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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023

Kaʻū Rural Health Community Association played a major role in coordinating COVID vaccinations during the pandemic. The organization invites the public to its 25th anniversary this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pāhala Community Center. Founded
by Jessie Marques, it is known for health education, research and health delivery efforts. See more below.

A PUBLIC MEETING ON THE NĀ‘ĀLEHU SEWER PLAN will be held this Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at Nāʻālehu Community Center.
    The county Department of Environmental Management has updated the status of its large capacity cesspool closure projects on its website, https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/departments/environmental-management/pahala-naalehu/. The county encourages those affected to bookmark this site and view updates on Nāʻālehu and Pahala that are posted at least once a month. "The projects have similar milestones but are on separate timelines, so it's important not to get mixed up on which meeting is for what purpose." says the county statement.
    For Nāʻālehu, those who own a property in the affected area have received meeting notices along with wastewater treatment preference survey forms on green paper. The purpose of the Nāʻālehu meeting is to review the Preliminary Engineering Report and also collect input for the Nāʻālehu Draft Environmental Impact Document, which is still under development. The public is invited to bring up questions and engage with the county in a robust discussion. "We will be collecting your surveys at this meeting if you feel you have enough information to make your decision."
    Write comments to cohdem@hawaiicounty.gov with the subject line Nāʻālehu EID.”
    A statement on Wednesday from the County says, "In compliance with the federal consent order, the
County is engaging with the public to solicit feedback on the options explored in the Preliminary Engineering Report in preparation for the Draft Environmental Information Document. In late October 2023, public preference surveys to gather input on the four feasible options were mailed out to 194 lot owners in the LCC closure area." The Final Environmental Information Document is due to the EPA on October 22, 2024. The final deadline for the County to close the large-capacity cesspools is Dec. 31, 2027.

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FOR PĀHALA, THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL DOCUMENT FOR ITS NEW SEWER system has just been released and public comment is open until December 22. A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Pāhala Community Center.
    See the draft https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/DocView.aspx?dbid=1&id=126647&cr=1. Paper copies are being placed at the Pāhala Public & School Library. Write comments to cohdem@hawaiicounty.gov with the subject line "Pāhala EID".”
     The meeting will be held to answer questions, to gather the final surveys (on blue paper) sent to owners and all additional comments on the Draft EID. The Final EID will be released in early 2024.
Recordings of the meetings will be posted to https://www.youtube.com/@cohenvironmentalmanagement within a day or two as technology permits.
    The statement released Wednesday from the county says, "In compliance with the federal consent order, the County has released a Draft Environmental Information Document (Draft EID) for public review and comment. The Draft EID explores environmental impacts for each of the four feasible options. All options remain under consideration. Surveys were mailed out to 174 lot owners in the LCC closure area. The
County urges maximum public input and return of the completed surveys as the Final EID is anticipated to identify a preferred option."
    The Final EID is due to be submitted to EPA by January 27, 2024. The final deadline for the County to close the large-capacity cesspools is July 21, 2026.
      Slides from a meeting in August on Nāʻālehu and Pāhala plans are available at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/docView.aspx?dbid=1&id=125446&cr=1     
    The next district-wide semi-annual public informational outreach meeting will be scheduled in February 2024.

UTILITY SCAM AWARENESS DAY is the announcement from Hawaiian Electric regarding Wednesday, Nov. 15. The statement says "‘Tis the season for scammers to prey on utility customers" and that Hawaiian Electric wants to remind customers that it doesn’t accept payment via cryptocurrency, prepaid debit cards, gift cards or money transfer.
    "Utility scams tend to increase over the busy holidays and in the aftermath of disasters. In some recent cases, customers were told they would have their electric service shut off immediately unless they went to a Bitcoin kiosk to make a payment. Last month, a scammer mimicked Hawaiian Electric’s customer service caller ID and contacted an Oʻahu business. The caller told the customer his account was ‘past due,’ and service would be disconnected within two hours unless he paid $1,400 in Bitcoin. The caller directed
the customer to a nearby gas station and gave him step-by-step instructions to ʻpay his bill’ by depositing cash into a Bitcoin machine. The customer fed $500 into the machine and told the caller that was all he had. When the same man called back a half hour later demanding more money, the customer contacted Hawaiian Electric.
     “No one wants to be without electricity, especially over the holidays, and scammers use the threat of disconnection to strike fear in our customers,” said Brendan Bailey, Hawaiian Electric vice president of customer service. “If you get a call, text, email or letter demanding immediate payment by Bitcoin, gift cards, money transfer or prepaid debit cards, it’s a scam.”
    For fraud awareness tips, visit hawaiianelectric.com/stopscams. To report suspicious activity, go to hawaiianelectric.com/reportfraud. Hawaiian Electric offers the following tips:
• If a caller says your account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam. Don’t be fooled by the caller ID, which can be manipulated to show a legitimate phone number.
• If someone from ‘Hawaiian Electric’ contacts you and demands immediate payment by methods not listed at hawaiianelectric.com/paymentoptions, it’s a scam. – more – Hawaiian Electric customers urged to
be on alert for scams during the busy holiday season.
• If the caller asks to meet you in person to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.
• If you receive an email urging you to click on an embedded link or attachment to pay a bill, think before you click. It’s likely a scam.
• If someone shows up at your home or place of business claiming to be from Hawaiian Electric, ensure that the person is wearing official attire with a logo, driving a properly labeled vehicle, and carrying company identification. When in doubt, call customer service.

HAWAI‘I POLICE DEPARTMENT RELEASED ADVICE ON PROTECTION FROM HOLIDAY SCAMS AND FRAUDS in a statement issued Wednesday. "With the holiday shopping season getting underway, Hawai‘i Island police are offering shopping and mail safety tips to prevent Hawai‘i Island residents from being victimized."
Mail Safety Tips:
    Install locked mailboxes at your residence to deter theft of incoming mail.
    Drop off outgoing mail at a secure United States Postal Service drop box, or post office.
    Opt for delivery alerts via text or email from the company you ordered from, so your package won’t be sitting on your doorstep for an extended period.
    If possible, install and use a door camera to help deter thieves and provide video surveillance to police should you fall victim to a porch pirate.
Stay Safe While Shopping
    Keep your purse or handbag with you at all times.
    Leaving handbags or purses unattended in shopping carts, even for only a few seconds, can provide thieves an opportunity to steal your handbag and its contents. Shoppers should maintain their bag on their person, with the strap placed over their shoulder and the bag positioned on the opposing side and with the enclosures zippered or snapped closed.
    Remain vigilant of your surroundings and activities when out shopping. This also applies when shoppers are transferring items from their shopping cart to their vehicle. If you plan to do more shopping, it is a good practice to conceal your purchases in your vehicle so it doesn’t draw the attention of would-be thieves.
    Make sure you always secure your vehicle, do not leave valuables in your vehicle, and whenever possible, park in well-lit areas.
ATM Safety
    While using an ATM to withdraw money or make deposits, make sure you conceal your PIN (personal identification number), as well as use your body to conceal your screen activities.
    When at an ATM machine, immediately place your cash withdrawal in your bag, wallet, or pocket prior to leaving the ATM. Many ATMs have mirrors that allow users to see individuals behind them and it’s suggested that you use them while using the ATM. 
    Always be aware of your surroundings. If you witness suspicious activity or may have been a victim of theft or fraud, report it immediately by calling the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

7,500 printed, 5,000 in the mail.