Gov. David Ige’s administration is proposing to spend $30 million over the next two years to overhaul and repair the reflecting pools that surround the Hawaii State Capitol, an architectural water feature in a historic building that has leaked and collected algae for years.

Among other fixes, the plan calls for rebuilding and repairing the walls around the pools and installing a substructure or “false bottom” to the pool to make it more shallow. That means it would require less water and be easier to maintain, according the Department of Accounting and General Services.

The improvements would also include re-engineering the pools so they can be filtered and treated with chlorine, said state Comptroller Curt Otaguro.

Otaguro said something needs to be done because the pools have deteriorated over the past 50 years since the Capitol first opened. The pool on the Diamond Head side of the building has been leaking, which prompted the state to move staff out of at least one office below.

Hawaii State Capitol building.
The pool at the Capitol has been leaking into offices and a hallway below and needs repairs, according to the state Department of Accounting and General Services. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

But during a pre-session briefing for the House Finance Committee, Rep. Bert Kobayashi urged DAGS to reconsider its request.

“I think the money spent to repair, renovate the State Capitol have been a bit of an embarrassment over the decades. It seems that it’s a never-ending task,” Kobayashi told the DAGS staff.

“I think that maybe, at least in these times, consideration should be given to draining the pool and perhaps delaying the renovation work of $30 million if it can be done without further damage to the Capitol building itself,” he said.

Otaguro said in an interview that may be a workable temporary solution if the pool is drained, the bottom of the pool is coated, and the pool cavity is covered to keep it from filling with rainwater.

“That would buy us time, maybe two years or three years,” he said.

Otaguro acknowledged this is a bad time to be asking for money.

“We have to prioritize, I don’t disagree,” he said.

The final decision will be up to the Legislature, he said.

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