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Housing residents promised hot water

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 12:29 a.m. HST, Mar 10, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie promised residents of an Iwilei public housing complex yesterday that he would take quick action to get them the hot water service they have not had for years.

"They should have confidence we're going to deal with it immediately," Abercrombie said after a visit to Mayor Wright Homes.

Six of 35 buildings have hot water, said Fetu Kolio, president of the Mayor Wright Tenants Association.

"He ensured us the hot water would be dealt with and prioritized," Kolio said of the governor.

Denise Wise, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said the state administration has cleared the agency's repair and maintenance budget request for the coming two-year budget cycle.

"This is the first governor in a long time to fully fund our request," Wise said.

The authority is coming up with a plan to overhaul the aging solar water heating system at Mayor Wright. In the meantime the state has been installing tankless gas water heaters in apartments to augment the hot water supply.

The tankless heaters have been installed in about 25 percent of 364 apartment units, and Wise hopes to have one in every unit by July.

The plan, she said, is to "get people hot water as fast as we can" and come up with a long-term solution.

Resident Deriah Aana said her mother was 79 when she died six years ago, and didn't have hot water the last three years of her life.

"She was in a wheelchair, and they were telling them to boil hot water," Aana said.

Abercrombie's tour of the housing followed a visit Mayor Wright tenants and community advocates paid two weeks ago to the governor's office and the Legislature.

Resident Eti Sataraka, 67, said yesterday his hot water was restored four or five months ago, but before that his family took cold showers for four or five years.

Titus Rekis, 23, shook hands with the governor outside his apartment but didn't get a chance to show him photos of conditions inside his house, including rats.

"I've caught more than 60 rats in this house" in the last 12 years, he said.

Kolio said the governor also assured the tenants he would clear up jurisdiction issues at state public housing projects. Since public housing property is the state's domain, the city police often have a difficult time entering, he said.

CORRECTION: Fetu Kolio, president of the Mayor Wright Tenants Association, said six of the 35 buildings at the housing complex have hot water, and the rest do not. A earlier version of this article said six of 35 buildings have no hot water.

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