Lab to fill LFA vacancy, budgetary slip delays hiring process

KAILUA-KONA — As little fire ants continue to swarm West Hawaii, the state inches closer to fortifying permanent reinforcements to combat the invasive species on the Big Island’s leeward side.

Included in last year’s budget was $200,000 in extra annual funding for Hawaii Ant Lab, a portion of which was earmarked for the creation of the lab’s first full-time position in West Hawaii.

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News of the allocation to develop the position was reported in April. But as of Friday, the University of Hawaii at Manoa had yet to advertise the job or form the panel that will select from qualified applicants to fill it.

Much of the delay can be chalked up to typical bureaucracy, explained Cas Vanderwoude, ant specialist at Hawaii Ant Lab.

“The state (human resources) system is a fair bit slower than you might think, so it takes a while for the positions to be created and advertised,” he said.

But in this case, there’s more to it than that.

The Hawaii Department of Budget and Finance made a mistake in the allocation process and funding was connected to the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Hawaii Ant Lab is affiliated with UH-Manoa.

Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-North Kona, said once such a mistake is made, it typically can’t be rectified until the next legislative session begins.

While the misallocation of the funding for Hawaii Ant Lab was not her mistake, Lowen explained that such missteps occur with some regularity.

“Honestly, it’s not that uncommon for this kind of thing to happen because we do have a relatively short legislative session that a lot gets crammed into,” she said. “There’s always something that falls through the cracks. It is frustrating because it does cause hold-ups.”

Vanderwoude reiterated that in the case of lab funding for a position in West Hawaii — where LFA have proliferated over the last five years, aggravating farmers, landscapers and homeowners alike — the delay caused by the Department of Budget and Finance’s confusion between colleges was not substantial.

“It wasn’t a big problem. … UH-Manoa and UHH just worked it out,” he explained. “It was part of the reason it took a little longer, but generally the system of creating a position and going through the hiring process within the state, because these are general fund positions, is a lot slower than it would be otherwise.”

Vanderwoude added he’s hopeful a candidate will be selected inside of six weeks, but stressed that’s not a definitive timeline and it could take longer.

“We’re at a point now where positions have been created and approved,” he said. “They’ll be advertised in the next couple weeks, I’m told.”

The second posting Vanderwoude referenced is Hilo-based and will also be funded by the new allocation. Interested candidates can look for the job postings through the university system and various job boards once the hiring process officially begins.

In the interim, Heather Forester, extension specialist at Hawaii Ant Lab, and others like her will continue to fill the West Hawaii void in LFA personnel.

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She said the new position will likely function as not only an extension specialist but will also conduct surveys at green waste disposal areas and ports of entry, along with performing ant identifications.

Those concerned they may have an LFA infestation are encouraged to contact Hawaii Ant Lab at (808) 315-5656. Information about LFA testing and treatment measures is provided on the lab’s website, which can be accessed at www.littlefireants.com.

  1. KonaDude January 29, 2019 5:39 am

    Sounds like the ants are smarter than the folks running the place, no surprise there( . Y . )


  2. Sara Steiner-jackson January 29, 2019 7:59 am

    Cheap peanut butter mixed with boric acid and a little food oil. Mix it up real smooth, put it back in the boric acid squeeze bottle and squeeze away. Be prepared for ant carcasses!


  3. metalman808 January 29, 2019 8:42 am

    Why don’t they use that money for eradication. Not to give to someones buddy that’s says yeah you got a ant problem. With all the money that goes towards the LFA no one ever come by my house asking questions if I have any ants. And I have gazillions of those LFA. Soon nobody will want things exported from Hawai.


    1. Springer Fyrberg Kaye January 30, 2019 11:12 am

      This might seem surprising, but state programs do ask you to make the monumental effort of picking up the phone to ask for help–which we then happily provide. We don’t just randomly knock on doors to ask if you need it. I mean, we would, but KonaDude is out there, somewhere, waiting to say something mean to us.


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