BY NATALIE IWASA – Never say “never” is a good policy to follow. It appears it would also be a good idea to be careful with the term “last,” as in “this will be the last commentary I write about the Lunalilo Home Road Street Lighting Project,” which is what I told several people last year.
My foray into the inner workings of our city government began with this project, which I thought would be concluded shortly after the city announced that they would reduce the amount of lighting from a planned 300% increase to about 40%. A recent communication from the Department of Design and Construction, however, has created the need to put this project back into the spotlight — a change order to replace the planned 150-watt fixtures with 70-watt fixtures was just recently executed, well over a year after the announcement that the change would be made.
The last significant work that was done was last summer, when the old lights on the second part of Phase I were removed. Most people driving down Lunalilo Home Road now may think the job is done, but some of us recall the commitment the administration made to the community to reduce the amount of poles and signage along the route — in exchange for three times the amount of new lighting poles, we were told that some signs would be moved to the new poles. To date, that has not been done.
At the May meeting of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, I inquired about the status of the job and the total cost. We were told the total cost was $2,042,285.02, and that a payment of approximately $37,000 had recently been made to the contractor. Based on prior information I had been given and the knowledge that the project had not yet been completed, this payment prompted additional questions; hence the revelation of the change order dated August 27, 2012.
The change order includes replacing 44 lights with the lower wattage flat-lens fixtures for about $21,400 (almost $500/fixture) and $5,002 for installation of conduits and wiring for one light on Anapalau Street that was connected to the old lighting system. (It appears this was another change required due to poor planning, along with placing lights directly above tree canopies and too close to a fire hydrant and the driveway of the fire station.)
Why did it take so long to process and execute this change order?
Why wasn’t the neighborhood board informed that there was an unprocessed change order that would increase the total cost? (For the record, the cost is now up to $2,068,670.41.)
What is the city going to do with 44 150-watt globe fixtures? Is it standard policy for the city to accept job materials that are not used as originally contracted?
Why are we paying so much per fixture? (Kolmart Lighting Solutions has 70-watt HPS Cobra Head Light fixtures available for $132.88 each, plus shipping, handling and tax.)
And given that the city hasn’t been forth-coming with the public on this measly $2M project, how in the world are we supposed to believe them when they provide status updates and planned costs for larger projects such as rail?
For reference, prior articles and commentaries regarding this project include:
Turn down new Hawaii Kai lights (Star Bulletin, August 13, 2009);
Lunalilo Lighting Project Cause for Concern (East Oahu Sun, August 18, 2009);
Safety concerns prompt increased Hawaii Kai lighting (Star Bulletin, August 18, 2009);
Residents say lights out (Star Bulletin, August 18, 2009);
Hawaii Kai gets chance to speak out on lighting plans (Honolulu Advertiser, September 17, 2009);
Mayor Announces Changes to Hawaii Kai Street Lighting Project (city press release, September 18, 2009);
Hawaii Kai’s Controversial Lighting Project Detailed (Hawaii Reporter, June 8, 2010);
Mayor Hannemann to Hawaii Kai Residents: My Way or the Highway (Hawaii Reporter, July 6, 2010)
Lunalilo lighting slows after initial progress (Star Advertiser, July 8, 2010);
City Sees the Light on Lunalilo Home Road Lighting Project (Hawaii Reporter, April 11, 2011) and
City Shifts Street Light Project (Midweek, June 8, 2011) among others.
Natalie Iwasa is a CPA living in Hawaii Kai.