Lawmakers question UH West Oahu's bottled waterUPDATED 10:42 PM HST Apr 03, 2014Video Transcript
Good evening, I'm Yunji de Nies... Kenny Choi has the night off. Ask any college student what they would do with $10- thousand dollars, and you're sure to get a bunch of different answers... But buying bottled water probably ISN'T one of them. As KITV4's Andrew Pereira reports in tonight's top story, state lawmakers are questioning why UH West Oahu decided to get into the water business? Andrew? Yunji, the decision to produce UH West Oahu bottled water comes as the campus seeks additional funds from the legislature. Students at UH West Oahu have many options to quench their thirst... including bottled water manufactured specifically for the fledgling campus. The label says "The West is Best," but state lawmakers poured cold water on the concept when approached by KITV4. REP. MARK TAKAI: "I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE IT YOU KNOW. IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT YOU GO, 'ARE YOU KIDDING?'" SEN. WILL ESPERO: "IT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE TOO BENEFICIAL OR USEFUL FROM WHAT I CAN SEE OR IN MY OPINION." SEN. DONNA MERCADO KIM: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY ABOUT IT, IT'S JUST MIND- BOGGLING. SOMEBODY SHOULD'VE STOPPED THIS PROGRAM." Former UH West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni approved the bottled water program in June, 2010 as a branding and marketing tool. The cost? $9,639. Not a great deal of money, but still a head scratcher when you consider UH West Oahu had proposed selling 39 acres of land to the Catholic Church to raise $12 million in operating funds before the deal fell through. SEN. WILL ESPERO: "IN TERMS OF CONSTRUCTION AND CLASSROOMS AND OTHER RESOURCES, IT'S BEEN DIFFICULT FOR THE UNIVERSITY TO GET THE FUNDING THAT IT NEEDS." The water sells for $1, but UH West Oahu has not seen a profit. Awakuni was not required to have the bottled water program approved by higher ups within the UH system before making the purchase. SEN. DONNA MERCADO KIM: "YOU CAN'T NICKEL AND DIME EVERYTHING, BUT THERE SHOULD BE POLICIES AS TO WHAT KIND OF PROGRAMS THE CAMPUSES ARE LOOKING AT AND WHERE THEY'RE PUTTING THEIR FOCUS." REP. MARK TAKAI: "PEOPLE START BEGINNING TO QUESTION SOME OF THE DECISIONS, AND I THINK THAT YOU KNOW RIGHTLY SO." In a statement to KITV4, University of Hawaii spokeswoman Lynne Waters said, "Public universities nationwide routinely produce logo items to spread their brand and to use in student recruitment, and campuses at UH have the flexibility to procure these items at their discretion." ANDREW PEREIRA: "WITH 85 PERCENT OF THE WATER BEING SOLD IN VEDING MACHINES AND THE CAFETERIA, LAWMAKERS ARE QUESTIONING HOW MUCH PROMOTIONAL VALUE UH WEST OAHU IS REALLY GETTING FROM THESE BOTTLES." SEN. DONNA MERCADO KIM: "THEY'RE CHARGING THE STUDENTS AND THE STUDENTS ARE ALREADY THERE, SO I'M NOT SURE WHERE THE PROMOTIONAL VALUE?" SEN. WILL ESPERO: "I'M CERTAIN THAT WE COULD'VE FOUND OTHER AREAS WHERE WE COULD SPEND $10,000 THAT WOULD BE MORE BENEFICIAL TO THE STUDENTS OR TO THE PROFESSORS AND THE STAFF." REP. MARK TAKAI: "TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS MAY NOT SEEM A LOT TO SOME PEOPLE, BUT TO ANY STUDENT THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY." State lawmakers are currently considering $5 million dollars for the expansion of programs and staff at UH West Oahu. Current Chancellor Rockne Freitas declined an interview for our story, but it's up to him whether the bottled water program continues after the end of June when the current contract expires.