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Funds for Waikōloa Library Secured, But Planned Location Falls Through

By Tiffany DeMasters
January 12, 2022, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated January 12, 6:38 AM
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The reality of a library in Waikōloa Village moved one step closer with the release of state funding, however, the project also hit a setback in that same stride.

For at least 10 years, a group of Waikōloa Village residents has been working with county and state leaders to procure property and funding for a library. On Jan. 4, Sen. Lorraine Inouye announced the release of $1.9 million in capital improvement project funds that will finance progress toward the new public library.

The library was meant to be built on property owned by Waikoloa Plaza. That changed in December. In a letter sent to State Librarian Stacey Aldrich, Waikoloa Plaza LLC wrote that upon review of the sales price with their lender and strict requirements set forth by the state, it was determined they couldn’t meet those conditions.

Aldrich confirmed to Big Island Now the seller would not accept the state’s appraised value of the property and pulled out of the deal.

The original seller’s asking price for the property was $1.8 million. However, the state appraised the property for $1.35 million.

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“Under state law, the state can only pay the amount an appraiser determines as the value of the property,” Aldrich said.

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Despite the setback, Aldrich said the release of CIP funds is one of many steps toward making the library a reality.

“The recent release of funds means that the Governor is supportive of building a new public library,” the state’s head librarian said.

Aldrich said the state is continuing to search for a suitable location for the new building.

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“This community has been waiting for more than 10 years for a public library and we are committed to building one,” Aldrich said.

Bette Green is one of the several Waikōloa residents who have been advocating for the library over the past decade. In 2010, Green became the first president of the Friends of the Library Waikōloa Region.

Green said she was disappointed when she heard the property originally planned for the library fell through.

“We need a hub in this village,” Green said. “When we found out that there were concerns about looking at that piece of land I started a mail-in campaign. The decision, however, had already been made.”

Green said a lot of people would’ve loved to see the library at the plaza.

“They already have the infrastructure because of the building they have for the plaza itself,” she said. “Any other land they’re (the state) looking at has no infrastructure.”

While the Waikōloa Elementary and Middle School has a library, Green said, its services are limited to students and their families. A public library, she added, would provide access to learning programs for the entire community and provide a place for residents to meet.

Inouye (District 4 – Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikōloa, Kona) said the money released to the State Library System is a placeholder, noting it’s long overdue.

“I’d like to thank Governor Ige for releasing funding to finance progress toward a new Public Library in Waikōloa, Hawaiʻi.” Inouye said. “Residents of Waikōloa have been asking for a new library for a long time, securing financing for a new library in Waikōloa is a critical step to ensure that the State delivers on this project. Waikōloa residents deserve a new library, and I am pleased that Governor Ige and the State are moving to see this project through.”

Now with no home, Inouye said Hawaiʻi County is considering giving land to the library system.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, county officials confirmed they were involved in conversations with the State Library and the Department of Land and Natural Resources regarding the Waikōloa Village Library.

“They are considering several locations and the County Kamakoa Nui site is one of them,” stated county spokesperson Cyrus Johnasen. “Site selection will really be up to the State Library and the community.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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