State Hospital fence could run up to $24M
The state Department of Health says it would cost the state an estimated $17 million to $24 million to erect a fence around the Hawaii State Hospital campus to satisfy a permit condition imposed by the Honolulu City Council that the facility be “fully secure.”
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The state Department of Health says it would cost the state an estimated
$17 million to $24 million to erect a fence around the
Hawaii State Hospital campus to satisfy a permit condition imposed by the Honolulu City Council that the facility be “fully secure.”
The City Council set the condition last month when approving the hospital’s Plan Review Use permit for its 35-year master plan. It came on the heels of the November escape of admitted killer and patient Randall Saito, who was able to walk off the hospital grounds, hail a taxi, fly to Maui and then catch a flight to California before being captured.
The permit condition requires the Health Department by Jan. 31 to seek funding from the Legislature to change the hospital’s existing facilities “into a fully secure hospital facility” and to submit evidence of the funding request to the City Council.
Health Department officials informed lawmakers of the requirement at recent budget briefings. Health Director Virginia Pressler said a request would be forthcoming through Gov. David Ige’s office once the department determines the scope and cost for a fence, which she said is estimated at
between $17 million and
$24 million. No request had been submitted as of this week.
The estimate is based on enclosing the sprawling campus — the state’s only psychiatric facility for patients who are criminal suspects — with a perimeter fence that is 12 feet high, with the uppermost 6 feet to be made of nonclimbable material, and topped with barbed wire, officials said.
Some lawmakers said the price tag seemed more aligned with building a border security wall.
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said while the City Council’s requirement seems reasonable, the pricing estimate from the Health Department is questionable. He noted that the Department of Accounting and General Services handles the Health Department’s capital improvements program and would be better equipped to provide an estimate for the project.
“I don’t know if that’s the right amount. That’s a lot,” Dela Cruz (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Mililani Mauka) said.
He said the state has built new school buildings for roughly the same amount of money.
“Mililani Mauka Middle School, with 15 classrooms, was $23 million. The new Campbell High School building was $26 million,” Dela Cruz said. “They’re asking for a fence. I can’t imagine the fence is equal to that — unless we’re putting a fence from Leahi all the way to Kaneohe.”
State Sen. Jill Tokuda, whose district includes Kaneohe, said she doubts fencing alone will ensure safety and security.
“This is not the first time we’re hearing about gates and fences. And still, from that time to now, there are pockets of areas that are unsecured. You have had elopements,” Tokuda
(D, Kailua-Kaneohe) said. “There’s a staffing and capacity component that has to go hand in hand with it all. If you’re not properly staffed, can we actually ensure that the physical plant runs as it should?”
She added that “making the recommendation to build a wall around the Hawaii State Hospital may give a sense of security, but by no means is that the only thing that needs to be done to really ensure that patients, employees and surrounding communities are safe.”
“For $17 million to
$24 million,” she said, “how do we best place those resources so that we can actually keep people safe, not just in the short term, but in the long term? We have to really weigh those options out.”