(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi County Council on Tuesday criticized the administration for it’s progress on the eruption recovery effort, as Puna marked one year since the end of the destructive activity on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone.
Presenting to the council without any other members of the recovery team by her side, Hawaiʻi County Research and Development director Diane Ley went through a familiar set of slides before taking questions from the council members.
Puna councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz was the first to demonstrate how her patience was wearing thin. She focused her comments on the outreach effort that encouraged residents to take surveys and attend meetings, which included the mailing of postcards.
“$10,925 in postage alone,” Kierkiewicz said, “not to mention time and materials to get these beautiful postcards out.” Some of the postcards arrived late, the councilwoman noted.
“Maybe could have spent two hundred fifty, five hundred bucks,” on targeted Facebook ads instead, Kierkiewicz said. “This is the kind of money could have cut Lighthouse Road,” which many kipuka residents requested in testimony given earlier in the meeting. Officials have stated that any deviation from the plans to restore temporary access over lava-inundated Highway 132, which were already approved by the federal government, could jeopardize the reimbursement for the project.
“I know that there’s a FEMA process around that and I’m ready to give $7,500 to that community out of my own contingency relief funds to get them home,” Kierkiewicz said. “But I know I cannot because there’s a process. I’m just tired of the process and tired of the system. I’m tired of the silos. I’m tired of the apologies.”
“The postcards were a decision that was made based on community input,” Ley responded. “We were criticized for not communicating with all property owners. So the decision was made to mail out to all property owners within Puna, and it was a conscious decision whether or not to send postcards to foreign countries, and I said yes. They are property owners, they have a right to understand what’s going on.” Ley also apologized that the postcards were mailed out later than planned.
Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter encouraged Ley to include representatives from the impacted community associations at the recovery planning table.
“Some of the representations that the county has not engaged with the different homeowners associations, I feel is not exactly fair,” Ley said. “We have engaged, in various ways. Myself, I have met with most of the homeowners associations, including the the combined association of I Mua [Lower] Puna.”
“I’m not gonna blame you for not moving fast enough,” said councilman Matt Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder, who offered to get more involved in helping Ley do the work.
“We’re here to help,” said council chair Aaron Chung. “I think at least a few of us – if not all of us – have at one time or another told the mayor… we’re here to help. Just engage us. We have all these different skill sets, these resources.”
“If the administration is gonna be the leader then just pull in all these different resources and skill sets,” Chung said. “Let us know how we can be a part of the solution. I haven’t seen that yet.”