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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Volcano House reopening stalled

By Colin M. Stewart
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Visitors take in the view at the Volcano House at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The Volcano House probably will be closed longer than expected.


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The National Park Service has extended the deadline for interested concessioners to submit bids to operate the Volcano House.

NPS commercial services specialist Kim Gagliolo announced in an e-mail that the original deadline of March 16 had been extended to June 30.

The National Park Service is changing the conditions of its bid proposal and will notify interested parties as soon as possible, the e-mail read.

The extension means that the Volcano House will more than likely be closed four to five months longer than originally planned, said Walt Poole, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park concessions management specialist.

The historic hotel and restaurant on the east rim of Kīlauea Caldera closed its doors at the beginning of the year so contractors could begin a $3.5 million renovation, including seismic retrofitting and fire safety upgrades.

The park service's original plan called for a 10-year contract with a new concessioner to begin July 1. The concessioner would then have six months to complete a series of renovations for which it would have to foot the bill. According to the NPS plan, the facility could be reopened for business on Jan. 1, 2011.

"If the new deadline is June 30, then you're looking at another four or five months to the schedule," Poole said.

He would not say why the deadline had been extended, other than to say that the NPS had decided to modify its request for solicitations. Poole would not discuss the nature of the modifications.

Ken Fujiyama, who held the contract at the facility for the last 26 years, told the Tribune-Herald in mid-January that he would not be submitting a bid by the original March 16 deadline.

But on Friday, he said that he might reconsider.

Fujiyama said there were two main areas of concern for him in the original deal. The first is a limit to any reimbursement the concessioner would receive at the end of its lease for renovations done to improve the property, Fujiyama said.

Second, Fujiyama took issue with the fees.

His most recent contract with the NPS, which ended on Dec. 31, required a concessioner fee of 5.5 percent of total revenue.

The park is now asking for 12.5 percent, as well as 0.5 percent for maintenance.

Other proposed changes would only add to the difficulty of paying that higher fee, Fujiyama said, including the removal of the 'Ōhi'a Wing from the contract, which accounts for 10 rooms, and the combining of the facility's two gift shops into one store.