‘Acting local’ issues top Waimea Town Meeting agenda

WAIMEA — At a time when “Think Global, Act Local” seems particularly meaningful, Waimea Community Association’s Town Meeting this Thursday will do just that — discuss issues and priorities facing the 2018 Hawaii State Legislature.

Leading the discussion will be State District 4 Senator Lorraine Inouye and State House District 7 Rep. Cindy Evans. The meeting is open to the public and will run from 5:15-7 p.m. at Waimea School Cafeteria.

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Inouye will discuss prioritizing a $1.6 million Capital Improvement Project (CIP) request for the 2018 Legislature to purchase the vacant lot adjacent to the Waimea Elementary School and Waimea Middle School campuses and Kamuela post office. She is also prioritizing a Senate resolution to urge the United States Post Office to expedite relocation of the Kamuela post office to a site in or near town with sufficient land area to ensure adequate parking in decades to come.

The resolution will ask Hawaii’s Congressional delegation to assist with expediting the relocation.

The vacant lot targeted is owned by Parker Ranch. It has allowed school families, staff and community members to park on the gravel lot — often flooded — due to inadequate parking in the paved parking area outside the building. However, the ranch recently announced the commercially zoned parcel would be sold to fulfill other obligations to its beneficiaries, triggering widespread community concern.

Based on community input, Inouye said she will ask her legislative colleagues to buy the lot, although the state Department of Education has not prioritized this land acquisition. The ranch expects to put the commercially zoned vacant lot on the market before State CIP funding can be secured and released, but Inouye is hopeful that legislative action will secure funding in time to enable purchase of the land.

“The land is critical to the safety of children. Given Waimea’s frequently rainy weather and the fact that over time the schools have become completely landlocked, families with little ones in particular urgently need parking as close as possible to walk children to preschool and kindergarten classes,” she said. “The lot acquisition also would relieve parking needed by post office patrons every single day.”

She said her rationale for purchasing the vacant lot is primarily based on the fact that since the state will not be building another school in Waimea, there is needed safety for children and staff, and a lack of parking and safe access to the elementary and middle school campuses.

“A proposal to locate school parking south of the middle school’s new STEAM Learning Center is not appropriate for the safety of children, families, teachers or staff,” Inouye said.

Her initial CIP request for land acquisition will be a first step. Additional funding will be required for engineering, environmental planning and paving.

“I am very grateful to the families, teachers and staff at both Waimea schools, and also to the Waimea community organizations for advocating for the safety of children and getting serious about relocating the post office. I’m happy to work with them to find solutions,” Inouye said.

Another legislative item she will discuss Thursday night is prioritizing a $1.5 million CIP contribution to help expedite expansion of North Hawaii Community Hospital’s emergency room.

“NHCH is critical to almost every household in my Senate district and it’s slammed with patients,” Inouye said. “Adding to the pressure on the ER have been the horrifying number of severe traffic accidents. NHCH is a private hospital operated by Queens, but it is a community health lifeline that needs and deserves public funding support.”

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Joining Waimea’s current state legislators will be former State Sen. Andy Levin, who is again expected to serve as the County of Hawaii’s legislative liaison during the 2018 session. He will talk about the county administration’s priorities for the coming session and how the community can support these issues.

Also participating in the meeting will be State Department of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright, who will address a variety or ag-related issues of concern to Waimea farmers, and the state’s food self-reliance priorities. Gov. Ige’s administration has set a statewide goal of doubling local food production by 2020, and Enright will share this and other anticipated changes and requirements imposed on local farmers and food producers from the still unfolding 2011 federal Food Safety Modernization Act.

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