Condemnation of blood bank land resumes
The Blood Bank of Hawaii, the islands’ sole source of blood, warned that continued efforts by the rail project to use eminent domain to seize a portion of its property could leadto a reduction in the state’s blood supply.
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The Blood Bank of Hawaii, the islands’ sole source of blood, warned that continued efforts by the rail project to use eminent domain to seize a portion of its property could lead to a reduction in the state’s blood supply.
At its meeting today, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board will again take up condemnation proceedings for the 4,451-square-foot space in front of the blood bank’s building on Dillingham Boulevard.
Rail agency officials have called that sliver of land a “linchpin” that’s critical to the project’s construction . In February they re-introduced the eminent domain claim for it because they remain behind schedule and are running out of time to acquire it.
City Council members examined HART’s latest attempts to launch condemnation proceedings against the blood bank last month, and most of them initially voted against it. However, the full Council reversed that decision about two weeks later — allowing HART to move forward.
“Both sides, the blood bank and the city, are interested in making a deal.” – Ray Soon, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s chief of staff
HART says it must pursue condemnation in case it fails to reach a deal with the blood bank before construction in the area — slated for later this year — begins, thereby avoiding more cost overruns to the project. But the blood bank’s president and CEO, Kim-Anh Nguyen, likened the move to “living under (a) gun” and said it will harm negotiations.
“By moving forward with eminent domain proceedings … HART invites litigation, which will be expensive, protracted, and ultimately will interfere with our ability to provide a safe and reliable blood supply for the people of Hawaii,” Nguyen said in a statement Wednesday.
HART has offered nearly $422,000 for the land in question, but the blood bank said taking that space and running the rail line so close to its building would put its operation in danger of losing its accreditation. Thus, it says, it will have to relocate. It’s seeking $4.8 million for HART to take its full building.
The blood bank began relocating its services back in January, when it moved its permanent donor facility to Young Street in Moiliili.
HART says that even though the blood bank has spent considerable time and expense on studies, it still hasn’t proved its case. The rail agency says it can’t justify spending millions more in added funds that are supposed to be designated for rail based on what it’s seen from the blood bank.
Nonetheless, city officials say they don’t want to take any risks with such a critical service for island residents. They hope to solve the impasse — and avoid eminent domain proceedings against the blood bank — by purchasing the remaining blood bank property that HART doesn’t need with funds from the city’s general obligation bonds. The city could use the building to address homelessness, provide affordable housing or some other public service, officials said.
“Both sides, the blood bank and the city, are interested in making a deal,” Ray Soon, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s chief of staff, said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s premature to speculate on what will or will not be included in the transaction.”
If they’re unable to make a deal and HART needs to take the land it requires through condemnation, by then the agency will be pushed even further behind schedule, rail officials say.