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State selects Animal Quarantine Station in Halawa as preferred location for OCCC

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HONOLULU -

For decades, the state has wrestled with what to do about the Oahu Community Correctional Center.  It's old, overcrowded,  and expensive to operate.

The top choice is a 26-acre parcel in Halawa, where the aging animal quarantine facility sits.  It used to house 1,600 cats and dogs.  It's more than 40 years old.

The kennels are said to be in bad shape, and it's in active use for only about 200 animals today.

"We no longer need a facilities of that size. Therefore, it's what's the highest and best use of state land, and the governor has decided it is  the best site," said Agriculture Director Scott Enright.

"The parcel identified is twice as big as the current parcel. We would have more flexibility on utilization of that site, and what we are intending to is build the most cost effective facility that allows us to provide efficiency to the current operations," said Gov. David Ige.

A new modern jail house could have a price tag of  $525 million and would include a new animal quarantine facility at an adjacent site.

The state looked at three other sites on the short list -- the current location in Kalihi, the Mililani Tech Park in Central Oahu and a parcel adjacent to the current Halawa Prison.

The quarantine station is not only cheaper to develop, but isn’t in a residential neighborhood, It’s also close  proximity to the courts and because it’s been largely developed may have the least environmental impact.

But, community advocates say building a new jail isn’t the answer to overcrowding.  They believe prison reform is.

"What are we doing? We have people in there who can’t make $50 bail? We have people who stole food because they are hungry. We go from animal quarantine to people quarantine. Something is very, very wrong," said Kat Brady, who is with the Community Alliance for Prisons.

The draft environmental impact statement calls for public input over the next 60 days. A community meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 29th at 7 p.m. at the Aloha Stadium.

The governor hopes to finalize the draft EIS in the next six months.

"We definately will be looking at what the right size of the facility will be," said Ige.

The next step will be a financing plan with the governor's hopes that a  new jailhouse will be ready in about six years.

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