Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2023|
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Mayor Mitch Roth held a Town Hall meeting Tuesday at Yano Hall, featuring several county department heads.
Halfway through his first term, the mayor touched on subjects ranging from sustainability, affordable housing, jobs for isle keiki, affordability of living in the county, infrastructure, parks and environmental issues.
Susan Kunz, Hawaii County housing administrator, was the first speaker.
She said affordable housing and homelessness are two areas the administration is focusing on. She said they currently have a request for proposal worth $18 million for affordable housing.
“We appropriated funds last year for $9 million for homelessness,” she said. “There will be another round of funding for $11 million to support the work.”
Ramzi Mansour, Department of Environmental Management director, reported $200 million has been committed to rebuild the Hilo wastewater system.
“The commitment is there to protect our ocean, the shorelines and our groundwater,” he said. “In South Kona we have about 2,000 cesspools that need to be converted by 2050 in accordance of Department of Health laws. The South Kona area is considered priority 3 since it is not near the coastline, but still needs to be converted by the 2050 deadline.”
Police Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz said their main goal is the community’s ability to feel safe. He said body-worn cameras are on all uniformed patrol officers on the road and that the cameras will also be issued to plain clothes officers.
He also said new uniforms will be rolled out that feature a moisture-wicking cloth that no longer needs to be dry cleaned.
He said currently there are 484 sworn positions and that he is short 67 personnel. Instead of having a twice-a-year recruitment, the department will be expand their recruiting efforts to be year round.
Steve Pause, director of Public Works, said he has six divisions within public works including roads, permits and engineering with about 450 employees.
“We have over 1,000 miles of roads on island and this year we are paving about 36 miles. That puts us on a term of about 25 years,” he said.
On the building side, Pause said they have had success in shortening the permit process.
Fire Chief Kazuo Todd said they will also be rolling out a new uniform that will be dark blue and fire resistant. He said he is hoping to be able to secure nine new brush trucks this year. Last year they secured eight new ambulances.
Planning Department Director Zendo Kern explained his department processes various permits along with lava recovery.
He said the county’s general plan is a guiding document for growth on the island, keeping the county accountable.
There will be a new general plan coming out hopefully next year.
Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said there was about $450,000 in the budget for repairs to about 302 facilities.
He thanked the mayor for adding to that budget.
Honaunau boat ramp will be adding parking.
He also noted last week there was a homeless cleanup at Hale Halawai through park rule enforcement.
And $100,000 has been put into the budget earmarked for pickle ball courts in Kona.
Deputy Managing Director Bobby Command said the county is talking to a developer to connect lower Lako Street to Alii Drive, but in order to do this, they would need to be able to develop the land.
“The problem is we don’t have water. He wants to build affordable homes,” said Command. “But we need water.”
The next town hall meeting will take place from 5-7 p.m. on June 13 at Old Airport Park Makaeo Pavilion.
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