UH Hilo Press Release
Date: Monday, April 26, 2004
Contact: Gerald De Mello, (808) 974-7567, Ken Hupp, (808) 974-7642
For Immediate Release
Legislature approves major UH Hilo initiatives
A delegation of Big Island state lawmakers and University of Hawai`i at Hilo officials today unveiled a package of approved University initiatives that will significantly boost strategic growth plans. "This is a huge day for UH Hilo," said Chancellor Rose Tseng. "With the approval of these projects, we are about to enter an exciting new chapter in the development of this university that we will look back on one day as a landmark event."
State House Finance Committee Chair Dwight Takamine says the initiatives represent the type of expenditures that deliver the most "bang for the buck," which is critical during tough economic times.
"By promoting the development of UH Hilo we are also priming the pump of a major state-wide economic engine," Takamine said. "We view these initiatives as an investment that will produce benefits far in excess of the actual dollar amount."
The centerpiece of the 2004 appropriations is $15 million for Phase I construction of a Student Life and Events Center Complex. Under the University's phase-in plan, the project will begin with the student life component. Key elements will include a fitness room, aerobics, martial arts, human performance testing, swimming pool, an open covered deck,
classrooms, lockers, a shower and weight room facilities along with a poolside juice bar, indoor café and outdoor food service kiosk where students can dine and congregate.
Approval of the student life project was not only a major achievement for the University, but a personal triumph for student leaders who met with lawmakers and testified at committee hearings. Although many will have graduated before the center opens, UH Hilo Student Association President Liko Puha said the issue for them was much bigger.
"This center will be a positive, helpful and sustainable resource for students, faculty and the community," Puha said. "That's why we felt so strongly about this initiative, and were willing to pay higher fees if
that's what it would take to make it happen."
"The Student Life and Event Center will enhance the quality of life for students and provide them with activities on campus as a healthy alternative when they are not engaged in studies," noted State Representative Jerry Chang. "We also view this as a "catch up" development when you consider that other campuses in the University System have had these kinds of facilities which have long been lacking at UH Hilo. Our delegation has worked together to provide Hilo with parity."
Lawmakers also approved $3.7 million for Phase II of the North Hawai`i Research and Education Center. The appropriation will fund planning, design, construction and equipment for renovations at the Old Honoka`a Hospital site.
"Funding for this center fulfills a need to provide access to higher education for a population in North Hawai`i that has been traditionally under served," Takamine said.
The Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center is now poised to begin construction this fall after the legislature re-affirmed its funding of $2 million to complete the project. Construction is expected to finish in the summer of 2005.
"This project will expand aquaculture in Hawai`i and the Pacific through training programs, research, and internships," said State Representative Eric Hamakawa. "It will also result in job creation and provide a focus for the sustainable development of the Keaukaha coastline."
The internal roadway connecting Phase III of University Park for Science and Technology to Komohana Street will receive various infrastructure improvements thanks to a $1.439 million appropriation. The money will be used for roadway, traffic lights, turning lanes and other related improvements to the intersection of Nowelo and Komohana Streets. Those improvements will complete the mauka extension of Nowelo Street which will service the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center and USDA Forestry facilities and the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center.
"Adding this infrastructure for government and private multi-national science entities in the Science Park raises the profile of Hilo as a Science Center," said State Representative Helene Hale. "Enhancing UH Hilo's prominence will attract scientists and scholars worldwide, while establishing a foundation for interaction among different nations and cultures, which is critically important to cross cultural understanding and the success of international businesses."
The Komohana Research and Outreach Center, located in Hilo on Komohana Street will receive $14 million to renovate and develop state-of-the-art laboratories, offices and laboratory support spaces.
"Completion of this project will benefit the CTAHR research and extension service in Hilo and on the Big Island, while allowing UH Hilo to develop and expand its physical science, life science and technology programs into its planned spine concept and science cluster, said State Senator Lorraine Inouye. "We feel very strongly that the Big Island has
tremendous potential for agriculture and that's why we worked hard to make it happen."
State Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Russell Kokubun believes the projects approved this session will give UH Hilo a welcome boost as it seeks to fulfill the remaining objectives in its long range strategic plan.
"The University has managed to grow during difficult times, which is impressive," Kokubun said. " But you eventually need additional resources to maintain and accelerate that growth, and that's what we have tried to address through these initiatives."
In addition to state monies, the legislature took action to clear the way for some significant private sector and federal funding. Lawmakers authorized UH Hilo to receive $18.4 million for planning, design, construction and equipment for a Pharmacy building. The facility would be used for a new Pharmacology program.
University Relations Director Gerald De Mello described the results of the 2004 legislative session as a "pivotal year, a milestone." In the end, he says a lot of hard work on the part of University officials, students and the community combined with a dedicated and supportive legislative delegation paid off.
"You can't say enough about our Big Island delegation and their commitment to the Big Island and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo," De Mello said. "We gave them an ambitious list of proposals under difficult circumstances. That's the equivalent of a hard change-up and they hit it out of the park."
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