Council eyes using portion of geothermal royalties to get internet access at Pahoa Community Center

Hawaii County could tap into its geothermal royalties to provide internet access at the Pahoa Community Center.

The County Council voted 6-3 Wednesday to allocate $30,000 from its geothermal relocation and community benefits account to provide wireless internet and computer access at the facility. The bill requires one more council vote to be adopted.

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As seen by the vote, not all were in favor of the measure, and several testifiers also objected, stating the money should be used to improve monitoring of Puna Geothermal Venture.

“It’s basically throwing the community under the bus,” said Bob Petricci of Puna Pono Alliance. “Now you want to take the money instead of doing what should be done.”

He said the money should come from the general fund instead, and questioned the price tag.

“Who pays $30,000 for internet?” Petricci asked.

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara said she understands the position of the testifiers but suggested the county could lose the money if it doesn’t use it. She voted aye with reservations along with Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, who represents Puna mauka.

“When (the state) sees a fund that’s not being utilized, it seems like an attractive pot of cash to go after,” she said.

“This benefits the community far and wide,” O’Hara added.

Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David introduced the bill by request.

The county receives 30 percent of the geothermal royalties. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources receives half, while the Office of Hawaiian Affairs gets 20 percent.

O’Hara said the county does not have any new requests from residents to relocate away from the power plant. Relocations have been the fund’s main expense the past few years.

The county estimates it will receive $600,000 in geothermal royalties in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

Voting no were Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. Chung said he voted no because he thought the Puna representatives were divided on the issue.

The council also passed on first reading a bill allowing for commercial sponsorships of county facilities.

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The bill, which also requires another vote, was amended to state the sponsorship agreements must be signed by the mayor, in addition to receiving council approval. The bill doesn’t allow for naming rights to be sold.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. Realitystrikes96778 March 29, 2018 1:19 am

    This needs a great deal more explanation. There is free wifi all over the island, why is it needed at the Pahoa Community Center, why would it cost $30,000.00 to have it, who exactly is getting the money, and how many people really benefit from having wifi at PCC? I can’t see how it benefits the community “far and wide.” Not that hard to find a free wifi connection if you need one. This kind of seems like O’Hara is looking for a way to squander some money to ingratiate herself to a few people at the Pahoa Community Center.


    1. Steve Dearing March 29, 2018 6:40 am

      We just can not get rid of Ohara fast enough, $30,000.00 for internet is absurd. Another example of her stuck on stupid agenda. Puna needs leaders that understand how to resolve its tremendous problems not this dim wit hag that is clueless.


    2. volcanovillage March 29, 2018 8:53 am

      the County representatives are totally out of touch with reality…..
      They seem more than happy to spend money stupidly.
      $30,000 dollars is $29,000 TOO MUCH.
      Whats next? $500.00 hammers?


  2. Sara Steiner-jackson March 29, 2018 7:22 am

    Everything always costs more when the county does it. The fact is that many people in Lower Puna do not have internet access, or even phone access. We need a small tech center in Puna where people young and old can learn how to use the computer and even how to communicate with the rest of the world.

    I bet you a million bucks that the community and senior centers in Hilo, Kona and Waimea all have wifi. Puna residents are treated like third world citizens.

    Maybe the county should open up bids to see how much it would cost. Supposedly they already have the equipment, they just need it installed. It was NOT my idea to use tainted geothermal funds.


  3. volcanovillage March 29, 2018 8:49 am

    $30,000 dollars?
    Are you county folks completely LOLO?


  4. volcanovillage March 29, 2018 8:54 am

    Just because they call them “Royalties” does NOT make Harry Kim and the County Council Jesters of Royal Blood…..
    ROYAL PAINS ?….YES….
    What on Earth are you guys in County putting in your coconut juice ?


  5. taxedtodeath March 29, 2018 9:28 am

    What is Eileen Ohara talking about? The state cannot appropriate County funds … Does she even understand what she is saying, this is not a use it or lose it situation, she appears ignorant or willing say anything to get what she wants.


    1. 2BWorker March 29, 2018 10:04 am

      Yes, the State does appropriate funds to cities and counties. It is typically called Local Assistance. What she is saying is that when the State reviews annual appropriations for budgeting purposes and specifically Local Assistance and see this county fund with a balance (and growing) with little usage, then it starts to think about future funding and possible amendment. Even the county could also look at it and say the same thing each year if its funding gets cut. I would suggest you propose all safety, community, health ideas to her as fast as possible.
      (BTW, just so you know, I work in a State Finance Budget dept.)


      1. taxedtodeath March 29, 2018 10:47 am

        Thank you for the information. These are special funds that were created for a specific purpose not general account funds, do those same rules apply as with the special fund to purchase properties as they have a lot more. Do they need to spend that as fast as possible on other uses as well?. If the county would have done the emergency response, notification, and independent source monitoring needed to protect the residents I would agree. However taking the money to spend on “other” projects will cause even more residents to be harmed during future accidents and releases at PGV, that is not appropriate use of these special funds. From the community perspective they are throwing us under the bus. Previous councils have used funds in the past to pave roads to their own subdivisions, or porta potties, and security leaving residents unprotected as we saw during Tropical storm Issell when well over 100 area residents were trapped in their homes and at least 12 were knocked unconscious. There is still no working emergency response for the community or independent source monitoring. Advocating wasting $30,000.00 for internet service instead of putting in real protections for the community is typical politics for both the state and the county. After 30 years we can do all these other things and we better spend it as fast as possible on them but leave those residents to fend for themselves during future accidents.


      2. taxedtodeath March 29, 2018 7:58 pm

        I see, so the State does appropriate funds to cities and counties but Eileen argued
        the State would take the funds (appropriate them) from the County
        special fund…as far as I can tell that could not happen. The royalty
        fund is not a State local assistance appropriations, and they do not appear
        to be comparable. You suggests spending all the money as quickly as
        possible … but then what? When the next blowout occurs, people will
        need help. It is as much a rainy day or emergency relief fund as
        anything. Thank you again for the information.


        1. Steve Dearing March 30, 2018 9:54 am

          This corrupt hag thinks we are all stupid. Clearly, we are not stupid demo rats that consumes the rat feces the criminaly impaired demo rats dish out for demo rat consumption.


  6. 2BWorker March 29, 2018 9:49 am

    The council amended the use of the funds to include other uses beside it’s original intent to purchase affected homeowners near PGV. So, with no other home owners seeking buyout, the county’s fund balance has grown and growing. So, the council is proposing other uses within the amendment and one requested use is the $30K for internet/computer at PCC. Nothing wrong here as it is a community benefit to Pahoa. The question is the request within the approved uses in the amendment? If you feel it is not being used in the best interest, propose a better use. The money is sitting there.


    1. taxedtodeath March 29, 2018 7:55 pm

      We have, health, safety, and emergency response needs of the area residents that continue to be threatened by PGV operations and accidents.

      I understand the
      State does appropriate funds to cities and counties but Eileen argued
      the State would take the funds (appropriate them) from the County
      special fund…as far as I can tell that could not happen. The royalty
      fund is not a State local assistance appropriations, and they do not appear to be comparable. You suggests spending all the money as quickly as
      possible … but then what? When the next blowout occurs, people will
      need help. It is as much a rainy day or emergency relief fund as
      anything. Thank you again for the information.


  7. metalman808 March 29, 2018 10:00 am

    I’d rather spend a few dollars and get a good cup of coffee and free wifi in Pahoa. Or just go to Burger King. Just think how many Whoppers you could get with 30 thousand dollars. The deal seems shady, but then again this is the Big island.


  8. thebamboo March 29, 2018 8:31 pm

    The roads in Downtown Hilo are getting paved at last.
    Got to thank Aaron Chung for that.
    Maybe Puna should re-examine what they need now.


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