With his new budget, there appears to be light on the horizon.
Within six months, a public housing official tells Civil Beat, residents at Mayor Wright will no longer battle frigid water as they bathe their children and wash their dishes. A hot shower after work will no longer be the stuff of legend – it will be available to all.
And consistently, too.
“Sooner than six months, we’ll have the failed backup systems replaced if all goes according to plan,” said Nicholas Birck, a planner with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. “Once those backup systems are replaced, there should be no lack of hot water for anybody at anytime. Because what will happen is, if the tanks are depleted or not hot enough, that backup system will kick in on demand and provide the hot water. So once those backup systems are replaced, there should be no issue with hot water at Mayor Wright.”
I know what you’re thinking: replacing backup heaters really only sounds like a temporary solution. They are, after all, backup heaters.
But the governor’s new budget addresses the big picture. He has allocated enough money for Mayor Wright to completely replace the heating system.
“About $50M in General Obligation bonds over the biennium for public housing improvements is specifically set aside for Mayor Wright Homes,” Donalyn Dela Cruz, the press secretary for the governor, told Civil Beat in an e-mail. (Budget documents provided by the governor’s office show $50 million allocated for the Department of Human Services, including $2.5 million for Mayor Wright.)
Birck says it’s more money than the Public Housing Authority was expecting, and it’s enough to replace all of Mayor Wright’s heaters.
The Legislature still has to give the “OK” on the governor’s budget proposal.
If it does, Birck tells Civil Beat, it would cost around $5.6 million over the biennium to entirely replace the heater system. He says the Housing Authority will begin work on the heaters as soon as there is money in hand.
In the meantime, Birck says the new backup heaters should provide all the hot water needed until the main system can be replaced.
The problem at the complex is described in a document from the State Procurement Office. A “Notice of and Request for Exemption” form submitted by the Housing Authority says: “Of the 35 buildings at Mayor Wright Homes, some have solar panels/tanks that are working, but on cloudy days the electrical back-up does not work. On other buildings, the solar systems have prematurely reached the end of their useful life and the solar tanks are leaking.”
The exemption request asked for $798,000 for 57 backup heaters. Although the exemption wasn’t approved, Birck says the Housing Authority will be able to enter into a contract as soon as next week to begin replacing the backups.
He says money for the backups has come in part from the federal government. The authority has already replaced 16 of the heaters and once the remaining 57 are installed, all systems will be effective. Birck says the most critical systems will be replaced first and Capitol Improvements Project money from Abercrombie’s budget will provide additional money needed to replace all systems.
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