Focusing on the new year: Waimea January town meeting to spotlight 2019 community changes, challenges, opportunities

WAIMEA — Change, challenges and opportunities for the new year will be the focus of Waimea’s first town meeting in 2019 beginning promptly at 5:20 p.m. this Thursday in Waimea School Cafeteria.

Meeting highlights will include an overview of the 2019 Hawaii State Legislature with newly-elected State Rep. David Tarnas and re-elected State Sen. Lorraine Inouye. They will talk about legislative leadership re-organization due to the 2018 elections, committee assignments and community priorities, and will ask for input and recommendations on how best to communicate ideas, suggestions and concerns throughout the coming session that will begin Jan. 16.

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Newly sworn in 2019 Hawaii County Council re-elected members Val Poindexter and Dr. Tim Richards will discuss council organization, committee membership and community and island-wide priorities.

Insight and details will also be shared about an important new law called the “Our Care, Our Choice” Act, also known as the Death With Dignity law, passed by the 2018 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. David Ige that will go into effect tomorrow. Katherine Werner, executive director of North Hawaii Hospice, will discuss this new choice available as a palliative care option. She will review the carefully designed requirements mandated by the new law for an individual who must be first diagnosed with a terminal illness and determined to have six months or less to live. Werner also will introduce Katherine Cross, a long-time Waimea resident who is the hospice’s new volunteer manager.

Waimea’s Community Policing officers will provide an update on the spate of vandalism that rocked the community this past October and November, causing damage at Waimea Park, Waimea churches, schools, Ulu La’au Nature Park, businesses, the hospital, Firehouse Gallery and cars parked near Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope headquarters and the Waimea Senior Center.

Attendees will be introduced to Waimea’s new Family and District Court Judge Mahilani Hiatt, a long-time Waimea lawyer who may also be known in the community for her youth sports coaching. Judge Hiatt recently handled several high-profile cases including a trespassing incident involving 13 University of the Nations students and staff caught in a flash flood on Parker Ranch/Anna Ranch lands that required heroic, life-endangering rescue efforts by this island’s first responders.

Dennis Boyd will provide a quick overview of services and supports available to the community from the Hawaii Small Business Development Center.

A briefing will be provided on two airlines’ responses to the US Department of Transportation’s Request For Proposals to provide federally subsidized Essential Air Service (EAS) at Waimea-Kohala Airport for the residents of North Hawaii. Presentations will be shared by Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air. The discussion will include the airlines’ service proposals, costs and community “matches” now required by relatively new federal rules related to subsidized service to airports such as Kamuela’s that are less than 40 miles from a major hub.

“Waimea feels very strongly about wanting to do all we can to encourage the County, State and federal governments to work together with us to maintain the subsidy program to ensure that our Waimea airport is functioning and in top condition,” Patti Cook said, WCA’s president.

“We will not be voting on which of the two airlines should be selected by the USDOT; we leave this to individual residents to express their preferences and concerns,” she said. “But we will definitely be asking the County to again provide the essential ‘match.’ We are extremely grateful that the County Council and administration came through with a $20,000 subsidy for the past year, and hope to see this continue.”

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Community members are urged to attend the meeting to share their views, ask questions and be better prepared to communicate with lawmakers and the USDOT.

“The agenda is very full because all of these topics are time sensitive; we will start the meeting early – at 5:20 p.m. and it might run until 7:15,” Cook said.

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