Nearly 1 year after flood, Aina Haina library reopens

From The Honolulu Star Advertiser by Tyne Phillips April 10, 2019

Almost a year after damage from record rainfall and flooding forced its closure, Aina Haina Public Library reopened Tuesday.

The flooding was caused by thunderstorms from April 13 to 16 that triggered landslides and road closures on Kauai and East Oahu, and prompted President Donald Trump to issue a major disaster declaration.

At the Aina Haina library, the deluge caused major water damage from front to back and soaked the flooring in muddy water, according to Mallory Fujitani, special assistant to the state librarian of the Hawaii State Public Library System.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way that library is going to be open tomorrow,’” Cathy Gold, board member of Friends of Aina Haina Library, recalled. “It was unbelievable. … We didn’t expect it to be closed for so long.”

A nanny for an Aina Haina family said she would bring her client’s 2-year-old to the library at least twice a week and was disappointed when it had to be closed for repairs.

A mother who brought her 1-year-old to the library for the first time at the reopening said she wanted to come every day.

“It’s really spacious and kid-friendly,” Sheena Sumi­moto said of the newly renovated space.

Improvements included new flooring, furniture, repainting of the interior and exterior, and updated bathrooms.

The update cost about $650,000. About $350,000 was allocated for flood repairs, and $300,000 was from an existing contract to redo the bathrooms.

After the work was completed, over 80 volunteers from Aina Haina Prepared and Friends of Aina Haina Library spent over 270 hours unpacking and restocking 1,700 boxes of items, Fujitani said. Among those volunteers was Tommy Waters, a candidate for the District 4 seat in the Honolulu City Council.

The library reopened at 1 p.m. with a blessing from the Rev. Christoper Bridges of Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity. Celebrations continued into the evening with live performances by ukulele virtuosos Jake Shimabukuro and Taimane Gardner.

The library will be the third to launch an ukulele-­lending program hosted by the Music for Life Foundation. When it launches within the next few months, the public will be able to borrow ukulele as they would books, and take ukulele lessons at the library. Nanakuli Public Library and Waimanalo Public Library already have ukulele-lending programs.

Last year’s flooding around Aina Haina was partly due to the overflowing of Wailupe Stream, which had been blocked by debris build up. The blockage caused the water to build up and overrun its banks instead of flowing freely.

Waters expressed concern about current flood mitigation efforts in the area.

“They built a couple dams within the stream, and that’s troubling to me because I thought the problem was that the water couldn’t free-flow down to the ocean because of all of the debris,” Waters said. “Just from a common-sense point of view, it doesn’t make sense.”

He said he’s reached out to city officials but has yet to hear back.