HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many Kahuku residents said they are in need of a community recreation center and a public pool; they have been voicing the need for those facilities for many years. Recently their message started to gain momentum, as the Honolulu mayor and city council have proposed funding for the project.
The project to build out a 50-meter public pool and community center in Kahuku was a major topic during a town hall hosted by Mayor Rick Blangiardi and his administration. Several people in the community spoke about the lack of community facilities on that side of the island.
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Blangiardi said, “That community really has the need for that and a community center, we’re doing everything we can to bring it to fruition.”
Kahuku resident Sunny Unga has been advocating for more community facilities. Currently, Kaneohe is the closest pool that offers programs for her keiki.
She said this project is about so much more than just a pool and rec center, it is about creating a space for community gatherings and learning opportunities.
Unga said, “These public infrastructures mean space, a safe space to hold activities and programs that will teach lifelong skills.”
Blangiardi stated they have not decided on a specific site for the project, but some in the community see the pool and center being developed at the Kahuku District Park.
“But it’s going to be around that complex because quite honestly one of our funding sources will be AES and they’re the ones that put in the turbines in Kahuku, Kahuku sort of paid that price if you will,” said Blangiardi.
Blangiardi estimates the pool and community center could cost more than $20 million. AES has committed $4 million as part of a benefits package connected to the wind farm energy project in Kahuku. Plus, the city added $1.5 million to the budget for next year.
Former State Senator Gil Riviere has spoken out against the wind turbines being so close to people’s neighborhoods. But he was among those who pointed out the available funding by AES for community projects.
Riviere said, “To their credit, they stepped forward and are offering a substantial amount of money which I think can be a game changer to really supercharge this program.”
In a statement to KHON2.com, AES Hawaii Market Business Leader Sandra Larsen said:
“AES Hawai‘i has committed to provide up to $4 million to support the Kahuku recreation center and swimming pool. We know how important this project is to families throughout the Ko‘olauloa region and are pleased to be a partner in making it happen. The need for supporting this facility came up in our discussions with community representatives and we immediately got behind it. This funding support is in addition to the donations AES Hawai‘i is making annually to support various educational, environmental and cultural programs in the Ko‘olauloa region, which now totals more than $250,000 over the past three years.”
Councilmember Matt Weyer added to the momentum by introducing a resolution supporting the build-out of the facilities.
Weyer said, “I do think that this budget should be a priority given how long the community’s been waiting.”
After years of residents waiting for a community center and public pool, the project is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Blangiardi said, “We want to bring it to fruition. In fact, I told myself I could see myself jumping in that pool when the time comes.”
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A timeline for this project has not been determined.