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Friday, January 12, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Jan. 11, 2024

Rain and sun have punctuated this week with such scenes as this one captured by Janice Wei who
photographs for Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. See weather warning below.  NPS photo

Mayor Mitch Roth. Photo by Tim Wright
MAYOR MITCH ROTH WILL RUN FOR REELECTION. He declared his candidacy during an event at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo on Thursday. He asked the community "to continue dreaming together” and talked about his vision for a Sustainable Hawaiʻi Island that builds on the achievements he made during his first term in office. 
    He pointed to Hawaiʻi County housing and permitting achievements, investments made in infrastructure and parks, environmental stewardship initiatives, clean energy transition and transportation, and health and safety commitments as the focus of his administration.
    Roth said he is committed to ensuring that “the next generation can call Hawaiʻi home without facing the need to leave." He talked about taking care of people, the 'aina and "our vibrant Hawaiian culture." He noted that there are more Hawaiians living out of the state than in the state. "As we lose our Hawaiians, we lose our culture. As we lose our culture, we lose our identity of who we are. As we lose our identity, we become Honolulu or Los Angeles. Ooh, hopefully not!"
    The mayor said that in its first three years, the Roth administration has been successful in making Hawai'i County a better place for housing. In 2020, there were about 1,200 houses in the pipeline to be built. At the end of last year there were just under 7,000 in the pipeline to help the housing crunch. In the last year, he said, county legislation was passed and signed to ensure local families have first choice in affordable housing.
    This year more than 1,500 affordable units will be in planning and construction. He pointed to the unions and the number of jobs that will be created. To make it easier for individuals and companies to build housing, he said, the building permit system has been streamlined. It used to take about 200 days to get a permit. Now it's about 34 days, if no mistakes, said the Mayor. He said his administration has issued more single family home permits than any other county in the state during his tenure.

    Regarding infrastructure, in first three years of his administration, Roth said, the county has more than doubled the previous administration's Capital Improvement Projects budget, to over $247 million to address long overdue maintenance issues and "ensure that our county is resilient and ready to meet the growing needs of our community." He said the improvements will help "protect our environment through wastewater upgrades and repairs, improve public safety through various road and bridge upgrades, encourage fitness and comradery through gyms and park facility upgrades. He noted that the amount of roads paved has doubled.
    There are 302 county park facilities around the island and the budget for them has risen from $450,000, "not a lot of money," to over $4 million for parks maintenance and repairs. Another $30 million has gone for park repairs. He pointed to the future Ocean View Skatepark.
    Regarding land stewardship, Ross said his administration closed on more Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources preservation purchases of land than during any other administration - "over 4,102 acres of pristine 'aina." He said these areas "will stay in perpetuity open for our kids and for our families to enjoy. These acres not just purchases that become filled with overgrowth but rather in partnership with incredible community steward organizations who are committed to caring for land and using them for kipuka for culture, resource, mo'olelo and cultural practices. These are living lands."
    He pointed to fixing wastewater facilities as another way to protect the environment, to keep raw sewage from going into the ocean.
Mayor Mitch Roth said Hawai'i County closed on the purchase of more land for
 preservation, open space and natural resources than any previous administration.
    Roth said he also wants to forge more partnerships to restore native flora and fauna, and for growing canoe crops and "ultimately feeding our villages."
    He also pointed to the county Climate Action Plan, expanded abandoned and derelict vehicle program, a sunscreen ban to protect the reefs and implementation of a foodware reprocessing plant.
    He said reliance on fossil fuel will decrease by adding the development of hydrogen power to the alternative energy mix. Lancaster, California and Namie, Japan will be partners with Hawai'i County in this endeavor, he said.
    Electric vehicles and electric hydrogen buses are being introduced, with 18 new electric buses being added to the Hele On fleet this year. He also noted that the buses are free to passengers.
    Regarding internet, the Mayor mentioned a partnership with Hawaiian Tel that paid $1.5 million to connect Pāhala and Volcano with high speed fiber digital access, allowing people to go to school, work and communicate with physicians remotely.
    The County also replaced ten county ambulances at 16 stations around the island. In cooperation with the Sayer foundation, the county replaced air ambulance, Chopper 2, which was 30 years old. The mayor said that Sayer Foundation also has funds to purchase a $10 million twin-engine helicopter for ambulance service to O'ahu and Maui. The Sayer Foundation has also provided brush trucks for the fire department to reach wildlands.
    See more on Mayor Mitch Roth's speech announcing his decision to run for reelection in an upcoming  Kaʻū News Briefs. See the entire event at https://www.facebook.com/mitchroth1/videos/330126143181879

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ANNEMARIE SALVATORE, OF NĀ'ĀLEHU, WHO DIED IN THE FIERY CRASH NEAR MANUKA STATE PARK last year, has been positively identified. Hawai'i Police Department announced on Thursday that the 33-year was victim of a single-vehicle collision on Māmalahoa Highway near Manuka State Park on Sunday, November 12, 2023.
    Responding to a call at 2:06 a.m., police investigators determined that Salvatore was operating a silver 2011 Mazda CX-9 traveling south on Māmalahoa Highway near the 84-mile marker when she ran off the right shoulder (makai) and went down a 20-foot embankment. The vehicle then rolled over and caught fire. Once the fire was extinguished, Salvatore’s body was located within the vehicle. She was transported to the Kona Community Hospital where she was later pronounced dead at 8:32 a.m.
    Police determined that speed was a factor in the crash and are awaiting toxicology and autopsy results to determine if impairment was also a factor. Salvatore was not wearing her seatbelt.
    The Area II Traffic Enforcement Unit initiated a coroner’s inquest investigation, which is still ongoing at this time.
    Anyone who may have witnessed the collision is asked to please contact Officer Dayson Taniguchi at (808) 326-4646, ext. 229, or email at dayson.taniguchi@hawaiicounty.gov. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.

CIVIL DEFENSE ISSUED A WIND ADVISORY THURSDAY through Friday afternoon for Kaʻū, Kona, Kohala and the island interiors. In addition a High Wind Warning has been issued for the Mauna summits.
    Civil Defense warned that a cold front is moving in from the northwest and will bring severe weather conditions to the island. "Be advised of the following for the conditions. Winds this strong can cause damage, take all precautions prior to onset. Heavy showers and thunderstorms are also possible. A large swell is approaching from the north and northwest which, in conjunction with higher than normal tides, will create dangerous conditions for north facing shores."
    Civil Defense urged all residents to prepare for possible damaging conditions.

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