County administration talks budget, projects

KAILUA-KONA — A Hawaii County budget review held Thursday evening at the West Hawaii Civic Center was part numbers for future spending, part update covering ongoing projects and partly a look back on eight years of West Hawaii priorities. About 40 people showed up to hear Mayor Billy Kenoi and his department heads talk about some of the purposes for his proposed $462.9 million budget, which is up 5.5 percent from the current budget.

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KAILUA-KONA — A Hawaii County budget review held Thursday evening at the West Hawaii Civic Center was part numbers for future spending, part update covering ongoing projects and partly a look back on eight years of West Hawaii priorities. About 40 people showed up to hear Mayor Billy Kenoi and his department heads talk about some of the purposes for his proposed $462.9 million budget, which is up 5.5 percent from the current budget.

An extension of the Ane Keohokalole Highway from Hina Lani Street to Kaiminani Drive is in the permitting stage, Public Works Director Warren Lee said. While it is not clear when construction work will begin, the estimated $40 million job would be eligible for an 80 percent match of federal funds.

“If we can set aside $10 million that should cover it,” Kenoi said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can to prepare for (the extension).”

A 32-unit project of micro-residences at The Friendly Place in the Old Industrial Area will be completed by the end of October, said Susan Akiyama, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development. The complex, built of 40-foot shipping containers finished on the inside and outside and costing $2.5 million, will make housing and services available to the unsheltered population deemed to be most at risk and most chronically homeless.

“We are moving toward 24-7 service to address the homelessness challenge,” Kenoi said.

In July, the county’s Mass Transit Agency will begin individually-tailored transportation to those who can’t use the regular bus routes. The “paratransit” service will provide origin to destination service within one mile of the regular routes, said Tiffany Kai, director of the Mass Transit Agency. Eligibility screening will begin next month for people who cannot navigate the regular public transport system, Kai said.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is redoing the lighting at the ball fields in Kailua Park, as well as refurbishing tennis courts and court lighting, said Clayton Honma, director of the county Department of Parks and Recreation.

A redo of the floor is ongoing at the Hisaoka Gym in North Kohala, Honma said. Refurbished cabins at the Mauna Kea Recreation Area should be ready for use by September.

Community centers are planned for Pahala and Naalehu, and work is ongoing at the Waimea District Park, Honma said.

The budget has no tax increase, but there is a 7.9 percent increase in valuations, boosting revenue by $19.5 million, Kenoi said.

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Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, chair of the Finance Committee, said there are 13 proposed amendments to the capital improvement budget and one amendment to the operating budget. The Council will again take up the budget at a special session May 18, where members may shift funds between line items as long as the total remains balanced. The Council will have a second and final reading on June 1 and must approve a budget by June 30.

The review was sponsored by Community Enterprises.

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