- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - An infusion of funds will allow the state to move forward with a land deal on west Maui to preserve nearly 300 acres of coastal land.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $500,000 to help pay for appraisals, boundary surveys and a title search for the state’s purchase of Lipoa Point from landowner Maui Land & Pineapple Co., his office said.

Abercrombie previously authorized $20 million to pay for the purchase and preservation of about 280 acres of undeveloped shoreline around Honolua Bay. Many Maui residents and environmental organizations support the initiative.

The legislative appropriations mandate that money received from Maui Land & Pineapple go toward defined benefit pension funds and absolving the state of remaining liability. The company had unfunded pension liabilities of $24.2 million, as of the end of September, the Maui News reported Friday (http://ow.ly/t9Mlg ). Lawmakers worried that if the company goes under, retirees will have to rely on the state and could end up straining social services.

West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey said he hopes the price will remain as agreed upon earlier. An appraisal report is expected in a couple of days, he said.

“Once that’s done, we’ll sign the agreement and pass over all the money directly to the (unfunded) pension liability,” McKelvey said. “Then we can pop some champagne because the land will be off the table from further development.”

Maui Land & Pineapple declined to comment until the purchase is finalized.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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