An agreement was made Friday between Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans and Maui County that will allow the veterans to receive the building permit they have been seeking for five years to construct a new veterans center.
It’s been four years since MVCV received a $250,000 grant from the state legislature to pay for the construction of a 2,000 square-foot building with a 1,000 square-foot lanai. Unexplained County delays, miscommunications, zoning issues and questions over the adequacy of the water main prevented the 2007 permit from getting granted.
The frustration for the veterans mounted at every turn. After staging a protest rally at the County building in Kahului in July 2010, and receiving alleged threats from Mayor Charmaine Tavares, the veterans filed a lawsuit in federal court in September 2010.
The problem now is that the veterans no longer have enough funds, even for the pre-fabricated structure they plan to buy. Costs have risen, contractors who offered to do the work pro bono are no longer available and the veterans have had to spend money jumping through all the unexpected County hoops.
The Maui News reported on this breakthrough in the negotiations on Sunday. However, issues of emotional distress and alleged First Amendment violations made by Tavares against Larry Helm, commander of MVCV, will still go forward in civil action in court. Attorneys for the veterans will be allowed to resubmit their lawsuit amendments.
At this time, the veterans are seeking reimbursement of lost funds so that they may move forward with the construction. When The Maui News quoted County officials as claiming that the veterans and their lawyers are looking for a big payout and a free meeting hall, Helm took strong exception to this. Here is his response …
DID MOLOKAI VETERANS GET AMBUSHED?
In response to Chris Hamilton’s article on May 1, 2011 concerning the Molokai veterans’ building permit, there are some points in the article I want to clarify.
The statement saying some residents and county officials have quietly said that lawyers and veteran group leaders are really after a big payout from the county and a free meeting hall — they can have their opinion but it is not true. This project has been about serving Molokai veterans, visiting veterans and the Molokai community … it has never been about financial gain. It is a center to service veterans … it is not a meeting hall. Many men and women fought and died and have paid ten times over for your rights, justice and the security of this nation … it is not free.
About six years ago, County planning officials told the Molokai veterans that a minor SMA permit was needed to build. At that time, the MVCV had enough money to build the center. Construction began by prepping the area. Many costs incurred — architect, mechanical engineer, surveyors, etc. Back then, gas prices were $3 a gallon and today on Molokai it is $5.45 a gallon.
In two weeks time the Maui County Council and Mayor Arakawa passed an ordinance giving the Fire Department authority for fire protection of commercial buildings. The MVCV did not want to file a lawsuit to get justice … but it is what we had to do. Service delayed is service denied. Here is a quick example. If I intentionally or accidentally hit your car and the police did a report and concluded that I was at fault and an insurance adjuster assessed the damages at $10,000 and I quietly admit wrong and I offer you $1,000 to make this go away, would you take it or go to small claims court to recover full cost of damages and ask accountability for wrongful doing.
Here is the conclusion of this saga. We now can get the building permit on the original application filed in 2007 with no strings attached. Molokai Veterans made a settlement offer to the County but it was rejected. The County counter offered and it was not accepted by the MVCV. As of now, the federal judge has allowed the case to go to a jury trial on two claims — emotional distress and First Amendment rights. After legal back and forth with amendments on other claims, there might be more.
To be continued.
Larry Helm, Commander
Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans