Council approves measures adding disaster recovery projects to budget

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Tourists and locals stop to look at cooled lava across Highway 132 on Dec. 6 in Pahoa.

The Hawaii County Council gave final approval Wednesday to bills adding disaster recovery projects to the capital budget.

But not before at least one council member noted the county faces some heavy lifting before the state Legislature, where the county seeks another $155 million in aid following the Kilauea eruption.

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“We need to consider the Legislature is watching us,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.

“We need to set our priorities and be very clear about them going forward.”

The bills added $32.9 million in projects related to the 2018 eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone and $49.2 million in projects related to damage from Hurricane Lane. Federal Emergency Management Agency grants would cover 75 percent of the cost.

Bills were submitted regarding the county’s request to the Legislature.

Funding is being proposed for:

• Regional infrastructure and public facilities to support resettlement in accordance with a recovery plan ($61 million);

• Temporary or permanent housing projects ($55 million);

• Emergency operations, major equipment repair or maintenance, or construction of emergency bypass routes ($23 million);

• Administrative support, establishment of “implementation systems related to relief and recovery assistance” and preparation for ongoing emergency response ($10 million);

• Economic recovery programs, including loans, to revitalize the agricultural industry ($4 million);

• Air quality monitoring and mental health programs ($2 million).

Additionally, state Sen. Russell Ruderman is seeking $15 million to reopen Highway 132.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy commented the county needs to show the money will be put to good use.

“They are placing a lot of faith in this body,” she said, “that if that money does come that we can get it down into the community and start the recovery that Puna needs.

“Maybe that’s a call to action for all of us.”

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The county is seeking additional federal dollars for long-term recovery efforts.

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

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