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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Solid Waste Division Chief Mike Kaha and Mayor Mitch Roth untie the maile with Kahu Kimo Awai leading the blessing at the vastly expanded Wai'ōhinu Recyling & Transfer Station. Photo by Julia Neal

A BLESSING OF THE GREATLY EXPANDED RECYCLING & TRANSFER STATION was held last Friday, June 9 at Wai'ōhinu. It celebrated the end of construction and the May 1 soft opening of the improved county facility. It serves southernmost Hawai'i Island communities of Wai'ōhinu, Nā'ālehu, Discovery Harbour, Green Sands, Mark Twain and South Point. 
    The project involved building out new facilities for dumping at the lower end of the site and constructing a circular one-way road for ease-of-use and improved traffic flow. See story at http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2023_04_27_archive.html.
Ramzi Mansour, Director of Environmental Management
for Hawai'i County. Photo by Julia Neal
     Attendees included Kahu Kimo Awai who blessed the facility, Mayor Mitch Roth, Department of Environmental Management Director Ramzi Mansour, Deputy Director Brenda Iokepa-Moses, Solid Waste Division Chief Michael Kaha, County Council Member Michelle Galimba, Environmental Commission member Lee McIntosh, and representatives of the Department of Parks & Recreation, Hawai'i Fire Department and  SSFM, the engineering consulting and construction management company that handled the job. Praise went to Loeffler Construction, which built the facility. 
    Iokepa-Moses sent out a big mahalo to former County Council Chair Maile Medeiros David who worked on the project during her four terms in office.
     Solid Waste Division Chief Kaha said he is very proud of the place. 
      Kaʻū's County Council member joked, "I kind of miss the old dump.... it's been forever, backing up to that thing, or carrying trash to that thing. It's kind of funny too because when I was thinking about running (for Council), should I run? What should my theme be? Everybody is like, well, you know, obvious one is fix the dump, cause that's what everybody really cared about." Galimba also gave credit to Maile David, saying the project was well on its way when Galimba took office. Galimba thanked those who attended and the county "from everyone in Kaʻū."
      The Director of Environmental Management noted that sustainability and environmental protection are top priorities for the mayor. He said there are many challenges, including recycling. "China stopped taking our products." He vowed that the County will work more on recycling, including energy conversion.
     Mansour praised those who work at the 21 transfer stations in the County of Hawai'i. "They work for you - the citizens." He noted that during holidays the supervisors and managers help out by taking the trucks on their routes.
The new Wai'ōhinu Recycling & Transfer station.
Photo by Annie Bosted
  Mayor Mitch Roth also praised the hardworking employees in the field of solid waste. "A lot of people don't really give them the due course. Really oftentimes a thankless job. People don't really understand how hard these guys are working... These guys really put in a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of heart."
     He said the county is investing in equipment, particularly new trucks. 
     He said the County's vision is to have a "sustainable Hawai.....the goal is to have our keiki raise their keiki here and for their keiki to raise their keiki on this island." He pointed to the need for more affordable housing, more quality jobs. "We also look at energy and affordability." The mayor noted that Hawai'i has the highest gas and electricity cost and is looking at creating hydrogen fuel from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities.
   Turning to the Wai'ōhinu Recycling & Transfer Station's acres of land with an ocean view, the Mayor said it is the "best looking landfill" and the absolute "best on the island." He noted that improving infrastructure will continue and that Kaʻū's council member comes to his office about every two months and talks about the need for infrastructure.     
   The mayor said that often times "we think that this part of the island is forgotten," and vowed to continue work in Kaʻū, including further improving the transfer stations at Ocean View and Miloli'i and upgrading water infrastructure to help with affordable housing. He also said he is very proud of the Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Services, Brenda Iokepa-Moses who lives in Kaʻū. 
     Kahu Kimo Awai, with his own roots in Wai'ōhinu, gave the blessing in Hawaiian and English asking attendees to "preserve, protect, make good." He led the pa, clapping three times, each for Past, Present and Future and led the untying of the ti lei by Mike Kaha and the Mayor. See the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMwbd8j7jgs.
    The project involved building out new facilities for dumping at the lower end of the site and then building a circular one-way road for ease-of-use and improved traffic flow.  See more at http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2023_04_27_archive.html.

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THE TEAMSTERS STRIKE AGAINST HAWAI'I GAS IS OVER after two weeks. The union and Hawai'i Gas announced Wednesday evening that they reached an agreement. Hawai'i Gas unionized
employees totaling 217 statewide will receive a 15 percent wage increase over three years and the company will also pay 90 percent of the cost of health insurance.
    The strike lasted two weeks, forcing some restaurants and other businesses to close, including KaiLoki's in Ocean View, which reopened Wednesday afternoon with an alternate supplier for the gas for its stoves and ovens.
    Alicia Moy, President and CEO of Hawai'i Gas, said, “We are very glad to have come to an agreement with the Teamsters.This situation has been tough for everyone, and we know we will need to find ways to heal and come back together as one ʻohana. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to work and servicing our customers. We appreciate our customers’ patience as we dealt with the issues that arose during the strike and are committed to getting operations back to normal as soon as possible.” 

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THE FINAL WAIKAPUNA RESOURCES MANAGEMENT PLAN is available online at at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/1/edoc/123842/Waikapuna%20Resources%20Management%20Plan%20by%20Townscape_Final%202023.pdf. A hard copy of the plan will be available for review at the County's Hilo (25 Aupuni Street, Suite 1101) and Kona (74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Bldg C) offices by the end of June.
Waikapua Resources Management Plan is final and available
online and in hard copy. Photo by Andrew Hara

    Gabriel Sham, Associate Planner with Townscape, the consultancy which oversaw creation of the management plan said: "We would like to express our gratitude to the people of Kaʻū for welcoming us into their community and to all who provided manaʻo and contributed to the management plan."
    The Executive Summary of the Plan notes that "Waikapuna, similar to other large tracts of land on the Kaʻū coastline, has been subjected to the threat of development over the years. These threats grew considerable after the closure of the sugar plantation in the late 1990's. In 2019, Ala Kahakai Trail Association, a non-profit organization, acquired the 2,317 acre Waikapuna parcel in fee-simple for conservation and placed a conservation easement over the property to protect it from future development.
    "ATA's interest in preserving these lands is to protect the ancient trail network including the surrounding

cultural, historical and natural landscape by facilitating partnerships and creating community connections through stewardship and education. 
    "Funds raised from The Trust for Public Land; the State Legacy Land Conservation Program; the County Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund and private donors were utilized to purchase the property. The County holds the conservation easement over the property, which was acquired using monies from the County's Preservation Fund that is funded by two percent of the County's annual real property tax revenues. The conservation easement protects the property from future development."
    For further information on plan implementation or to get involved with stewardship efforts,  refer to Ala Kahakai Trail Association's Website at www.alakahakaitrail.org.
    For information on the County's Public Access, Open Space, Natural Resources Commission Preservation or Maintenance funds, contact Maxine Cutler via email at Maxine.Cutler@hawaiicounty.gov.

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