By David Corrigan and Stephanie Salazar
Around the Island Newscast | Hawaii Island | Nov. 21, 2011
It was a special moment for hundreds of former Peace Corps volunteers gathering in Hilo on Saturday. This monument to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who signed the order establishing the Peace Corps, was relocated and re-dedicated here at the University of Hawaii-Hilo during a special ceremony. The monument was refurbished and relocated from Hilo Memorial Hospital, the former main Peace Corps Training Center. The dedication culminated in this chant by Kihei Nahale-a, and an emotional lei presentation. After wards, attendees took part in a dinner program. The event was part of a larger commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, one of many events and exhibitions in cities across the U.S. and in each country where Peace Corps currently serves. In 1962, the Big Island of Hawaii was selected as a Peace Corps training center. 50 years later… here in Hilo, a reunion includes this ceremony, and a tour up the Hamakua Coast, with a trip into Waipio Valley – the first Peace Corps training camp – on Monday. We will have more from the ceremony this week, including the emotional memories shared by former volunteers of Nov 22nd, 1963… the day JFK was shot and killed. Also, on Thanksgiving Day… tune in to hear the story of moving the monument to its current location… easier said than done!
Progress on developing Waikoloa Village reached a big milestone on Friday, as county officials opened the first phase of the Kamakoa Nui affordable housing project, and also opened a 12-acre community park. The windswept event marked a joyous point in the prolonged and litigious development, which started in 2004. The county seized control of the project from the company UniDev Hawaii in 2009, after disputes over the time line, billing, and documentation began to surface. The issue is still in litigation, and will undergo court ordered mediation in June. Since taking over the project, the county has kept things on time and under budget. The $44 million Kamakoa Nui project will will eventually consist of about 1,200 fee-simple homes and rentals on 268 acres just north of Waikoloa Elementary School. The three-bedroom single-family residences and two & three-bedroom bungalows will sell for between $240,000 to $325,000. That’s much lower than the initial plans that anticipated prices between $385,000 to $495,000. Construction of four single-family model homes is complete, with pre-sales of homes in the first increment scheduled to begin next month. The county is also imposing some unique restrictions on the properties to keep them affordable. To qualify, buyers should live within a 30-mile radius of Kamakoa Nui and have an income between 70-120 percent of the area median income. Potential buyers must also live in the homes and cannot have owned a home within the last three years. To discourage speculation, owners who re-sell their units at Kamakoa Nui within 15 years of their initial purchase will be required to share any windfall profits from the re-sales with the county. After 15 years, all restrictions on re-sales are satisfied.
Another gap in West Hawaii’s housing spectrum will be filled on Tuesday, when county officials open the Kaloko Transitional Housing and Affordable Rentals. Known as Na Kaulana O Ulu Wini, the county says the first 40 units of what will become a 96-unit, service enriched project, will provide case management, mail & computer access, employment and life skills training, mental health services, counseling and childcare. Big Island Video News filmed the groundbreaking for the project in June 2010. Tuesday’s 10 a.m. ceremony will commemorate the opening of this facility on Hina-Lani Street. The complex was built by the county’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and oversight of the various on-site resources will be provided by the procured program operator, HOPE Services Hawaii, formerly the Care-A-Van program of the Diocese of Honolulu. The transitional component replaces the former Kawaihae Transitional Housing Project, which had to be shut down because of its use of large-capacity cesspools. The county says the transitional component of the program will house and serve families impacted by homelessness and earning less than 30 percent of the county’s adjusted median income, or AMI, while the rental component will house families earning less than 50 percent of the county’s AMI. The project and programs will give preference to families experiencing homelessness.
A busy at Honolii, despite the heavy rains on Saturday, for the 8th Annual Aloha Honua Festival & Surfing Classic. Basic Image was the proud to sponsor of the event, which included live, local entertainment, games, prizes, food and most important… surfing! The Surfing Classic was free and open to surfers ages 17 and under; there were four divisions (long board, short board, body board and ‘ohana – which is parent and keiki). The festival is part of a continuing public awareness and educational campaign designed to inform communities of the key role they play in mālama’āina – taking care of the land.
A 3.9 earthquake shook Mauna Loa on Sunday… The U.S. Geological Survey says the temblor was located 5 miles north of the Mauna Loa Summit, at a depth of 7.4 miles. This was the sixth earthquake to be recorded within 10 miles of the Mauna Loa Summit at 1.7 or above in a little over 10 days. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on the planet, and the current alert level is Green. Its most recent eruption was in 1984.
Here’s an update on the new regional Ka`u disaster shelter and gymnasium planned for the Pahala school campus, courtesy the Ka’u Calendar. The Department of Public Works says architects, engineers and county planners will interact with the public for in a two day charrette, which will be held at the Ka`u High and Pahala Elementary School cafeteria on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 19 and 20, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on both days. The chosen architect and engineering firm for the project is Mitsunaga & Associates, who designed such buildings on O`ahu as the Manoa Field House and Maryknoll gym. DPW took extensive notes on the public input given at last week’s meeting. The notes are available on the public work’s website.
The University of Hawaii’s Hoku Ke’a telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea will be out of commission for months, according to an article in the Hawaii tribune-Herald. Peter Sur, who has been following the continuing saga of the UH-Hilo observatory, as delays and mishaps have pushed back its date to resume operation time and time again. Now, UH-Hilo associate professor Josh Walaweneder says the goal now is to have the 36 inch telescope back online by next summer. Projects that need to be completed include fixing a leaking dome, fixing the dome drive system, testing and fixing mirrors, and rebuilding the control system. The university received funding from the National Science Foundation for the educational and research telescope, for the use by faculty and students. The 0.9-m telescope was built by Equinox Interscience of Golden, Colorado.
This weekend, Kapa’au celebrated the long awaited opening of the Hawaii Wildlife Center… the first state-of-the-art response facility in the Pacific islands exclusively for native wildlife. We will have more on this event in our feature story later in this broadcast, after our Around the Island newscast.
Last week, we reported that Department of Transportation officials will be returning to Puna at the request of Senator Gil Kahele to discuss Highway 130. During the last meeting between DOT officials and the community, held in Keaau, there was confusion over what specifically the Highway 130 widening project will entail. It wasn’t long before the meeting announcement – posted to the popular online forum “Punaweb” – elicited a number of responses, many of them mentioning the need not only for a better highway, but a second, alternative road. PMAR or – the Puna Makai Alternate Route – is in the initial stages of study. However, it does not have unanimous support. On the Punaweb forum, one member even asked, “What say you Bill Walter?” referring to the president of W.H. Shipman, the large private landowner based in Keaau. A few weeks ago, Big Island Video news interviews Walter about PAMR. Here is what he had to say: Recently, Dan Taylor, acting on behalf of the Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee as its chair, issued a draft letter in support of PMAR, asking Governor Neil Abercrombie to release $1.5 million towards planning the new road, which has been approved by the legislature. Almost immediately, a number of letters in opposition to the release of the funds were submitted and circulated around the Puna CDP mailing list.
The Hawaii County Redistricting Commission is on the home stretch to completing the new Hawaii County Political Map, which has redrawn the island’s nine districts according to the population totals counted in the 2010 U.S. Census. Tonight, a public hearing is being held by the commission at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kealakehe, starting at 6 p.m. The new map has gotten good reviews from most of the folks on the west side of the island. The new map nearly eliminates the dedicated South Kona district. Now, District 6 extends through all of Ka’u to most of South Kona. That’s from Volcano Village up to and including Captain Cook, by far the longest stretch under one representative on the island. District 7 will now shift north a bit, and includes greater Kailua Village. The new map will pit two incumbent councilmembers against one another in the upcoming election – that is if they both decide to seek re-election. Current District 7 councilwoman Brenda Ford and current District 6 councilwoman Brittany Smart will be living in the same district if this final draft map is accepted as is. Neither councilmember has indicated what they intend to do, yet. Politically speaking, the two have been allies while on the council. After tonight’s hearing, the public on the east side of the island will get their turn on Tuesday night in Hilo.