Honolulu City Council members outlined hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed increases to capital spending, a departure from Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s plan to drastically reduce funds for capital projects.

Carlisle proposed cutting capital monies 35 percent as a way to reduce the city’s longterm debt. But City Council members want to reclaim some of that money to fix roadways, improve parks and study traffic patterns, among other proposed projects.

An aide for City Council Budget Committee Chairman Ernie Martin said it’s not clear how much the council’s amendments would add to the budget. That figure will emerge along with Martin’s recommendation to the committee next week.

One of the larger amendments came from City Council member Stanley Chang, who proposed adding $32 million for road repairs, which would restore funding to levels before Carlisle made cuts. He said delaying the upgrades would require more costly fixes in the future. Chang has made road repairs one of his signature issues.

“The reason why I think it’s so important to restore this funding is because it’s by far the number one concern that has been expressed to me and to my colleagues,” Chang told Civil Beat Tuesday. “Scientific surveys confirm that we do have the worst roads in the country by many measures. Unless we apply funding needed to catch up to where we should be, we’re only going to fall further behind.”

City Council member Breene Harimoto proposed adding $355 million for the city’s rail project back into the capital budget, a move that could be viewed as political.

The mayor says he moved the funds into a new semi-autonomous transit agency will be responsible for oversight of the project starting with the new fiscal year on July 1. Voters approved the creation of that agency, but City Council members have complained that the mayor went too far by also removing their ability to review and approve funds going to the project. Harimoto’s amendment would put them back into the capital budget, and under the council’s purview.

In his amendments, Martin specified that some of the $45 million already appropriated for road repairs be used on roadways in his district. He also proposed adding $2.8 million for parks and recreation projects, including $985,000 for the North Shore’s incomplete Banzai Rock Skate Park $700,000 to expand Whitmore Gym in Wahiawa, and hundreds of thousands for improvements to various beach parks.

“The skateboard main structure had been constructed four years ago but still cannot be accepted by the City till further improvements are completed,” Martin wrote. “This structure needs this additional funding to be completed and allow the legal active use of this long awaited facility.”

He also recommends opening Velzyland Beach Park to the public — and paying $131,000 for equipment like lifeguard towers, an all-terrain vehicle and an automatic external defibrillator — to discourage illegal camping he said is prevalent at the site.

“This park is heavily utilized and there are many illegal campers who have set up permanent living structures and are creating a health problem as there is no comfort station or porta-potties,” Martin wrote. “The gate locks have had multiple incidents of being cut off or damaged and even replaced with the perpetrators own lock. Opening of this area to the public with lifeguards will diminish this area from being used as illegal campsites.”

Here are some of the other proposed amendments:

City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia
– $1 million for the planning and design of upgrades to the Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park

City Council member Ikaika Anderson
– $50,000 to study traffic patterns in Kailua, which he said is needed for developers to properly assess the area
– $100,000 for a new restroom at Kailua Beach Park
– $50,000 for new guardrails in his district, calling the lack thereof a public safety hazard

“There are numerous streets that run parallel to open ditches and due ot the lack of curbing pose an on-going
hazard to motorists,” Anderson wrote. “In other areas,the installation of these guardrails would help to curtail the illegal dumping of vehicles.”

City Council member Tom Berg
– Hundreds of thousands in funding for improvements to Ewa beach parks and other recreational areas

City Council member Ann Kobayashi
– $800,000 in improvements to parks in Manoa and Palolo
– $60,000 on a traffic study of the area around University Avenue

For the most part, the City Council proposes increasing capital spending. Martin also recommends removing $474,783 that the mayor proposed spending on wastewater projects. It’s not clear if that spending is required as part of the federally mandated consent decree on sewer system upgrades. The only justification Martin offered in the document outlining his amendment is “delete funding.”

Martin is reviewing the City Council’s proposed amendments, to both the operating and capital spending plans this week. He will recommend a new version of the budget in special budget meetings on April 12 and April 13.

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