Department of Health Cites Island Container Redemption, Settles with Atlas Recycling Centers for Deposit Beverage Container Violations

The Hawai’i State Department of Health (DOH) Solid & Hazardous Waste Branch has issued a Notice and Finding of Violation against Island Container Redemption, LLC (ICR), and signed a Settlement Agreement with Atlas Recycling Centers, LLC. (Atlas) – both for violations of the State Deposit Beverage Container (DBC) law.

DOH has assessed ICR a penalty in the amount of $33,772. From January 17, 2007, through June 28, 2011, ICR violated DBC requirements at multiple certified redemption centers on O’ahu. DOH conducted multiple inspections at ICR facilities, performed follow-up inspections, and issued the company warning letters prior to assessing the administrative penalty. ICR has requested a hearing to contest the alleged facts and penalty.

The ICR violations are: (1) conducting unpermitted baling activities; (2) failure to inspect containers for HI 5¢ deposit label and/or contamination; (3) failure to use appropriate weighing procedures to calculate accurate customer refund amounts; (4) failure to keep customer loads separate until the transaction was completed and the customer approved the refund amount offered; (5) making payment of refund value on non-HI 5¢ labeled, contaminated, broken, and/or otherwise ineligible beverage containers; (6) accepting customer reported counts; and (7) failure to post the state issued certified redemption center sign prominently where customers could view it as they approached the center.

Atlas and DOH Solid & Hazardous Waste Branch have settled on an agreement to a penalty amount of $30,000, paid incrementally by Atlas within two years. On May 24, 2010, DOH filed an enforcement case against Atlas for violations of the DBC certified redemption center laws and assessed a total penalty of $36,471. The violations included: (1) failure to inspect recyclable containers for redemption eligibility; (2) use of an unapproved, dysfunctional, and/or inappropriate scale; (3) obstructing customer’s view of DBC scale; (4) not paying full refund value for eligible containers; (5) paying refund value on ineligible containers; and (6) not correcting infractions in the time specified by DOH.

By entering into a settlement agreement, DOH and Atlas agreed to resolve this enforcement case without an administrative hearing and without further litigation. Non-compliance with the settlement agreement will subject Atlas to stipulated penalties of $1,000 per day.

To protect the environment, and verify recycling of plastic, glass and metal beverage containers, the DOH regulates recycling facilities participating in the Hawai’i Deposit Beverage Container Program. Program inspectors regularly monitor certified redemption centers to ensure that center operators are accurately providing deposit refunds to the public and properly recycling beverage container material.

Tight County Budget Controls Result in $10.7 Million Savings

From the Mayors Office:

Mayor Billy Kenoi announced today that tight restrictions on hiring, overtime, purchases and other expenses have allowed the County of Hawai`i to realize a fund balance of $24.682 million at the end of the 2011 fiscal year on June 30.

That is $10.74 million more than the county expected to have on hand at the close of the fiscal year, and represents a determined effort by every department to cut costs, conserve resources, and increase the efficiency of county government, Mayor Kenoi said.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work to reduce the size and cost of county government, and I am extremely proud of our employees for pulling together to cut spending and prepare for the future,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We know we face some difficult times ahead, and these reserves will be critical to providing the police, fire and other essential services our communities need.”

The higher-than-expected fund balance at the end of the fiscal year comes during the third consecutive year of budget cuts. The county budget for this year is $35.9 million or 8.9 percent less than the budget in effect when this administration took office in 2008.

The administration reduced spending even below budgeted levels by establishing the Personnel Review Committee to scrutinize hiring requests; and the Expenditure Review Committee to scrutinize departments’ requests to buy equipment or enter into contracts for professional services. Those committees successfully restricted spending by departments, and played an important role in accumulating the June 30 carryover balance, Mayor Kenoi said.

The county has also unfunded 222 positions over the past three budget cycles, and reduced the total number of county employees. As of October 1, there were 166 fewer employees on the county payroll than there were at the beginning of this administration.

“All of the hard work that went into cutting spending and building up the county’s reserves will pay off,” said Nancy Crawford, director of the county Department of Finance. After years of declining revenue, the additional carryover balance will be an essential tool for balancing the county budget in fiscal year 2013, Crawford said.

Crawford also noted that in difficult economic times, credit rating agencies look very closely at all reserves to assess the credit worthiness of state and local governments.

Factors that helped boost the carryover balance include the following:

  • The county received some revenue in addition to what had been budgeted, including about $800,000 in unanticipated transient accommodation tax (TAT) collections. That income is a one-time windfall because the state Legislature this year capped the counties’ share of TAT revenue.
  • The county also received about $1 million in unbudgeted income through the county Department of Public Works. DPW collected that revenue by closing out a number of earthquake recovery and other federally funded projects, and billing the federal government for engineering work done by county employees on those projects.
  • Most of the carryover balance was realized by restricting hiring. The county delayed filling a variety of positions for as long as possible, meaning budgeted funding for wages and benefits for those jobs remained unspent. Budgeted but unspent funding for salaries and wages totaled about $6 million, and budgeted but unspent money on fringe benefits totaled $4 million. Those savings in personnel costs are attributed in large part to the work of the Personnel Review Committee.

La Réunion President Robert Didier Tours Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

The president of La Réunion, a French volcanic island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, visited Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Thursday afternoon, and marveled over similarities between Hawai‘i Island and his home.

La Réunion President Robert Didier, and his delegation

Officials from La Réunion Island visited Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Thursday afternoon. Pictured from left to right: Alain Gerente, Marie Gerente, La Réunion Film Commissioner Edy Payet, Vice-President Jean-Francois Sita, La Réunion President Robert Didier, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Chief of Interpretation Jim Gale, and La Réunion Public Information Officer Corinne Peyron-Beaulieu

La Réunion President Robert Didier, and his delegation of Vice President Jean-Francois Sita, Film Commissioner Edy Payet and Public Information Officer Corinne Peyron-Beaulieu, explored the park as part of a four-day mission to “build a bridge” between La Réunion and Hawai‘i Island by promoting sister park status between Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Réunion National Park. Both national parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and both are home to active volcanoes.

Both islands are located in the middle of vast oceans, and are situated over volcanic hot spots. La Réunion’s active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise (“Peak of the Furnace”), is listed among earth’s most active volcanoes and last erupted in 2010. It stands 8,632 feet above sea level, and like Kī
lauea, is a shield volcano.

President Didier and his delegation were also here to gather ideas on how to increase tourism to La Réunion by promoting its national park, which comprises 40 percent of the 970-square-mile island. By comparison, the Island of Hawai‘i is 4,028 square miles.

“Tourism is key to our economic success. We want to have tourism but also environmental respect. Our ecology, our biodiversity, is unique,” President Didier said. Réunion National Park is largely undeveloped, he said. In 2010, approximately 400,000 tourists visited La Réunion. President Didier said they intend to increase the number of visitors to 600,000 by 2015.

Part-time Volcano residents and La Réunion citizens Marie and Alain Gerente were instrumental in planning President Didier’s trip to Hawai‘i, and accompanied the delegation as liaisons and translators.

Other similarities between the two islands include a multicultural population. In Reunion, a mix of people from European, African, Malagasy, Indian and Chinese ancestry comprise the population. Both islands have dense rainforests, a high level of endemism, and are home to white-tailed tropic birds – an important national symbol in La Réunion. La Réunion also has olivine, and therefore, green sand beaches.

“I stepped off the plane, and looked around, and said, ‘oh, I’m at home,’” President Didier said.

The delegation also met with Mayor Billy Kenoi, Big Island Visitors Bureau, Executive Director George Applegate and other officials, and toured Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Big Island Police Arrest 62-Year-Old Man on Suspicion of Arson

Big Island police have arrested a 62-year-old Miloliʻi man on suspicion of arson in connection with a house fire on Wednesday (October 12).

Donald McKay of Miloliʻi Village is being held at the Kona police cellblock pending further investigation.

At 10:55 p.m. Wednesday, Kona patrol officers and Fire Department personnel responded to a fire at an unoccupied house on Kai Avenue in Miloliʻi. After the flames were extinguished, a Fire Department investigation with the assistance of a scent-discriminating canine determined that the fire was of a suspicious nature. Damages from the fire were estimated at $480,000.

Police investigation led to McKay’s arrest in Kailua-Kona this morning (October 14).

Blessing and Groundbreaking for New Ka’u Family Health and Dental Center

WHAT:

Before construction begins on a new health center in Ka`u, a blessing ceremony and reception will be held to commemorate a new day for Bay Clinic and for health care on Hawai`i Island.

WHEN:

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE:

The Bay Clinic Ka`u Family Health Center

95-5583 Mamalahoa Highway

Naalehu, HI 96772

WHO:

Presenting speakers include: Paul Strauss, Bay Clinic CEO; Mike Gleason, Bay Clinic Board President and The Arc of Hilo President and CEO; Monica Adams, Bay Clinic Director of Development and Regulatory Affairs; Raylene Moses, Bay Clinic Board Member and ‘O Ka`u Kakou Board Treasurer.  Traditional Hawai`ian blessing conducted by Kauila Clark, National Association of Community Health Centers Board Chair and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center Board Member.  Musical aloha provided by Keoki Kahumoku, Grammy Award-winning, fifth generation slack-key Guitarist and Founder of the Center for Hawaiian Music Studies.

WHY:

As a source of health care for Ka`u’s 5,800 residents, Bay Clinic’s Ka`u Family Health Center struggles to care for all who seek services with limited and outdated clinical space consisting of only 4 exam rooms and a mobile dental van. Residents of Ka`u are in great need of a more modern and comprehensive medical and dental center to help reduce the many health care disparities faced in this beautiful rural community.

With the support of our community, Bay Clinic is addressing this need.  Once completed, the Ka`u Family Health and Dental Center will be equipped to provide greater services with 8 medical exam rooms, 2 dental rooms and 2 patient and family counseling rooms to care for 3,400 additional patients with 8,500 additional visits.  Along with providing greater access to health care for our southernmost `ohana, this new project will create jobs, provide community services and serve as a beacon of hope for a healthier future on Hawai`i Island.

Coming Up: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Digital Mountain Youth Film Festival

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park hosts its third annual Digital Mountain youth film festival on Sat., Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. This year’s theme is “It’s My Trail,” and the public is encouraged to attend, and to vote for their favorite film in advance.

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Films are available for viewing and voting on YouTube at www.youtube.com/itsmytrail. People may vote once each day for their favorite film on YouTube, or by emailing itsmytrail@gmail.com.

“This year we have three returning filmmakers and 11 who are new to this contest,” said festival coordinator Laura Williams.  “Filmmakers in grades 7 to 12 have made unique and original films explaining why National Park trails are important to them. It’s inspiring and enlightening to see what our park means to these youngsters, and to share their hard work with the community.”

The gala film festival will premiere the student films on the “big screen” and award the winners at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center.  The public is invited to participate in a potluck dinner preceding the festival at 5 p.m.

Awards will be announced at the event.  Winners will be selected by a weighted combination of judging by a variety of professionals and the popular voting.  Prizes include MacBook Pro laptops and Olympus digital cameras.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Additional help, funding, and support comes from the Friends of Hawai‘I Volcanoes National Park, Hawai‘i Natural History Association, Friends of the Future, Na Wai Ola ‘Waters of Life’ Public Charter School, Hawai‘I Academy of Arts and Science, Kea‘au Youth Business Center,  Hawai‘i’s Big Island Locations and Production Services, Big Island Film Office, Volcano Video Productions, and Mac Made Easy.

The Digital Mountain youth film festival is free.  For more information, contact Laura Williams at (808) 985-6304 or laura_williams@nps.gov.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Day at Kamehameha Schools

In honor of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameaha Schools Bishop Estate is celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Breast Cancer Awareness Day at KSBE

Princess Pauahi died of breast cancer on October 16, 1884.

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Kids that attend KSBE were asked to bring in a $1.00 donation to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help support breast cancer awareness.

Tricycle Racing Comes to the Big Island

The Hilo Town Tavern presents Tricycle Racing tomorrow night with prizes awarded to the winners.

USDA Announces Proposed Rules to Improve the Quality of Life and Foster Economic Opportunity for Tribal Communities

Public is Invited to Submit Comments on the Proposed Rule

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the publication of new proposed rules that will significantly increase access to USDA’s utilities programs and funding opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders located in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA).

USDA“I invite tribal leaders, tribal members, interested citizens and stakeholders to provide their comments and views on this important rule.” said Vilsack. “This rule will provide those located in Trust Areas with better access to infrastructure funding to serve tribal communities seeking to build modern utility infrastructure.”

To develop the propose rule, USDA Rural Development conducted numerous in-person consultations with tribal leaders and native communities throughout the United States as well as in trust areas in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. USDA Rural Development also hosted Internet and teleconference-based webinars to solicit further implementation recommendations for the SUTA initiative. Additionally USDA convened several meetings with Federal agencies – the Departments of Interior, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and the Office of Management and Budget – to determine how best to implement the SUTA provision.

The deadline to make comments on the SUTA proposed rule is on or before December 13, 2011. For more information, please see the October 14, 2011 issue of the Federal Register.

Under the proposed SUTA rule, the Secretary of Agriculture (with delegation to the Administrator for Rural Utilities Service) would be granted the discretionary authority to:

  • Make loans and issue loan guarantees with interest rates as low as two percent and with extended repayment terms;
  • Waive non-duplication restrictions, matching fund requirements, or credit support requirements from any loan or grant program to facilitate construction, acquisition or improvements of infrastructure
  • Give highest priority to designated projects on a Substantially Underserved Trust Area

Under the SUTA initiative a trust area is legislatively defined as any land that: (1) is held in trust by the United States for Native Americans; (2) is subject to restrictions on alienation imposed by the United States on Indian lands (including native Hawaiian homelands); (3) is owned by a Regional Corporation or a Village Corporation, as such terms are defined in section 3(g) and 3(j) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, respectively (43 U.S.C. 1602(g), (j)); or (4) is on any island in the Pacific Ocean if such land is, by cultural tradition communally-owned land.

The SUTA initiative is authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. It identifies the need and improves the availability of RUS programs to finance projects in trust areas that have been determined by the Secretary of Agriculture to be substantially underserved. In addition to its discretionary authority to implement the SUTA provisions, RUS must make annual reports to Congress on the progress of the initiative and recommendations for any regulatory or legislative changes appropriate to improve services to Substantially Underserved Trust Areas.

On September 8, President Obama presented the American Jobs Act in an address to Congress. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. The American Jobs Act is specific. It will put people back to work right now, and it will not add to the deficit. Through a combination of direct spending, such as infrastructure investments, and tax relief, such as an extension of the payroll tax cuts, it will lead to new American jobs.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov.