East Hawaii News

Puna Park’s Pilfered Solar Panel Project Pricey

December 6, 2013, 6:27 PM HST
* Updated January 31, 2:06 PM
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Taxpayers will be getting a hefty bill in connection with the theft in April of several solar panels from MacKenzie State Recreation Area in lower Puna.

The panels and other electrical components were stolen within weeks of their installation.

Measures being taken to try to make the new system theft-proof are adding $200,000 to the cost of the project.

A rear view of the comfort station showing the composting equipment beneath the bathrooms.

A rear view of the comfort station showing the composting equipment beneath the bathrooms.

The state had previously earmarked $763,000 for the project which includes construction of a composting restroom building, a new access road and other improvements to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The original contract came in at a bid of $540,670 and was awarded in January 2012 to Kona Kau Construction Services & Supplies Inc.

The contract was amended in December 2012 to add $158,000 for additional site work needed because of “unforeseen conditions” and permit requirements. It was amended again in May of this year to add $85,000 to meet EPA requirements to abandon two large-capacity cesspools.

After the theft, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division amended the contract a third time by adding $200,000 “to install vandal resistant measures” while replacing the electrical system designed to power the bathroom’s composing toilets.

State procurement documents show that all the additions have driven the total cost of the project to $983,670.

A pit toilet at the park which has been deemed "in dire need of replacement."

A pit toilet at the park which has been deemed “in dire need of replacement.”

Meanwhile, those using the coastal park located on Route 137 about a mile south of the Pohoiki Road junction still have no bathroom options other than pit toilets built in 1938 that were long ago deemed “in dire need of replacement,” according to the application for a special management area permit for the project.

A DLNR spokeswoman last month said the project took longer than expected to design. Work on it is ongoing, with the area cordoned off and a variety of construction equipment and supplies onsite, including a large metal post which will apparently become the support for the new solar panels.

The spokeswoman said an estimated completion date was not yet available.

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