County Council Update
It has been an amazing two months for me as I have been able to establish personal connections with many community members and community organizations, county, state and federal policymakers, as well as various County of Hawaii department directors. These connections, based upon the foundation and spirit of aloha, have provided me a tremendous opportunity to listen to the needs and concerns of our communities and its members, and to discuss critical pieces of legislation and/or focuses concerning North and South Kohala.
Most recently, the items that have risen to the top of discussion have involved wastewater management and resident safety concerns in Puako, the Hele-On bus schedule for District 9, the Tiny House proposed concept, various coastline and zoning concerns — from mauka to makai, and the county budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. These concerns are important to the constituents of District 9 and I am committed to listen, learn and attempt to build bridges toward solutions for the betterment of North and South Kohala.
Information garnered thus far are as follows:
Puako Wastewater Management
One of the biggest challenges before the County of Hawaii as a whole is wastewater management. How to afford good service with a relatively low population base is another level of challenge. I have met with and discussed this very topic with the Bill Kucharski, director of the County Department of Environmental Management, who attended the most recent Puako Community Association meeting. He heard the preliminary cost estimate and assured the sitting group that the county has a very tight budget, and that he had no information on any financial support available from the county toward their proposed project.
Hele-On Bus Service for District 9
In sitting with Tiffany Kai, administrator of the County Department of Mass Transit, and reviewing and understanding the budgetary reports for said department, it is clear to me that the bus fares collected cover only 1/10th of their operating budget. The cost for a single new bus is approximately $500,000, yet on any given day 23 buses are out on our roadways. When costs are broken down, the hourly rate to operate a single bus is approximately between $75-$100 per hour, depending on size of bus and route. Due to such costs and low ridership, the North Kohala/Waimea (Makapala Store) shuttle service ended its six-month pilot (temporary) program on Jan 31. With the calculated ridership for this route being 0-5 people on operation days, and the near $1,400 daily expense for this single route, Mass Transit was forced to make the decision that it was not feasible to continue said service.
Tiny House Concept
I understand this concept and it may be helpful in addressing homelessness and providing starter homes for young families. The concept could also help agricultural housing concerns in the near future. To that end, there will be a lot of groundwork to cover to get this accomplished, i.e. zoning codes. I aim to learn more about the various challenges and look for possible solutions, as well as carefully watch state legislation going forward.
In the near future the County Council will be addressing the county’s budget for fiscal year 2017-18; it will be a time where we go line by line to make certain that our residents have the opportunity to receive the best possible service from the county government and that our taxpayer dollars are used wisely. I am optimistic that this will be a meeting of the minds and we can agree to focus on the continued promotion and betterment of our island community.
I am honored to represent you and am humbled by this opportunity. I have enjoyed getting to know more of you and working with the communities as we seek solutions for District 9 and the overall good of Hawaii Island. Should you have a concern that you would like to bring to my attention or an organization that you would like for me to meet, do not hesitate to call my offices at either 961-8564 or 887-2069.