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West Hawaii Civic Center officially open for business

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Video by David Corrigan | Big Island Video News

Rainbow over the new West Hawaii Civic Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7

Most of the 200-plus county workers have had more than one month to settle in to their new digs, but the West Hawaii Civic Center didn’t have its official blessing until Thursday, April 15.

Some might contend the $50 million, 80,000-square-foot complex already had a baptism of sorts when it served as emergency operations center and shelter during the March 11 tsunami. Or when Mayor Billy Kenoi gave his ‘State of the County’ speech back in late January.

However, a couple of hundred county workers, community dignitaries and leaders, and members of the public gathered Thursday afternoon for the formal dedication and open house.

With sunshine to the west and dark clouds hovering off to the east, former mayor and long-time champion of the project, Harry Kim said the center is destined to be a ‘people’s place’ with a true sense of Kona.

Aunty Elizabeth Lee gives the pule. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Fern Gavelek)

During the ceremony, Kumu Keala Ching urged the community to pay attention to the path of the sun, as it will show the way. Shortly after Ching spoke, a faint rainbow twinkled on the slopes of Hualalai, deepening and echoing itself with a second glistening bow.

“Yes, that is how it should be,” North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago said. “It’s very special on a very special day of peace. This civic center demands that everybody works together – from the mayor’s office and the council to the community and all the county workers. It makes us want to earn the right to be leaders and to be good stewards for our island.”

Bobby Command, the mayor’s West Hawaii representative, served as master of ceremonies for the blessing, noting the event was a celebration of kakou, which roughly translates to ‘all of us together.’ As he introduced the speakers, Command said the list of those to thank stretched a couple decades into the past and included a handful of former elected officials.

(Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Fern Gavelek)

Former councilwoman and state representative Virginia Isbell said she regards the new West Hawaii county headquarters as the ‘Kona Shangri-la.’

“The sea breeze, the beauty, I’ve never seen anything like it in the state,” she said. “It’s on different levels. Not all boxy like in Hilo.”

Current Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said the West Hawaii community should thank itself for making the complex a reality.

“This building was made possible by the people of Hawaii County. What you made extremely clear to governmental leaders was this is a need that we have to have,” he said. “We need(ed) a place that we can have face-to-face with our government leaders where we can get things done.”

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

“Back in 1996, I first heard the words ‘civic center,'” he said.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Kim recalled the beginnings of the project.

“It started maybe 11 years ago without no money and no land,” he said.

Still, then-mayor Kim directed the design team to “make a place where the Kona people and the Kohala people will say ‘that’s our building.’ Make a place that is open and make a place that is warm.”

Kim said the vague direction worked.

“It feels warm and open,” he said. “I think they did a damn good job. There is so much feeling for me here. Everyone wanted it to be a ‘People’s Place’ and it is. All you have to do is visualize other government buildings in Hawaii and all over the country … and you know this truly is driven by the people.”

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Mayor Billy Kenoi with his friend, mentor, inspiration and former boss Harry Kim. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

2 Responses to “West Hawaii Civic Center officially open for business”

  1. betty says:

    The place to wait in line….Stood there for 2 hours to renew registration.

  2. This is certainly a beautiful new facility. I’m not sure on a few of the combined offices, as the line for car license and driver’s license renewal are much longer then they were at their old locations. However, I think it will get better once they’ve had time to streamline everything.

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