Call 911: The First Responders Park Bill Is Dying

Rep. Amy Perruso says she won’t advance a bill to fund the state’s first responders campus amid questions about the project’s relevance.

When Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi introduced a measure to provide at least $100 million to build a campus for first responders on 243 acres of agriculture land in central Oahu, the Kauai senator hailed the controversial project as necessary for Oahu’s law enforcement and public safety workers.

“Many existing facilities are outdated and within the inundation zone, and agencies have outgrown their current footprint,” Kouchi’s measure said. “Some agencies lack permanent headquarters, training facilities, and storage space and require the use of leased facilities, which should be invested in permanent assets that are owned and controlled by the State.”

The venture had commitments from agencies including the Hawaii Department of Public Safety and support from Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, a longtime advocate for the Mililani complex, which would be in his district.

There was just one problem: the 2,000 plus-employee Honolulu Police Department testified it had no intention of being part of the campus.

Hawaii Technology Development Corp. First Responders Park
Proposed for prime agriculture land in central Oahu, the First Responders Technology Campus and Cybersecurity Data Center, pictured in an artist’s rendering, would include space for offices, warehouses, a hotel, workforce housing, a community center and an outdoor training area. (Hawaii Technology Development Corp.)

Now, despite support from Hawaii’s two most powerful senators, a project some critics deride as Hawaii’s equivalent of Atlanta’s controversial “Cop City” may have stalled.

Legislative Hurdles

The bill must pass out of the House Higher Education and Technology Committee by Friday to remain alive, and the committee chair has vowed not to let that happen.

Rep. Amy Perruso cited the fact that the police have no plans to use the facility as part of her decision.

Perruso, who is Dela Cruz’s House counterpart representing Oahu’s historically agricultural region, also cited costs. Infrastructure alone for the park will cost the state $150 million, she said, which is three times the annual budget of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

“How could we even look at ourselves in the mirror if we did that,” she said. “It’s ludicrous.”

Rep. Amy Perruso questions whether the Hawaii Technology Development Corp., established to grow Hawaii’s tech business sector, is exceeding its statutory purpose by trying to build a campus and training center for people like firefighters and sheriffs. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Kouchi didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Dela Cruz, who has advocated for the project for years, remains undeterred.

The bill’s death wouldn’t necessarily preclude funding. If Perruso fulfills her promise, money for the project could be put into the state budget, said Len Higashi, executive director of the Hawaii Technology Development Corp., a state agency spearheading the project.

‘Strategic For The Whole State’

In an interview, Dela Cruz shrugged off the fact that the Honolulu Police Department doesn’t want to move into the campus. Dela Cruz noted that other agencies have committed to use the campus

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