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Thursday, January 18, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Jan. 18, 2024

Rodney Kekaualua, Jr. (right) receives Ka‘ū Officer of the Year award, with praise from Ka‘ū District Commander 
Pernell Hanoa. Photo from HPD

KAʻŪ OFFICER OF THE YEAR AND KAʻŪ TOP ENFORCER are the titles recently given to Rodney Kekaualua, Jr. and Jenna Kosinski-Santos by the Hawai'i Police Department. The awards are the first in the department’s 80-year history to be specifically bestowed on Ka‘ū police officers and are similar to Officer of the Month and Officer of the Quarter awards issued by various organizations in other parts of the island.
    “On behalf of the entire department, I am proud of the work Officers Kekaualua Jr. and Kosinski-Santos are doing,” said HPD Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz. “Their joint commitment to serving and protecting the Nā‘ālehu community in the spirit of aloha is a model for officers island-wide.“
Jenna Kosinski-Santos receives Top Enforcer award.
Photo from HPD
    The Ka‘ū Officer of the Year award is determined by a vote of all officers in the district. “This provides the officers the opportunity to decide who amongst them, in their opinion, deserves the nomination,” said Acting Captain Pernell Hanoa, commander of the Ka‘ū District. “It really speaks volumes to not only an officer’s work ethic, but also to his/her character.”
   Kekaualua Jr., a four-year-veteran of the department was nominated by his peers as the district’s inaugural Officer of the Year. He has worked in the Ka‘ū district since graduating the police academy in 2020. “Officer Kekaualua is a humble person with a positive attitude and outstanding dedication,” said Hanoa.
    The Ka‘ū Top Enforcer award is presented to the officer who has shown the greatest initiative in enforcing traffic and criminal laws throughout the year based on statistical data. Kosinski-Santos was recognized as the district’s first Top Enforcer. A five-year veteran of the department, she has served the Ka‘ū community since 2021.
    “She’s a pro-active officer who has a gift of motivating those around her,” said the Acting Captain, noting that this is not Kosinski-Santos’ first time being recognized. She received the Kona Crime Prevention Committee Officer of the Month award in December 2020 for responding to a fatal traffic collision while off duty, and the Hawai‘i County Council Haweo award in May 2022 for rescuing an elderly man trapped in a vehicle.
    “In addition to recognizing our officers, I’d like to convey our appreciation to the Ka‘ū community,” said Hanoa. “The support we’ve received and continue to be blessed with from our residents and local businesses is incredible.”

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Manago Hotel Restaurant will remain open and its rooms will become long-term affordable housing.
Photo from Manago Hotel

MANAGO, HAWAI'I'S OLDEST RESTAURANT, WILL NOT SHUT DOWN, reports Tim Wright, a Ka‘ū High School graduate who sent the word to Ka‘ū residents who love to dine there within the historic Manago Hotel in Captain Cook.
    The restaurant will remain open, and the building will be transitioned into 72 workforce housing units under the direction of Mental Health Kokua, the nonprofit awarded $5.5 million in County of Hawaiʻi Affordable Housing Production Program funds to acquire Manago Hotel. The project will transition the
residential section of the building into 67 studios, 2 one-bedroom, and 3 two-bedroom units. These units will be available to households earning no more than 140% of the Area Medium Income. In Hawai'i, AMI is $85,000 for one person.. The affordability period for these units will be in perpetuity.
    Mental Health Kokua CEO Greg Payton that the Affordable Housing Production Program requires MHK to rent rooms to members of the workforce. MHK plans to transition the hotel to workforce housing while the units are occupied.
    He said that in addition to Manago Hotel restaurant not closing. the Manago family has "graciously tentatively agreed to share their signature recipes, including their famous pork chops. Our plan is to provide much-needed workforce housing and to continue the legacy of the Manago restaurant." said Payton.
    According to a co-statement issued by MHK and County of Hawai'i, minor renovations to transition the hotel to workforce housing will commence after the close of sale. Updates on the project will be provided by MHK as they become available. County of Hawaiʻi Office of Housing & Community Development is finalizing grant agreements and environmental reviews for each of its projects, including acquisition of Manago Hotel. Once grant agreements are executed in the next few months, funds will be released allowing the purchase to move forward, said the statement.
Image from Tim Wright
    Per the Administrative Rules developed for the program, activities funded to increase affordable housing units (e.g. design, acquisition, infrastructure, new construction) shall be obligated within one year and result in occupancy of affordable housing units within five years from the date the grant agreement is executed. An extension can be requested. Approval is at the discretion of the housing administrator.
   The Affordable Housing Production Program was made possible through Ordinance 22-77, passed by the County Council in June 2022, and signed into law by Mayor Mitch Roth. The law appropriates a minimum of $5 million per year to the Office of Housing and Community Development to facilitate programs that support, increase, and sustain the supply of affordable rental and owner-occupied housing on Hawai'i Island.

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THE SENIOR LADY TROJANS BASKETBALL GAME will be held this Saturday at the Herkes Ka‘ū District Gym in Pāhala at 2 p.m. It will honor seniors Lily Haina, Tyra Wong Yuen and Alexus Bivings. The team will host Hilo High School.
    The game will be followed by a boys junior varsity basketball game, followed by a boys varsity basketball game against Kealakehe High School.
Photo and art by Deisha-lyn Nurial-Dacalio

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