perry said. “I was also told that the seniors believed the undertaking of this proposal was instigated by KPD. That is not true.”
In 2013, KPD signed an agreement with the Department of Defense to use the Armory. But that agreement expired earlier this year.
“When I learned that the Kapaa Beach Substation was not in compliance with the county’s permitting protocol, efforts were expedited to relocate the station and that’s how we ended up temporarily relocating to the Armory with the help of the state,” Perry said.
Knowing the move wasn’t long-term, KPD came up with four alternative locations for a substation, Perry said.
Those alternatives are:
w Kapaa Armory site 1A, which includes a complete rebuild at a cost of about $12 million.
w Kapaa Armory site 1B, which includes overhaul exiting structure at a cost of about $10.5 million.
w Kapaa Middle School adjacent site, which includes a new substation at a cost of about $12 million.
w Mahelona Hospital adjacent site, which includes a new sub-station at a cost of about $11.6 million.
Efforts to build a substation on Kawaihau Road were put on hold in 2013 due to budget constraints. And while the Mahelona site is the most cost-effective proposal, no progress has been made to build a substation, Perry said.
“The bottom-line is that the proposed move to the neighborhood was not authored by KPD, but we will follow the directives of the Mayor’s Office,” Perry said.
If KPD doesn’t have the money to build a new center, the Kapaa community has discussed holding fundraisers to help them get the money, Eisendrath said.
It might be more cost effective to build a new substation, he added.
“With the money that is going to be spent on making a secure building, wouldn’t it be better to just build another station?” he said.
“The substation needs to be a good facility, not just a hand-me-down,” he said.
Instead of moving the center, Leih ilani Kirkpatrick, who teaches keiki hula on Mondays, said she’d like to see it spruced up.
“It serves so many people, from keiki to kupuna. I wish they’d update it and make it even better,” she said. “We need the neighborhood center.”
If the Mayor’s Office continues with its plans, residents were told the conversion will happen sometime in 2017, Peterson said.
Requests for comment to the Department of Parks and Recreation were not returned by press time.