Hawaii County request for $680 million detailed

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Fissure 8 feeds the river of lava July 19 in Leilani Estates.

HILO — Hawaii County has increased the price tag of its draft Kilauea disaster recovery plan to $680 million as administrators begin to make their pitch to lawmakers.

The proposal, which remains a work in progress, goes beyond providing housing for those displaced by the eruption or relocating farmers. It also seeks to create new or improved economic centers in the underserved district, and a redevelopment agency with authority to make it happen.


Roy Takemoto, an executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said the intent is to take the opportunity to make Puna a more “sustainable” place to live.

“Because right now, it’s substandard subdivisions,” he said, “and awful traffic. And if we just threw people into the existing pattern of development, we’re just going to exacerbate that situation.”

The bulk of the funding is expected to come from federal sources, assuming the recovery grants are approved, he said. The state could be asked to chip in a net amount of $150 million, with the county contributing $35 million based on the most recent estimates, he said.

But lawmakers aren’t giving the county the green light yet for a special session of the Legislature, which Takemoto said needs to be held before October. Otherwise, the requests would have to wait until the 2019 regular session.

During a meeting Monday, leaders in the Legislature and representatives from Hawaii Island met with county officials to discuss the recovery proposal.

State Sen. Kai Kahele, D-Hilo, said the legislators told Kim they need more information before convening a special session that would be needed to approve more aid. He said the county was given two weeks to come back with more information about what it needs in the short-term for funding and how it has spent the $12 million Gov. David Ige provided for disaster response.

“I think the basic bottom line is the Legislature wants to help,” Kahele said. “In what shape or form, we’re not sure. We’re waiting for the county to tell us what they need.”

There were concerns that legislators who represent the disaster area weren’t involved early enough in the process, he said.

“The communication between the county administration and the legislators, especially the area legislators, up to this point has not been good,” Kahele said.

Takemoto said the county wanted to present a fuller picture before bringing everyone to the table.

“I think the first thing was to have something that everybody could give feedback on,” he said.

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara said there are still pieces missing. Late last week, County Council members received a spreadsheet with proposals for how the $680 million would be spent, but she said it left a lot of questions unanswered.

“There’s still a lot of questions about what we are going to do with this money and how it’s going to be applied,” O’Hara said. “I don’t really see a way to pitch this plan unless we have a little more detail.”

Takemoto acknowledged that it remains a work in progress, and that some figures, such as the number of permanent housing units, aren’t settled yet. He called the spreadsheet a “very rough draft.”

“All we’re asking for is the tools to help us do this work,” Takemoto said. “The actual plan is to come. We need the money, the expertise to engage in the planning.”

The ‘future of Puna’

Kim has called the recovery plan the “future of Puna.”

The proposal, according to the spreadsheet provided to council members, doesn’t seem to fall short of that ambition.

The post-disaster wish list includes funding for everything from transitional and permanent housing for evacuees; the formation of a redevelopment agency to guide recovery in Puna and other areas impacted by the eruption; agricultural lots and seedlings for displaced farmers; the purchase of inundated properties at pre-eruption values; and even planning for Banyan Drive redevelopment and expansion of the Bayfront trails in Hilo.

Takemoto said the Hilo projects are intended to help the island recover economically, but are probably the lowest priority.

The permanent housing solutions include development of a town center in Hawaiian Paradise Park and infrastructure improvements for Keaau town, with evacuees given preference for housing that would go with both projects. If not enough evacuees choose those options, the units would be used as affordable housing, Takemoto said.

Transitional housing units would be built on county land next to the Panaewa Equestrian Center.

Takemoto said these ideas will not just take money, but also a lot of community dialogue to make happen.

One issue that remains undecided is whether the county should buy lots that have been inundated or isolated by lava or other properties in Puna’s Lava Zone 1.

Takemoto said no decisions have been made about that issue, including whether purchases should be mandatory or voluntary if they happened. Kim has dismissed talk of stopping construction in the area, calling it “counterproductive.”

But buying lots is an option the county hasn’t shut the door on completely. The spreadsheet identifies $189 million to purchase properties.

Takemoto said that amount is based on the cost of purchasing land at 100 percent of the pre-disaster value for properties that are inundated or isolated, and for the remaining properties in Leilani Estates.

“That shouldn’t be interpreted that way,” Takemoto said, when asked if that means the county is considering relocating all Leilani residents.

“Whether or not that happens, we put that number in anyway,” he said.

Takemoto acknowledged the county is aiming high when it comes to recovery.

“If we weren’t doing anything or not doing as much as we are, I think it’s just lost opportunity,” he said. “Status quo is easy, but to seize the opportunity to make things better, that’s what we would lose.”

Draft recovery plan highlights

Response ($145 million)

— $10 million, Highway 11 bypass

— $120 million, overtime for 60 months

Transitional housing ($26.79 million)

— $5 million, construction of 100 units

— $2.5 million, Section 8 housing vouchers

— $15 million, “Package plant”

Permanent housing, Keaau ($70.45 million)

— $48 million, waste water treatment plant

— $10 million, new water well

— $5 million, 50 housing units

— $3 million, roads

Permanent housing/town center, Hawaiian Paradise Park ($24.9 million)

— $10 million, water lines to town center

— $5 million, septic systems

— $3 million, roads to town center

— $3 million, site development

Keonepoko housing/agriculture ($29.75 million)

— $10 million, water

— $3 million, roads

— $5 million, wastewater

— $5 million, 50 housing units

Economic recovery ($31.45 million)

— $12 million, emergency loans for farmers, ranchers

— $10 million, Hilo Bayfront trails

— $1.5 million, Banyan Drive redevelopment studies

— $2 million, Pahoa parking

— $3.85 million, land clearing for farm, nursery relocation

Infrastructure ($143.75 million)

— $71 million, road improvements

— $66 million, Keaau police and fire relocation; transit hub; school replacement; park replacement

Department of Health ($6.3 million)

— $1.5 million, site development for air quality monitors

— $4.2 million, salaries and wages

Impact area ($197.65 million)

— $189 million, property acquisition in Lava Zone 1

— $5 million, visitor support facility

Redevelopment agency ($9.01 million)


— $8.58 million, salaries and wages

*Figures from spreadsheet presented to County Council members.

  1. Pest Outwest August 15, 2018 12:32 am Reply

    “Because right now, it’s substandard subdivisions”

    Yeah, that’s a good idea, let’s put more housing in the path of lava. Because surely after the lava flows of 1955, 1960 and now 2018, it’s not going to happen again.

    Here’s an even better idea, how about we not put $680M into the hands of a proven inept bureaucracy, and spend . . . zero. Wait a couple years until it’s clear what’s happening with the volcano, and then carefully rebuild some tourist facilities, a legitimate use of public money.

    As far as spending hundreds of millions on private enterprise, that’s none of our business. I’m sorry people lost homes, but it was their choice to build homes on the tracks, and surprise, a train came along. If anything, the government should block further development in what is clearly a high-risk area for further activity.

    1. Scooby August 15, 2018 4:22 am Reply

      It went from $550 million to $680 overnight. These inept so called leaders want to spend almost a billion dollars of tax dollars on improving private subdivisions? What did we expect from Harry Kim, who by the way will benefit as a property owner. Didn’t Nancy Crawford just say in an article that the county spent only 5.1 million on OT? So why ask for 120 million for OT for 60 months? What in the world is Harry Kim doing?

      1. ypupule August 15, 2018 8:02 am Reply

        Thinking the projected 60-month OT cost is based on the $5.1M they spent for 2.5 months (beginning of May thru mid-July), which is roughly $2M per month… so $120M for 60 months… ? Wonder how the numbers pencil out when compared to hiring more people, even if only on temporary/contract/emergency-hire bases?

  2. guest August 15, 2018 3:25 am Reply

    Completely Insane! But expect no less from people who only know how to spend money, other peoples money! Hopefully the state and feds have some common sense.

    1. Pest Outwest August 15, 2018 4:39 am Reply

      The state and feds have some common sense? Hopefully you were leaving out nutbar Tulsi and The Donald? I think the best you can hope for is that no one wants to spend money in a place that doesn’t generate any political support. I mean, what are they going to do if the government ignores Puna? Vote Republican??

      1. Big ideas August 15, 2018 5:41 am Reply

        Vote Republican…that would be a nice change ….send the Plantation owners a clear message.

      2. guest August 15, 2018 6:00 am Reply

        State/Feds spending this kind of money in a place where political support means nothing is exactly my idea of “hopefully having common sense”. Government at any level knows no other form. I’m guessing this is just another liberal, Utopian pipe dream put forth by the incompetents at Hawaii County. They cannot even pay for normal day to day expenses without raising every tax and fee. When the funding sources are explained in depth, hopefully it will be shouted down but nothing is out of the question here, a place where bad ideas actually sound good to many.

      3. KonaDude August 15, 2018 7:25 am Reply

        We need to build a rail system from Oahu to Puna with that money!!

        1. Pest Outwest August 15, 2018 8:46 am Reply

          With that money you could build a rocket ship shuttle.

  3. Big ideas August 15, 2018 5:39 am Reply

    $680 M is a lot for Auntie and Uncle to skim off the top….Hawaiian style!

  4. CongressWorksForUs August 15, 2018 6:46 am Reply

    ‘Kim has called the recovery plan the “future of Puna.” ‘

    Until Kilauea decides otherwise.

    This request is pure insanity.

    1. Bigislandfarmer August 15, 2018 9:59 am Reply

      Open the covered roads (eventually), pay for past overtime expenses, build housing and support those displaced. Any request beyond that is corrupt and criminal.

  5. KonaRich August 15, 2018 6:53 am Reply

    Maybe now would be a good time to kick these cans down the road.
    Those redevelopment agencies have money pit written all them.

    1. Buds4All August 16, 2018 4:41 am Reply

      Can see that a MILE away!

  6. ypupule August 15, 2018 8:53 am Reply

    The 800-lb gorilla in the room would seem to be the $189M for acquisition of Lava Zone 1 properties. Tackling that one issue alone seems like too much to handle –yet even the “do-nothing” alternative is not really an option. Just the administrative and legal fees associated with whatever they do will be huge. Hilo boy Kirk Caldwell will be nicely positioned to benefit from the messy aftermaths of both the volcano and rail disasters when he returns to his real estate/finance law practice.

  7. angkoldoy August 15, 2018 9:02 am Reply

    In a democracy, you get the type of government you deserve.

    A surcharge on any business that gets a dime of that money. An additional tax on those that built in the lava zone and receives any of this money

  8. KonaLife August 15, 2018 9:45 am Reply

    This, of course, means that any natural event that occurs on the island will require the County to jump in and cover the loses of all individuals and businesses. I can’t wait to see the high-end homeowners want their $10 million per home’s loses covered if there is a another lava flow or, I would guess, hurricane or earthquake. Makes sense, though, as one of those lots does pay more property tax that 30-50 Puna lots with homes. Guess we’re all now on the hook for anyone’s loses, and individual responsibility (not building in a Lava 1 zone, having proper insurance, ect) are no longer concerns. We should all just take the insurance off our homes, as Uncle Kim will make it right!

  9. Buds4All August 15, 2018 9:48 am Reply

    Looked on the spreadsheet like they were rebuilding the Volcano Fire House twice? Did I read that wrong?

    1. Pest Outwest August 15, 2018 1:56 pm Reply

      I’m not sure, but it would make sense. The first one is bound to be built incorrectly, and after a big scandal were nobody gets fired, they’ll have to build it again. May as well anticipate the inevitable.

    2. ypupule August 16, 2018 2:56 pm Reply

      Maybe they know something we don’t… ?

  10. Bigislandfarmer August 15, 2018 9:56 am Reply

    Corruption Kim is at it again! No wonder he broke his own rules and endorsed Ige. This is more than the annual budget for the island! I live in Zone 2 and if lava takes my land the County should NOT be buying it out at inflated levels. I knowingly took the risk. What on earth is money going to Banyan drive for? So many questions. Kim chose specifically to exclude ALL Puna legislators at every level from having any input into this. No special session and not a penny for anything not directly tied to the eruption! $70 million for roads and they still can’t get us 4 lanes from Pahoa to Shower Dr?

  11. joedriver August 15, 2018 8:01 pm Reply

    Based on the cost of the just finished harbor to airport road in Kona, 120M, they will get about 30 miles of new road Ha ha there goes everything else. And why Hilo gets anything ?

  12. antifaHI August 15, 2018 8:45 pm Reply

    One doesn’t charge $120 mil for ‘overtime’ when catastrophe hit. It’s insane to buy for $189 mil fresh lava when it may get covered again in a few months.

    1. Buds4All August 16, 2018 4:45 am Reply

      This is why you put private industry incharge. Also why not just hire temp workers and get it done faster while not lining the pockets of the county employees? The math is fairly simple 1.5 X wages equates to 140% ish of the current workforce!

  13. Santas Claus August 16, 2018 8:07 am Reply

    You guys should actually read the article before commenting…

    Note that some this development is on Shipman land.

    Beware of Shipman (aka, Bill Walters and Ashley fanboy) making big $$$ off this

  14. Santas Claus August 16, 2018 8:09 am Reply

    Note that some this development is on Shipman land.

    Beware of Shipman (aka, Bill Walters and Ashley fanboy) making big $$$ off this.

  15. Mac August 16, 2018 1:18 pm Reply

    Dear Kim,

    My house is perfect but yet you people keep us out of our homes for our so called safety?

    You are just evil for putting people like us through this in the name of money.

    How about letting the one that can pick up the pieces actually pick them up.

    You should be ashamed of yourself

  16. Ernest T Bass September 6, 2018 12:02 pm Reply

    County NEWS once again NOT mentioned in the Hilo newspaper.
    Once again the GLENWOOD PARK is closed….WHY?????
    Because they are stealing water tank parts and pooping in the water. again!
    It was just about 2 months ago these drug dealers did the very same thing.
    Do US all a favor BULLDOZE this Druggie Pit Stop.
    It is worthless to the taxpaying public.
    Another $6000 Taxpayer dollars going to clean the Human Feces out of the water tank.
    The Public NEVER gets to use their own park…..it is reserved for Drug Dealers, thieves and Water tank

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