Two libraries planned for Puna

Two new libraries could arrive in Puna in the next few years.

Attached to this year’s state budget, approximately $2 million has been allocated to build a new library in Keaau. Another state library, for the lower Puna region, is being considered alongside a county transit center as part of a co-location for the two facilities.

Initial funding from Keaau Library will cover planning, design and construction.

“That one is moving faster than the library in Pahoa,” State Senator Joy San Buenaventura said. “It goes faster because the plan is to put it on state property, in a place accessible to both pedestrians and students.”

For the Lower Puna Library, accessibility was a key concern cited by Mayor Mitch Roth. House Bill 1489, which proposed $12 million for the Lower Puna Library, was ultimately defeated. Instead, a reassessment to determine the feasibility of a new location will take place.

“There are state resources that are combined with county and federal government resources to basically plan whether locating a library and all associated services with a transportation hub is feasible for Puna,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz on the Lower Puna Library. “And if so, where could it be located around Pahoa?”

The project proposal began in 2014 and was presented by former Senator Russell Ruderman. Three initial locations were considered, including a prime spot near the Pahoa Police, Fire and Driver’s License facilities located off Highway 130 about a quarter mile before the Pahoa Bypass roundabout Road.

“When the Puna library locations were removed, there were huge concerns to ensure that children, who are the primary users of the library, will not be put at risk walking on the highways,” San Buenaventura said, citing concerns over the whereabouts. emergency response vehicles on site. “That’s why they decided to wait and see where the transit center will be.”

An original environmental assessment was completed for the potential library, estimating the total cost at approximately $11 million. The concept included 8,000 square feet of enclosed, climate-controlled indoor space and 1,000 square feet for an indoor-outdoor entry veranda activity area.

A new environmental assessment will have to be completed following the selection of a new location.

John Andow, Hawaii County Transit Administrator, said he hopes a location for the transit hub will be selected by Dec. 31, 2023, a decision that will determine the location of the library. .

Hele-On administrative officials expect the transit center to be completed within the next two to three years.

The state provided an initial investment of $350,000 in June, and an additional $270,000 was provided to the county by the Federal Transit Administration, or FTA, to support the planning process.

The county is working with SSFM International, a consulting firm that helps with site selection and 30% of the design process. SSFM previously consulted with the county on the development of a transit master plan.

“We go from concept to design, all with SSFM,” Kierkiewicz said. “I trust their ability to get into the communities and work with the communities to come up with a plan that is very representative of what the community wants to see.”

There are currently 11 locations being considered for the Transit Center and Library.

“There will be public outreach, a public comment period and meetings with community residents before anything is finalized,” Kierkiewicz said. “It’s part of the process.”

She hopes the initial study of possible locations will be completed this year.

“Once the study is done, and I anticipate it will be this year, then we can go back to the state legislature next year and say these are the options, let’s start working on some money. for capital improvement to invest in and actually build this,” she said. “It makes sense to me for the county and the state to partner, so we can weave county funding together and of State.”

Kierkiewicz is open to ideas about what the library could include, mentioning a community theater, computer labs, broadband access, multi-purpose conference rooms and built-in outdoor picnic areas.

“It’s just different ideas that the community can consider and put on the table,” she said. “If we’re going to build it, let’s make sure it meets the needs and wants of the community, not just for today, but also with future population growth in mind.

Email Grant Phillips at [email protected]

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