$5.4 million contract for new jail site involves more than just scouting

Oahu Community Correctional Center

In 2014, lawmakers approved spending $5.4 million to study the relocation of Oahu Community Correctional Center, which is plagued with overcrowding issues.

The state authorized the money in April 2014 to Honolulu firm Architects Hawaii. The same amount was also approved last legislative session.

KHON2 wanted to know how the money is being spent, and does it really cost that much to scout locations for a new jail?

We sat down with Nolan Espinda, director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety. He says the money set aside hasn’t been used up yet.

“Why was there the need for the state to allocate over $5 million just to look into new locations for a jail?” KHON2 asked.

“I can’t account for every bit of money allocated regarding the intent behind that, but clearly it’s our responsibility to get as far toward the completion of this project as $5.4 million can take us,” responded Espinda.

As for the price tag, Espinda explained it’s not just scouting a new location. Architects Hawaii is looking into the environmental impact of a new jail. KHON2 dug deeper and learned the contract also entails infrastructure analysis, public outreach, and community involvement.

The state Legislature also approved another $5.4 million this past session to fund the planning for a new OCCC.

KHON2 spoke with Sen. Will Espero to find out why the additional funding was approved.

“I’m told the Department of Accounting and General Services is not going to release that money. That is just not necessary. I’m happy to hear that,” responded Espero.

DAGS confirmed in a written response that it “is currently not requesting release of the 2016 $5.4M appropriation until we complete more ongoing work to define the location, scope of work and next steps.”

KHON2 asked Espinda why was there a need for an additional $5.4 million if the project is just in the planning stages.

“Well this was a legislative add-on. It has to come from legislators. All I know is we will not ask to expend monies until we have a clear pathway,” Espinda said.

The Department of Public Safety is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Farrington High School at 6 p.m. to get public input.

Click here for more information on the project.

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