About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Jan. 13, 2013

A nonprofit hospital corporation from Arizona has offered to take over management of Ka`u, Hilo, Kona
 and five other state-supported hospitals in Hawai`i. Photo by Julia Neal
KA`U HOSPITAL OPERATIONS may be transferred to an Arizona nonprofit hospital group, according to a report on Hawai`i News Now. The shift could include all eight of the Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation facilities, which are Hilo Medical Center; Kona Community Hospital; Ka`u, Kohala and Honoka`a hospitals; Maui Memorial Medical Center; and the small hospitals in Kula on Maui and on Lana`i.
      The nonprofit is called Banner Health, which owns 23 hospitals in seven states. It is making its first venture into Hawai`i with an “initial conceptual offer,” says the Hawai`i News Now story. According to sources reported by Hawai`i News Now, one element of the proposal is that Banner would pay no rent for the state-owned facilities and would be guaranteed an annual management fee.
      Sen. Josh Green, who started his medical career at Ka`u Hospital and now chairs the state Senate Health Committee, told Hawai`i News Now that the Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation “has a very large subsidy, and I think it’s good for us to look at ways to address whether we can control that subsidy or not.”

Teachers hold union signs near entrance to Pahala's public school
campus. Photo from HSTA members
HAWAI`I STATE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION plans to hold a rally on Thursday, Jan. 31 at the state Capitol to pressure the Legislature and governor to help settle the labor dispute between the union and the school system, which is a statewide entity with a state school board and administration operating within state government. The teachers are working under a mandate from the governor to keep the schools open after no contract was reached more than two years ago. Some teachers have taken to holding signs after school on chosen days near Na`alehu and Pahala public school campuses. 
      On the table are methods in which teacher and student evaluations are conducted, as well as pay, sick leave and other benefits. The teachers union walked away from what it called “meaningless mediation” in October, according to its website http://contractforthefuture.org. Negotiations were set to resume this weekend with HSTA making a new offer to the state.
      HSTA president Wil Okabe announced on the website: “Over the winter recess, we had the opportunity to meet with our teachers, focus groups and with surveys, which we will be sharing with our teachers and the public as well." Okabe said the new proposal will take into account the arbitration award in which “some United Public Workers members just won a 3.2 percent raise, on top of not having had to take the five-percent pay cut many other unions agreed to in negotiations, and UPW retained a better share of health premium costs.”

The open space on Pahala's school campus will be for public use, a gym
and disaster shelter. Other school campuses may be used by the state to
raise money by allowing commercial construction. Photo by Julia Neal
SCHOOL CAMPUSES may be the next target of state and private partnership development. According to this morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser story entitled Lawamakers Covet Land at Schools for Revenue, by Derrick DePledge, “Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would create an education-facilities trust that could lease out underutilized public school land for workforce housing or other commercial projects. The state would use the money from redevelopment to modernize public schools with broadband and other infrastructure that is part of the Information Age,” DePledge reports. 
      Ka`u High and Pahala Elementary School’s major open space is already scheduled for added construction – these buildings for public use, with public money. An $18 million gymnasium to be managed by the county Department of Parks & Recreation and by the schools, and also to serve as a regional disaster shelter, is funded, with permitting nearly signed. The site is fenced, and construction is expected to be completed in the next several years.
      The Star-Advertiser story says that “Gov. Neil Abercrombie has called for schools to be modernized in his ‘New Day’ agenda, and the concept is being driven by many of his key allies, including William Kaneho, his campaign manager and an attorney who leads the Hawai`i Institute for Public Affairs.” Kaneho was also the registered lobbyist hired by `Aina Koa Pono during its 2011 attempt to gain support from the Legislature and permission from the Public Utilities Commission to approve the contract that would help with financing for a diesel refinery it would build off Wood Valley Road above Pahala.
      See more on the development of school lands issue at www.staradvertiser.com.

Robbie Alm
LIQUID NATURAL GAS, imported from the mainland, could cut electricity bills and reduce dependence on foreign oil, according to a proposal from the electric utilities to the Public Utilities Commission. A story in Civil Beat by Sophie Cocke quotes Hawai`i Electric Co. vice president Robbie Alm, the spokesperson for the utility who made a presentation Thursday at the Hawai`i Energy Policy Forum. Alm said that LNG burns cleaner than oil and could save the utilities on O`ahu, Maui and the Big Island up to $1 billion that would otherwise have to be spent upgrading its power plants to meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on oil-fired generators. Without switching to LNG, the cost of upgrading old power plants would be passed along to customers, he told attendees of the forum. See more at www.civilbeat.com.

HERE IS MORE ON THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION’S publication of responses to questions asked by Life of the Land regarding the `Aina Koa Pono proposal to sell, at a fixed, undisclosed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel per year to be made in a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. Diesel would be extracted from biomass in 27 microwave units and sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, most of it trucked to the power plant near Kona airport. The proposal calls for higher electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island.
      Life of the Land compared the current `Aina Koa Pono proposal (AKP2) that offers the diesel at a lower price and the `Aina Koa Pono proposal (AKP1) rejected by the PUC in Sept. 2011: “The ratepayer impact for AKP2 over AKP1 appears to be around $100 million over 20 years.” Life of the Land asked, “Is this very roughly correct, that is, is it in the right ballpark? The electric companies said, “The ratepayer impact assumption … is close; it is approximately $124 million less for AKP2 compared to AKP1 over the 20-year term.”
      Life of the Land asked how this reduction was achieved. “That is, was it pulled out of the air by HECO or AKP, was it the result of savings in some input, was it the ability to get financing at a lower rate?” The utilities said the reduction is “primarily due to the AKP2 biodiesel price reduction over the AKP1 biodiesel price.” The utilities referred Life of the Land to Exhibit A of the application, which it said contains a section regarding contract and price negotiations that discusses the reasons AKP was able to offer a lower biodiesel price, but that exhibit is confidential and only available to the PUC and other parties and participants in the docket. It is not available to utility customers or the general public.
      Life of the Land also asked if pricing could go lower and still make the contract viable. “AKP is in early phases of the project development and, with the AKP Biodiesel Supply
      Contract’s fixed biodiesel price structure, AKP is taking a degree of risk on the economic viability of the project,” contended the utilities. “During AKP2 negotiations, AKP asserted that they could not further reduce the price and maintain the viability of the project.”
      Life of the Land asked what added due diligence the HECO Companies engaged in when they realized that AKP was willing to “shave such a large amount off the AKP1 contract costs? That is, did HECO come to the conclusion that perhaps the first contract was overpriced, and therefore did HECO set out to conduct further due diligence and analysis on the pricing?” The electric companies replied that they set out to renegotiate with AKP after the Commission did not approve AKP1, and a discussion of the AKP2 negotiations is in the confidential Exhibit A.
      When Life of the Land asked if publicly revealing the prices offered by each respondent to the biofuel RFP could put added pressure on individual companies to compete against each other and drive the cost down, the utilities said that publicly revealing fuel contract prices may or may not work in favor of negotiating lower fuel prices.
      “How can the Commission feel confident about biofuel pricing when the AKP1 and AKP2 pricing data are so far apart?” asked Life of the Land. The electric companies said they “believe the AKP2 biodiesel price is reasonable for the reasons set forth in their Application.”
      Complete responses to the Life of the Land’s questions, as well as other documents regarding the proposed contract, are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

Kai Ho`opi`i performs Wednesday evening.
KAI HO`OPI`I PRESENTS An Evening of Hawaiian Music Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Ho`opi`i, an Aloha Festivals Hawaiian falsetto contest winner, shares music of his `ohana from Kahakuloa, Maui. The free concert is part of Hawai`i Volcanoes’ ongoing Na Leo Manu, Heavenly Voices, presentations. Park entrance fees apply. 

VALENTINE VARIETY SHOW AUDITIONS are Thursday, Jan. 17 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. Open to all ages and talents, and all applicants and performers must be able to make one of the scheduled auditions, one mandatory dress rehearsal on Feb. 7 and 8 and show times, which will be either Feb 9 and 16 or Feb. 10 and 17. Acts for the show to be held at Volcano Art Center’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village should be no longer than five minutes. Acts can be music, dance, drama, comedy, magic, juggling, acrobatics or any other form of entertainment. Solo and group acts encouraged. $15 application fee per act waived for VAC members. For an application or more information, email julie@volcanoartcenter.org.