UH officials: Backlog of repairs high priority

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 13 2014 06:35:44 PM HST
Updated On: Jan 13 2014 08:14:07 PM HST

Student leaders were down at the capitol hoping to grab the attention of lawmakers to modernize the 100 year old campus.

Click here to read Catherine Cruz's article.

HONOLULU -

Students are back on campus -- many in classes and labs where rust and mold make for less than ideal learning conditions.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

"There are many buildings that have not been maintained and addressed over the years and that is an issue," said Richard Mizusawa, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii.

ASUH leaders were down at the Capitol Monday hoping to grab the attention of lawmakers.

They support the inclusion of money in the governor's budget to deal with a repair backlog that’s close to a half a billion dollars.

Last week, UH officials unveiled plans to overhaul the way it does business when it comes to construction.

But, the goal of modernizing the 100-year-old campus does come at a price.

"We have infrastructure -- things you don’t even see that will take millions of dollars to upgrade," said Steve Meder, vice-chancellor of long-range planning.

As lawmakers and the governor prepare to tussle over priorities, UH officials are trying  to get their arms around the logistics of how  best to get construction work done.

"The thing that we don’t have a handle yet, is what can the campus absorb. How can we do our mission while we do this work? Do we have the swing space when we pull the buildings offline?" said Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.

UH is currently taking stock of available wiggle room.

"We have research ongoing 24-7. We have classes that are running on weekends and evenings already. This is a small city and a lot of this cannot be interrupted," said Meder.

This building was recently vacated by National Marine Fisheries staff and could be tapped for office or classroom space.

But, space is tight and officials are giving off campus buildings like Leahi Hospital a second look -- although the structure is also in desperate need of an overhaul.

UH is also eyeing floor space that could soon become available in Kaka'ako and Manoa.

Chancellor Apple says offering classes during non-traditional times is also on the table.

It's not clear what kind of push-back there might be from faculty or students.

"Some students like morning classes and many others prefer night classes. That is a conversation we would want to be involved in," said Mizusawa.

On the UH wishlist is additional staff to manage the construction contracts and additional custodians to deal with maintenance and simple repairs.

That will get laid out before legislative money committees Tuesday afternoon.

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