Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 |
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Aloha Everyone and Merry Christmas! I wanted to give you a brief update of some happenings in our county.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND SPEEDING
Our office has received several calls about concerns for speeding in North Kohala as well as Waikoloa Village. In discussing with the police, though they are aware of some of the concerns, having the manpower to enforce the speed limits is problematic.
Recently our North Kohala Community Police Officer Kapelieli Kauahikaua was able to borrow speed tracking devices that will be set up in the areas of concern. For North Kohala, some of the areas include Kynnersley Road and near Hawi town, and in Waikoloa Village in areas on and around Paniolo Drive. This equipment will measure a vehicle’s speed and time of day, giving an indication of what is actually happening in the area and when. With this information the police will be better able to manage the problem.
Our office is looking into the possibility of obtaining this type of equipment for our District 9 police stations that will help our officers enforce the speed limit in problem areas. Should you have any suggestions on locations where speeding should be tracked or addressed, please contact our office and/or your specific community police officers so we can work together to deter this ongoing problem.
ELECTRIFICATION OF MASS TRANSIT
I was invited by HELCO to attend a seminar on the electrification of mass transit on Nov. 9. As many of you are aware, our mass transit system has many problems and management has been lackluster. We have a fleet of more than 50 buses where only 50 percent are actually running.
The previous county council authorized a half million dollar study to come up with recommendations for route plans and management recommendations. I am with the understanding that a new director for our county mass transit department will be hired soon, and hopefully can quickly address the many concerns.
Our mass transit/bus system costs the county approximately $14 million a year to operate, with rider fares collected only amounting to approximately $1 million annually. Most of our buses are secondhand from the Honolulu bus system as new buses cost approximately $550,000 each.
As I stated, I was invited to attend a seminar on the use of all-electric buses. These buses are gaining traction in some areas in the United States, though their cost is substantially more depending on the model somewhere around $700,000-$750,000 each.
Whether these buses would even begin to fit the needs of the Big Island is still a question in my mind. The problem with the Big Island as we always say is that it is big. We have long runs for buses and if we were to use the Saddle Road, I am not yet convinced that these buses would have enough charge to do it. Though this type of class of buses does start to fulfill the desire to move away from fossil fuel, I am not convinced the technology is there for the Big Island.
We are trying to work with a few a companies, Proterra and RyD, to see about having them bring one of their buses to the Big Island at their expense to test it. Stay tuned.
KAMUELA AIRPORT AIRLINE SERVICE
As many of you have read, the federal subsidy keeping scheduled air service to the Kamuela airport is scheduled to be terminated in January 2018. The Waimea airport is just one of three in the nation under this specific program; the others I understand being in Colorado and Rhode Island.
Under this program, underserved areas receive financial assistance so a private airline can financially function, continuing service. With federal budget cuts, Waimea is slated to lose this funding unless an agreement can be reached concerning some financial support coming from local sources.
Representative Cindy Evans has championed this conversation in concert with Senator Lorraine Inouye and myself. We are still seeking a solution.
Waimea: The new water treatment plant for potable water for the greater Waimea area is entering into the final stages of construction and is anticipated to come online in the first quarter of 2018. This conversion will increase the current 2 million gallon per day (MGD) output to approximately 4 MGD using a membrane filtration plant process.
Kohala: Although a new well site in North Kohala exists, we are still years away from it coming online. There are logistical and budget issues that are still being worked out. Knowing full well that the limited water service limits additional housing being built, alternative solutions are being considered that might allow construction in some areas.
REAL PROPERTY TAX
Last summer when we were going through budget hearings and reviewing our revenues, adjustments were made to the real property tax rates. At that time, the county council stated that they wanted to go in and do a comprehensive overhaul/overview of the real property tax structure and tax rates.
The Real Property Tax division of the County Finance Department has been championing this process. Over the last several months they have been meeting with representatives from the different tax areas: agriculture, homeowner, resort, commercial, etc. The idea is to take a comprehensive look at all real property tax in concert with each other and not in a “silo” of each rate in itself. That process is ongoing, and I am told by constituents who are participating that the process is going well.
Comments from staff at the Real Property Tax division also see the process is working and great information is being garnered. The county council is eagerly anticipating the report which is due sometime in the first portion of 2018.
Through Dec. 15, our Waimea office will be a drop off location for donations to Big Island Giving Tree. Feel free to drop off new and unused items, i.e. diapers, twin sized (or larger) blankets and bedding, non-slip warm/fuzzy socks and basic necessities like laundry detergent, first aid supplies and toiletries. We are located at the back end of Parker Square, open 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays. Call 887-2069 should you have any questions on the delivery of items.
As always, it is a great privilege to continue to serve as your Councilman and I look forward to our future together.
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