KAILUA-KONA — A state House committee voted Thursday to advance a bill to establish lifeguards at Kua Bay.
The seven-member Committee on Labor and Public Employment (LAB) voted unanimously to recommend that House Bill 2044 go forward, with amendments.
Those amendments had yet to be posted to the state Legislature’s website as of press time Thursday, but LAB committee member Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, South Kohala and North Kohala, said Thursday evening the change was minor, limited to the effective date of the act.
House Bill 2044 seeks unspecified monies for fiscal year 2018-19 for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to hire four full-time lifeguards to watch over the bay, also known as the Maniniowali section of Kekaha Kai State Park.
It would also provide $80,000 in general funds that fiscal year for a lifeguard tower, radios, protective equipment and an all-terrain vehicle.
In testimony submitted for Thursday’s hearing, DLNR Chairperson Suzanne D. Case reiterated the department’s support for posting lifeguards at the North Kona beach, but also pressed that funding — in addition to what the department already seeks in its supplemental budget request to cover cost increases for its current four lifeguard contracts with the counties — is “absolutely necessary.”
Staffing the four positions would cost about $340,355 annually, she stated.
Attempts to secure lifeguards at Kua Bay have been pursued a handful of times over the years. Last year, a similar House bill made it to the Senate, but stalled when it did not secure a necessary committee hearing. It was carried over to the 2018 state Legislature. Had the committee recommended passage of the bill, it would have gone to a vote by the full Senate, and if passed there, to the governor for his signature.