Waimanalo is waiting….

Waimanalo gym closed for reconstruction.

The long closure has left many in the community frustrated by what they believe was a city’s slow response to problems at the gym and lack of information about the repair project. When city officials inspected the facility last June, they found metal screens on the gym’s ceiling so corroded they were in danger of collapsing. So the facility, once a gathering place for young people in Waimanalo, was closed immediately for safety reasons. The facility is scheduled to reopen in April 2018 after undergoing $3.12 million in repairs, said Nathan Serota, a spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

Many feel that as a largely Native Hawaiian community, lawmakers sideline issues in Waimanalo. Waimanalo Neighborhood Board said they had to “just harass“ the city about the gym. “Every month we bring it up. Every month we talk to the parks and recreation director. Every month we push, and we push, and we push.” Some Waimanalo residents, frustrated by what they see as the lethargic pace of city operations, refer to the city and county as “sitting and counting.”

“Waimanalo is always put second to other communities,” Neighborhood Board member Shannon Alivado said. “And that’s unfortunate because of who we serve.” About 65 percent of Waimanalo residents are Native Hawaiian, according to 2010 data from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. That’s double the populations in neighboring communities of Kailua and Hawaii Kai.

“It’s a form of discrimination for our community,” -B. Makaawaawa

Kobayash iwho is the the new chair of the Parks Committee, said she and other committee members are touring parks around the island in part to see if the city maintains parks in all five districts equally. They weren’t surprised to find out that some parks get more attention than others. Councilwoman Kymberly Pine represents Waianae, At a Budget Committee hearing last week, she sharply questioned Robert Kroning, director of the Department of of Design and Construction, on why repairs to the gym at Waianae District Park have been backlogged for the last three years. A leaking roof has rendered a second floor room in the gym unstable, forcing after-school programs to move out. “Those parks are fine,” she said. Those parks, “don’t have after-school programs in the volume that we have in Waianae.” She criticized the administration’s request for $4.7 million to redesign Thomas Square and install a statue of King Kamehameha III in the Kakaako park.

“I’m not Kamehameha III,” Pine said. “But I think he’d want these funds to go to Hawaiian children.” -K.Pine