(BIVN) – Jen Ruggles surprised fellow councilmembers at Wednesday’s meeting in Hilo with an unexpected offer to find alternative funding for what had become a contentious $30,000 appropriation for computers and Wi-Fi at the Pāhoa Community Center.
“I checked my contingency relief funds and I actually have exactly $30,000 in my (contingency relief account) left,” Ruggles said, committing to use the funds for the Pāhoa internet proposal.
While the community has been asking for the computers and Wi-Fi for years, Bill 115 planned to take $30,000 from the Geothermal Relocation and Community Fund in order to do so. The bill ran into trouble from testifiers who said it was the wrong fund to use for the project.
Puna Pono Alliance spoke out, saying the funds, derived from Puna Geothermal Venture, should be used to fund long-requested air monitoring equipment around the facility, or for an emergency response plan.
At the same time, many Puna Pono members were in favor of bringing Wi-Fi to the Pāhoa Community Center. “I support internet for our senior citizens,” testified Paul Kuykendall, “They should have it, they should have had it a long time ago. I’m opposed to the passage of bill 115 because it takes from the relocation fund.”
Ruggles’ promise to fund the project using her district relief funds instead of the Geothermal Relocation and Community Fund resolved the conflict.
One of the reason Ruggles still had the funds available: Corporation Counsel Joe Kamalamela’s denial of other contingency relief funding requests, which was discussed in prior meetings. Also, money granted for emergency call boxes in Kalapana was taking so long, Ruggles said, “that it’s not gonna happen until next budget cycle anyway.”
“So I’d be happy to commit my current contingency funds for the Wi-Fi at the Senior Center, so that we can protect
these (geothermal funds) until we know what the costs are going to be,” for things like the air monitoring equipment.”
“Hallelujah, that’s all I got to say,” said councilwoman Eileen o’Hara, who moved to postpone bill 113 indefinitely in order for Ruggles to apply her grant monies.