|Hele-On Bus will soon see fees between 50 cents and a dollar per ride,|
but free to students and kupuna.
MAYOR BILLY KENOI became the first mayor on this island to give a state of the county address. Held yesterday in both Kona and Hilo, the address reviewed his experience with tough times and cutting the county budget. When he took office the budget was $403 million a year but has been chopped to $376 million. The county has 180 fewer workers, and 125 vacant positions that were eliminated. He said the county is able to make it through a harsh economy only with cooperation from the community, staff and the county council.
THE FREE HELE-ON BUS TRANSPORTATION is the pride of Kenoi, but he said buses will soon cost between 50 cents and a dollar per ride, with kupuna and students probably still riding for free. Charging a small fee for the bus could bring in some .75 million dollars, he said. The Hele-On Bus has more then 1.2 million riders a year, and the county will continue to expand the bus routes, said the mayor.
|Mayor Billy Kenoi|
TO SAVE MONEY AND BOLSTER CONSTRUCTION, the mayor said the building permit process has been streamlined. In the past, permitting has taken up to a year. A new procedure, called one-stop review, puts the various department representatives together in a conference room to go over an application at the same time. Combined with new computer software, the permitting time has been reduced to a month with cooperation from the state Department of Health, he said.
SPENDING MONEY ON YOUTH is very important, the mayor said, with every dollar invested saving $7 to $11 in the future. He has kept parks and recreation facilities open during furlough Fridays.
RENEWABLE ENERGY, AGRICULTURE and the visitor industry are three of the top priorities from the mayor. He said the goal of the county is 100 percent energy self-sufficiency.
He noted that there are now 100 kilowatts of photovoltaic power being produced at the county building and 250 kilowatts of photovoltaic at West Hawai`i Civic Center. The West Hawai`i voltaics are saving the county $60,000 a year and will sell excess energy back to the utility company.
Kenoi said he wants to invite the energy ministers and tourism ministers to the Big Island during the next Asia Pacific Economic Conference to be held in Honolulu.
He also talked about a U.S. Travel China summit to be held on the Big Island in October.
TO SHOW OFF THE BIG ISLAND, the mayor discussed the establishment of such events as world cliff diving championships and world standup paddle board championships.
YESTERDAY KA`U WON their last season game versus HAAS, 2-0, to advance to the BIIF playoffs on Feb. 8. Brian Simmons scored first, with Moses Espaniola adding the second goal off an assist from Derrick Medeiros-Garo. Goalie Tyler Atwood shut out the HAAS defense.
|Volunteers look out to sea to count whales.|
AN ANNUAL WHALE COUNT takes place tomorrow. The count, which begins at 8 a.m., provides important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the islands. To sign up, call 888-559-4253.