KAILUA-KONA — Two months after a news article highlighted frustrations with security issues and businesses downtown, the Kailua Village Business Improvement District offered its status report to the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee.
It’s an annual report KVBID is required to submit, although the last one before Tuesday was in 2008 — an omission that was also brought to light in the Sept. 30 West Hawaii Today article.
The report includes a statement of operation, a financial report for the previous year, and anticipated surplus or deficit from the preceding assessment year and any new rate or method of assessment for the next year.
The article detailed how businesses within the district were displeased with the lack of security that was supposed to be provided by KVBID.
Those revelations prompted the council to call KVBID president Jane Clement and Ross Wilson of public affairs firm Current Events before the committee to submit the missing financial reports and provide updated information on efforts made to address the merchants’ concerns.
“The article brought light to a lot of things that we all need to do a little better,” Wilson said.
One of the things the district was going to address was better outreach by going door to door, getting information to the people working in the village as to what KVBID is all about.
“All of us, and I mean all of us, need to do a better job in looking at how we find solutions with the homeless issue,” he said.
Wilson talked about working collaboratively with the police department and others in finding solutions “so we can start to peel away the process.”
“We’re looking at both short-term and long-term solutions not only in the village but in our community,” Wilson said.
Hawaii County Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, who represents the area encompassed by KVBID, questioned Wilson and Clement about the use of Block by Block, a mainland company that is paid to provide security, janitorial and landscape maintenance in the village.
Some merchants in the news article said the security problems in the village seemed to increase after the mainland company took over duties from a local company that used to have the job a few years ago.
Wilson said the mainland company was selected over the previous local contractors because of their expertise in serving business improvement districts nationwide and efficiency in combining the security, landscaping and janitorial services under one contract.
“It’s not the mission of the KVBID to solve the homeless issue, but collaboration with government and other nonprofit agencies is the pathway to seek solutions to these community issues,” Wilson said.
“Unfortunately the homeless problem will continue to grow. We all need to do more to combat poverty and provide needed services including housing options, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment programs,” Wilson said.
He said KVBID is doing its part.
“We are increasing the security patrols and they will now run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Block by Block is redesigning their uniforms to be more visible and we put together a small ad-hoc street people solutions committee to come up with short-term solutions to the homeless issue,” he said.
KVBID was formed after a 2007 county ordinance created and funded the nonprofit organization. Parcels of land within the district are assessed a fee through their property taxes to fund the organization.
The district is comprised of two zones in the village from Makala Boulevard to Honl’s Beach. Zone 1 encompasses part of the Old Industrial Area, Alii Drive, and portions of Palani Road to Henry Street. That zone is supposed to receive priority safety and maintenance coverage.
The ordinance states the District Association is to provide information and safety officers trained by HPD and qualified security officials who may patrol by foot, bicycle or motorized vehicle seven days a week and will work through a communications network, which includes HPD and private landowners.
The September article solicited strong reaction from government officials, stakeholders and the general public. The article began with an eye witness account from a couple of people who detailed a brutal assault in broad daylight near the seawall adjacent the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Wilson and Clement also used the report to highlight what improvements KVBID has accomplished.
Wilson said KVBID transformed historic Kailua Village with its clean and safe initiatives, marketing, branding and special events to the vibrant place that it is today.
“You might not remember, but over 10 years ago visitors were directed to turn left after leaving Kona airport, not bother to come into town, just stay on the Kohala Coast because of the overall appearance of the Village,” Wilson said.
He said KVBID developed interpretive signs highlighting the area’s cultural heritage, designed year round banners that branded the village, created event banners to promote iconic events including Kamehameha Day celebration, The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Canoe Races, and the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
The KVBID promoted and funds Kokua Kailua open marketplace on Alii Drive, which Wilson said draws a crowd in excess of 5,000 and encourages locals and tourists to the village to buy local.
Wilson said KVBID supports the Kona Trolley which now enjoys a ridership of 100,000 passengers.
He detailed other accomplishments KVBID has achieved including a smartphone app for access to the culture and history of the village.
He said in testimony that all of this has resulted in various accolades and awards.
Clement testified KVBID’s vision is to make Kailua Village a model sustainable community that is a better place to invest, work, live and play. Its vision is to work cooperatively to improve and maintain the physical appearance and aesthetics of public rights of way, open spaces and parks, by increasing cleanliness and security so to attract long-term sustainable business and community activity.
But improvement is the goal, the leaders said.
Wilson noted Alii Drive and Pawai Place are the two focus areas to cleanup homeless activity.
He said the committee worked to landscape the entrance to The Friendly Place with boulders to discourage the campsite.
“Recently we met with the department of Health and advocated for mental health, drug and alcohol treatment facility with stabilization beds at the former judiciary site in Kealakekua,” Wilson continued.
They’re also working collaboratively with the police department, recently meeting with Chief Paul Ferreira and Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Bugado.
“I am happy to report renewed commitment including a community police officer who is assigned to Kailua Village,” Wilson said. “I think it’s important to stress the police department has been diligent in their efforts to rid the village of the criminal element and KVBID is supportive and thankful for their efforts.”
“It is challenging to sometimes have a light shone on us on for the things that are not quite where we would like to have them be,” said Villegas, thanking Clement and Wilson for taking the opportunity to turn the situation into growth and communication and connection.
“Since the article we are very pleased with the forward progress we have made,” Clement said. “We have made a concerted effort to reach out to people and the response has been very positive.”