- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The University of Hawaii at Hilo has awarded a $31 million contract to construct a building for the pharmacy school, with plans for the project to begin this summer.

UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said Hilo-based Isemoto Contracting Co. could begin construction as early as June, putting the 45,000-square-foot building on track for a 2018 opening.

The announcement Monday comes after the project almost lost funds for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building because construction bids surpassed money set aside for the project.

“At this point, I think it’s safe to say the funding is secured,” Meisenzahl said. “. It’s a significant step as far as, ‘OK, (we’re) no longer at risk of (the funding) lapsing.”

Meisenzahl said UH reworked its budget to come up with the necessary funds and scaled back the project to include fewer research laboratories. The changes lowered Isemoto’s original bid, which was $32.6 million.

The pharmacy school, which was established in 2007 and awarded its first degrees in 2011, has more than 300 students. The school operates at five different sites, including temporary trailers and off-campus buildings.

“It’s been a collaborative and a collective effort to get to this point,” said state Sen. Kai Kahele. “… Now, we can build it. We have the money, let’s get to work.”

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