Mayor Kenoi on the GMO Issue

Big Island Mayor Kenoi is quoted as saying the following about the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) lawsuits that are currently floating around the state in Hawaii Business Magazine:

Mayor Kenoi at the APEC Conference

Mayor Kenoi at the APEC Conference

“GMO has been very important and beneficial to our cut-flower, orchid, anthurium and nursery industry. The science research has been cutting-edge and we’ve seen a lot of innovation and creativity, and certainly in our papaya industry, the importance of research is well-known for maintaining, growing and protecting its viability.

I still don’t believe GMO is the issue facing agriculture – it’s water and access to land and how we can grow our next generation of farmers. GMO has taken a lot of energy and emphasis away from more important issues like these. Another important issue is access to markets, making it easier for farmers to overcome regulatory hurdles, reducing our dependence on imported food and providing real food security.

My message to the Council and the community is…”

You can read the rest of his message and other mayor’s thoughts on the issue here: “Talk Story with Neighbor Island Mayors”

Mayor Kenoi On Vacation Beginning Dec. 6 – Mayor to Accompany His Son to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida

Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi will be on vacation beginning Friday, Dec. 6 to cheer on his son Justin, 13, at the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Kissimmee, Fla.

Proud "Dad Moment" for Mayor Kenoi as his son will be playing for the Pop Warner Championships on the mainland.

Proud “Dad Moment” for Mayor Kenoi as his son Justin will be playing for the Pop Warner Super Bowl on the mainland

Justin Kenoi is a member of the Big Island Pop Warner champion Pana’ewa Ali’i football team, which is the first Hawai’i Island team to win the Western Regional finals to advance to the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

Mayor Kenoi will remain with the team while the Pana’ewa Ali’i participate in the tournament. Managing Director Wally Lau will be acting mayor until Mayor Kenoi returns.

Results of the Second Annual Keiki Triathlon

Mayor Billy Kenoi’s third annual Health Fest was held today at the Kekuaokalani Gymnasium in Kailua-Kona. The Health Fest included the second annual Keiki Triathlon for triathletes 7 to 14 years old. (Results are below.)
See below for results

See below for results

Nearly 70 young athletes from around the island finished the challenging swim, bike and run courses at the Kona Community Aquatic Center and around Maka‘eo Park, also known as the Old Kona Airport. The Keiki Triathlon was organized by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Hawai‘i Isle Police Activities League (HI-PAL) with the support of volunteers from Lava Kids, Lavaman Triathlons, Keauhou Canoe Club, Ultraman, PATH, Big Island Running Co., Bike Works, IRONMAN volunteers, IRONMAN finishers, Kealakehe High School Waveriders Triathlon Club and the Hawai‘i Cycling Club.
The Health Fest included health screenings, information booths, lessons and live demonstrations, as well as free food, entertainment, and activities. Held in the Kekuaokalani Gymnasium, the fest was organized by the Office of Mayor Billy Kenoi with the support of HMSA and Kaiser Permanente. The Health Fest in Hilo was held on September 28 at Bayfront Park.

Today’s Health Fest and Keiki Triathlon were part of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s Healthy Hawai‘i Island initiative, which includes programs to connect, build, and activate a healthy community.

Keiki Triathlon Results

Mayor Kenoi Testifies Before State Land Board Regarding Naniloa Volcanoes Resort

Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi testified before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources today in Honolulu, urging the board to firmly enforce the lease terms and give no special consideration to the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort.

Naniloa
Below is Mayor Kenoi’s testimony:

September 13, 2013

Honorable William J. Aila Jr., Chair and Members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources

Re: Agenda Item D-10, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case No. 12-02279 and General Lease Nos. S-5844 and S-5372 to Hawaii Outdoor Tours Inc.

Aloha Chair Aila and Board Members:
 
Thank you for this opportunity to express our deep concern with the deteriorating situation at the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort. Banyan Drive has traditionally been the hub of East Hawai‘i’s resort activity, which makes it critically important to the economy of the Island of Hawai‘i. The Banyan Drive properties should be an economic engine and a job creator that provides benefits to our working families. The Naniloa property is a crucial component of this area, and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has failed to ensure this property is properly managed for the benefit of our state and our community.
 
Hawai‘i Outdoor Tours Inc. has now held the lease for the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort and the Banyan Drive golf course for more than seven years, and the result has been a disaster for East Hawai‘i. The Kilauea Tower of the resort has been gutted and empty for years, and the property is in a shambles. Valuable retail space on the grounds of the resort that could be contributing to the local economy and generating jobs is vacant and closed. Despite the lessee’s well-publicized promises to restore the area as a top- quality destination, a lounge adjoining the hotel is usually closed, and the pool on the Banyan Drive side of the property has been drained. Only a fraction of the rooms in the Naniloa have actually been renovated. Since much of the hotel is empty, the facility operates with minimal staff.
 
Many of our East Hawai‘i residents are traveling 100 miles to work at jobs in Kona and the Kohala Coast resort areas, while the once-beautiful 391-room Naniloa property is deteriorating in Hilo. Hawai‘i Outdoor Tours has been given ample opportunity over the last seven years to restore the property, and we cannot continue to stand by while a single hotel operator holds an entire community economic hostage.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources has failed to enforce the terms of its lease with Hawai‘i Outdoor Tours. To give a few examples, this lessee failed to maintain the $1 million performance bond required by the lease. This lessee previously failed to stay current on the lease rent, and was issued notices of default. This lessee filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago, yet the lease specifically allows for termination “if the Lessee shall become bankrupt.”
 
Our greatest concern is the manner in which this lessee allowed the historic Naniloa property to dramatically deteriorate despite clear language in the lease that requires the lessee to “keep, repair, and maintain all buildings and improvements…on the premises in good order, condition and repair….”
 
On Aug. 1, this lessee failed to make the required semi-annual rent payment, and was granted an extension. Now this board is being asked for another extension to delay this required payment to the end of the year.
 
For the good of our working families and the business climate in all of East Hawai‘i, we respectfully urge the Board of Land and Natural Resources to firmly enforce the terms of lease S-5844. No special consideration should be given to lessee Hawai‘i Outdoor Tours or to First Citizens Bank, which is the lien holder in this case. If the current lessee or the lien holder cannot meet such basic requirements as paying the required ground lease rent or maintaining construction or performance bonds to protect state interests, then the board should declare the lessee in default and move to terminate the lease.
 
This department has collected millions of dollars in ground lease rents from the Banyan Drive tenants over the years. At a minimum, DLNR has an obligation to actively manage the Banyan Drive leases to assure those properties are properly maintained and operated by tenants who comply with the terms of their leases. This will create jobs, boost the Hawai‘i Island economy, increase state transient accommodation and excise tax collections, and eventually result in increased lease rent collections for the DLNR.
 
The land board must address these problems head-on, and clear the way for prompt restoration of the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort. We need action now.
 
Thank you for your consideration.
 
Aloha,

William P. Kenoi
MAYOR

 

Mayor Kenoi in China to Seek Trade, Travel Partnerships with Taiwan

County of Hawai‘i Mayor Billy Kenoi is in Taipei, Republic of China this week with eight other mayors from across the nation in an effort to strengthen and promote business, agricultural, educational and cultural ties with Taiwan.

Kenoi Budget
The government of Taiwan organized the 2013 U.S. Municipal Mayor Delegation to Taiwan from Sept. 1-7, and selected mayors from Hawai‘i, California, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Connecticut, Wyoming and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate. The Republic of China is hosting the mayors and providing air and hotel accommodations.

The County of Hawai‘i established a sister-city relationship with the County of Haulian in Taiwan in 1971, and former Mayor Shen-Shan Hsieh of the County of Haulian led a delegation to the County of Hawai‘i in 2007. Taiwan was recently added to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to encourage travel between the two nations, and China Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines began direct flights between Taipei and Honolulu this year.

County of Hawai‘i Managing Director Wally Lau is serving as acting mayor until Mayor Kenoi returns on Friday, Sept. 6.

 

Pālamanui the Planned Kona Campus of Hawaiʻi Community College Has Groundbreaking Ceremony

Pālamanui, the planned Kona campus of Hawaiʻi Community College, has taken a giant step towards becoming a reality. A kīpaepae ʻeli honua, or groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus, was held in May 2013. Welcome news considering Pālamanui was first conceived of more than two decades ago, and had been in the planning stages since 2004.

Palamanui Ground Breaking

“We are graduating from planning to doing,” said University of Hawaiʻi System President M.R.C. Greenwood. “And that is a very important beginning.”

West Hawaiʻi is the only major geographic region and population center in Hawaiʻi without a permanent higher education facility. That will change in 2015 when the first phase of Pālamanui is scheduled for completion.

“The community colleges open the doors for our kamaliʻi, our children, for haumana, our students to dream,” said Hawaiʻi County Mayor Billy Kenoi.

Palamanui Blessing

The state-of-the-art, energy-independent campus is expected to serve as a model for other state projects.

The $25 million first phase includes a structure with 24,000 square feet of classrooms, science labs, learning kitchens, library, learning commons area and a large photovoltaic system.

It fits in perfectly with Hawaiʻi Community College’s mission of E ʻImi Pono, or seeking excellence.

“It is the same spirit that will guide us into the future and the endless possibilities this new campus will provide,” said Noreen Yamane, chancellor of Hawaiʻi Community College.

The groundbreaking ceremony prepared the land in a traditional Hawaiian way, and included Hānai ʻAwa, feeding ʻawa to the land; Kanu Iʻa, burying fish; Kanu Lāʻau, planting Lāʻau; and hula, with a mele or song for the spirit of the land, ocean and sky.

Then with ōʻō, or digging sticks, in hand; state, county and UH dignitaries dug into the earth, marking the start of the creation of a new home.

Palamanui Digging Stick

“We pledge all that we have, all that we are, to Hawaiʻi’s and its future,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie. “Pālamanui, is the future of Hawaiʻi.”

Talk Story with Mayor Kenoi and the Administration

Council Member Zendo Kern invites the public as he hosts Mayor Billy Kenoi and members of his cabinet for a Talk Story on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 5:30p.m. The meeting will be held at the Kea‘au Elementary School Cafeteria.

Zendo Kern Talk Story

This event is another opportunity for residents to hear details of the proposed 2013-2014 County Budget. The Mayor will present information on the budget submitted to the County Council and will take questions from those in attendance. Members of the Kenoi Administration and Council Member Kern will be available for questions following the presentation.

The Council will convene a Special Meeting on Thursday, May 30, 2013 when it is scheduled to hold a second reading of the County’s Operating/Capital Improvements Projects Budget.

Informal “Talk Story” With Mayor Kenoi and His Cabinet

Community Meeting Kenoi Kern Yoshimoto

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon With the Mayor

Hear what Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi and his cabinet have to say on the county’s economy and outlook for 2013 at a Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Focus Luncheon Tuesday, April 2.

The Sign Outside the Hotel

The Sign Outside the Hotel

Sponsored by Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, the informative event is 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Reservations, which include lunch, are $40 for Chamber members and $50 for non-members; tables of eight are available. The registration deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 27. RSVP online at kona-kohala.com or by phoning the Chamber office at 329-1758. No refunds or cancellations will be taken after March 27.

Andy Bumatai – In The Car With Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi (Full Episode)

Andy Bumatai interviews Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has the drive through Hilo, Hawai’i on one of the most beautiful days.

Bumatai and Kenoi

Sponsored by First Insurance a Hawai’i Insurance Company. Call First Insurance for the best Insurance rates in Hawai’i.

Governor Abercrombie Meets with the Mayors – Kenoi Testifies Before Legislature

Governor Abercrombie met with Mayors from Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island counties

Governor Abercrombie met with Mayors from Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island counties today.

Click here to read Mayor Kenoi’s testimony before the legislature today: Mayor Kenoi Testifies Before Legislature.

Mayor Kenoi Mourns the Passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Mayor Billy Kenoi and the people of the County of Hawai‘i mourn the passing of United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a war hero, distinguished president pro-tempore of the United States Senate, and an effective advocate for the people of Hawai‘i for more than five decades.

Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Agency Director Tom Brown, left, and Mayor Billy Kenoi, accept a Federal Transit Agency check representing $7.2 million from U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye to fund mass transit improvements in the County of Hawai‘i.

Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Agency Director Tom Brown, left, and Mayor Billy Kenoi, accept a Federal Transit Agency check representing $7.2 million from U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye to fund mass transit improvements in the County of Hawai‘i.

“Beyond the titles, beyond the power and the influence, what most stands out is his thoughtfulness, his kindness and how he treated everyone with respect and aloha,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I will never forget that lesson.”

Many of Hawai‘i’s leaders walked through Senator Inouye’s office – including Mayor Kenoi, who worked as an intern in Inouye’s office in the summer of 1992. “He gave me opportunity, and he supported me every step of the way,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I look to him with the same respect, honor and love that I feel for my parents.”

“Senator Inouye was a friend and a mentor to generations of public servants. He always encouraged all of us to fight for what we believe in, to stand up for what is right, and most importantly, to give everything we have to serve the people of Hawai‘i,” Mayor Kenoi said. “He taught all of us how to conduct ourselves as public servants.”

Senator Inouye was a leader who embodied the best of yesterday, who served our community the best he could every day, and who was always mindful of tomorrow, of future generations, Mayor Kenoi said.

“He was a tireless advocate for the people of Hawai‘i. Takako and I, our family, and our community are honored and privileged to have had him as a part of our lives.”

 

Mayor Kenoi Will Hold Office

After enough analysis of tonight’s race… I will say that Mayor Kenoi will hold office.

Deputy Mayor Iizuka presents a message of aloha to Mayor Kenoi on behalf of Mayor Sadaji Akutsu of Shibukawa.

Congratulations to both Mayor Kenoi and Former Mayor Harry Kim for really running pretty clean campaigns and really not beefing.

Normally we see a lot of smear tactics amongst constituents of candidates and this year we didn’t see that.

Mahalo to Mayor Kenoi and Harry Kim for running a campaign free of smearing each other.

Sales Begin at Kamakoa Nui Workforce Housing in Waikoloa: Timeline of Events

The County of Hawai‘i today announced that it will soon begin sales of homes in the Kamakoa Nui workforce housing community in Waikoloa.

The County of Hawai‘i today announced that it will soon begin sales of homes in the Kamakoa Nui workforce housing community in Waikoloa.

In a related announcement, the County will extend Paniolo Avenue from Waikoloa Elementary School to the community and the new Kamakoa Nui Park. The extension will provide a primary route to the park, which will provide ballfields and a skate park to all residents of Waikoloa.

The Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) will begin offering new fee-simple homes to qualified buyers at price points between $235,000 and $350,000. There are no additional costs to ownership such as homeowner’s association dues or community facilities charges. OHCD plans to ask for bids on the first three phases of the project — about 20 homes — by December 2012.

“We’ve had challenges along the way, including a lawsuit that we had to deal with,” said Steve Arnett, Administrator of the County’s Office of Housing and Community Development. “We are so excited about the possibility of now making this an addition to the Waikoloa Village community.”

Ongoing litigation between the County of Hawaii and Unidev LLC, the original developer of Kamakoa Nui, had clouded the title to the property. Although the lawsuits are ongoing, the County of Hawai‘i was informed Monday that title to the property was cleared. This development gave the County the green light to offer homes in Kamakoa Nui for sale.

Those who participated in a 2007 lottery to determine placing on the offering list are being contacted and will have first choice at purchasing a home in Kamakoa Nui. Depending on demand, remaining homes will be offered through another lottery. Those who are able to purchase should be able to move into their homes by next summer.

“It’s exciting! I’m a teacher here at Waikoloa, and it’s exciting to have the possibility of owning a home here in the Village where I teach,” said Larry Denis, a Waikoloa Elementary School teacher who was at today’s announcement and walk-through. “I’m excited to look at the options.”

Homes at Kamakoa Nui are being offered to resident families with household incomes of no more than 140 percent of the area median income. For a family of four, that comes out to $97,440. Additionally, Habitat For Humanity will purchase four lots at Kamakoa Nui. This will allow families with even lower average monthly incomes to be able to afford homes.

“Families will have an opportunity to build equity for their families, for their future,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “It becomes a wiser investment for all of us, and more importantly, it’s an investment in our children and their future.”

Looking toward the future Paniolo Ave. extension

Mayor Kenoi also on Thursday announced that the $3 million first phase of the extension of Paniolo Avenue is expected to be out to bid in December and could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2014. The extension of Paniolo Avenue, from the traffic light near Waikoloa Elementary School to Kamakoa Nui, will create the primary entrance to the community and the park, lessening the impact to those living on Iwikuamo‘o Drive.

“We’re building the road because the community needs it. Although the obligation to construct the road rests with others, we cannot wait for them to resolve who will build it,” said Mayor Kenoi. “So we will build it.”

Timeline of Kamakoa Nui:

  • 2005 – Kamakoa Vistas Workforce Housing project awarded to Unidev LLC of Bethesda, Md. Unidev contracts with the County of Hawai’i's Office of Housing & Community Development to build 1,200 affordable units, which will be offered leasehold between $350,000 and $475,000, not including monthly $100 association dues and $450 in Community Facilities District fees.
  • 2006 – Unidev secures $6 million in temporary financing from the National Electricians Benefit Fund (NEBF). Unidev partners with Citicorp to finance the entire project.
  • 2007 – County pays off NEBF loan.
  • 2007 – County breaks ground for the project on Dec. 29.
  • 2008 – Citicorp drops out of project during the financial crisis.
  • 2008 – County Council approves $40 million bond float for Kamakoa.
  • 2008 – Waikoloa Workforce Housing LLC established by the county.
  • 2008 – Isemoto Contracting Co. is the low bidder on backbone infrastructure at just under $28 million.
  • 2008 – Unidev does not respond to county, WWH or vendors.
  • 2009 – Under a new administration, County stops payments and sues Unidev citing false and fraudulent claims. County closes WWH.
  • 2010 – OHCD revises business model under the newly branded name of Kamakoa Nui. Price points are now $235,000 to $350,000 for new, fee-simple new homes with no additional fees.
  • 2011 – Site work completed by Isemoto.
  • 2011 – Coastal Construction Co. submits low bid for model homes, which are completed on time and on budget.
  • 2012 – The model homes are furnished by Trans Pacific Interior Design. Aldridge and Associates hired as real estate broker.
  • 2012 – County clears title and announces that sales of homes at Kamakoa Nui are about to begin. County also announces it will extend Paniolo Avenue from the Waikoloa Elementary School to the new Kamakoa Nui Park.

Delegation From Oshima Island Visits The Big Island

A delegation from Hawai‘i County Sister City Oshima Island visited the office of Mayor Billy Kenoi today, delivering a gift in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sister City relationship.

Managing Director William Takaba, Honorary Consul General of Japan Art Taniguchi, Zen Tanaka, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Dr. Masafumi Honda, and Mayumi Jinguh

In Japanese, Oshima means “big island” – so it’s fitting that Oshima Island’s only international Sister City relationship is with Hawai‘i’s biggest island. Though Oshima is much smaller than Hawai‘i Island – about 35 square miles with a population of 8,500 in 2008 – it is home to waterfalls, valleys, and Mt. Mihara, an active volcano standing at 2,507 feet. The most recent eruption was in 1990. Oshima is the largest island in the Izu group, over a dozen islands extending south from the Izu Peninsula.

“Fifty years of a special friendship tie between our islands, which our predecessors continuously built, is the pride and honor of the people of Oshima-Machi,” wrote Oshima Mayor Masafumi Kawashima in a letter to Mayor Kenoi.

Mayor Kawashima was unable to come to Hawai‘i Island for the celebration, but Mayumi Jinguh and Zen Tanaka of Oshima visited on his behalf, delivering a letter and a gift – a copper relief depicting a rainbow bridge between the Sister Cities of Hawai‘i Island and Oshima Island. Tanaka, the 19th master of a 414-year-old copper craftsmanship school, started his work with copper when he was 15 years old. The people of Oshima Island, including Mayor Masafumi Kawashima, participated in crafting the piece.

“We are very honored and very privileged to call you our friends, to call you our neighbors, and to call you family,” said Mayor Kenoi.

The County of Hawai‘i’s Sister City relationship with Oshima Island was initiated in 1962 by the Board of Supervisors, the predecessor to today’s County Council. The Chairman and Executive Officer of the Board of Supervisors, the predecessor to the office of the Mayor, was Thomas K. ‘Lofty’ Cook.

Members of the Board of Supervisors at the time were Wing Kong ‘Winkie’ Chong, Elroy Osorio, Helene Hale, Sherwood Greenwell, Ikuo Hisaoka, and Elias Yadao.

The current Mayor of Oshima-Machi, Mayor Kawashima, visited Hawai‘i Island before he was mayor – in 1996 as part of a volcano study tour to Mt. St. Helens on the Continental U.S. and three Hawaiian islands. The last visit from Oshima Island to Hawai‘i County was in 2006, when a delegation of 100 people came in celebration of Oshima’s 50th anniversary of township.

Informational Meeting on Burglaries and Thefts in Kona Tuesday

Police and members of the administration are holding an informational meeting Tuesday night regarding the recent rash of burglaries and car thefts in the County of Hawaii, and particularly in Kona.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Konawaena High School cafeteria.

“We’re very concerned about this recent spike in crime,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “Police will be available to update the community on their investigation, how to make you home less vulnerable to burglary and how to help police catch these people.”

Call Bobby Command, executive assistant to Mayor Kenoi, at 323-4442 for more information.

Where the Votes Came From in Key Big Island Races – You Draw Your Own Conclusion

Jared Kuroiwa pointed me to a couple graphs and links that showed where the votes came in from on some of the key races.

In the Big Island Mayoral race… this is what the graph looked like:

For more details on this map see here: http://brchawaii.com/map.php/?r=1&contest=139&type=race&width=1708&Height=960

Senate District 2:

For more details on this graph see here:  http://brchawaii.com/map.php/?r=1&contest=11&type=race&width=1708&Height=960

And the map that Loraine Inouye may find interesting in that she is contesting the results is the following graph:

More details on this map here: http://brchawaii.com/map.php/?r=1&contest=16&type=race&width=1708&Height=960

Now if you compare the above maps with the actual voter turnout in certain precincts… Well I will let you draw your own conclusions:

To really see this graph in details (some of the precincts don’t show because the map is not zoomed in enough) click here: http://brchawaii.com/map.php/?r=1&contest=139&type=&width=1708&Height=960

Kapulena Agricultural Park Blessed

The County of Hawai‘i and the Hāmākua Farm Bureau today held a ceremony to bless the 1,739 acre Kapulena Agricultural Park, just northwest of Honoka‘a. A group of about 50 farmers, ranchers, officials from the County and State including Mayor Billy Kenoi, and members of the community gathered for the morning blessing by Deacon Larry Ignacio, born and raised in the area.

“This is one of the most excited projects that we’ve ever had the opportunity to work on. Its been a true privilege. We talk about cooperation and collaboration. We talk about agriculture and sustainability. There’s a lot of conversation, but we needed to have a meaningful project that was on the ground, where farmers could farm and ranchers could ranch,” Mayor Kenoi said.

The first herd of cattle has been grazing the Kapulena lands since the beginning of 2012 in an effort to clear thick vegetation off the first increment of the fallow sugar cane lands, while simultaneously preparing the cattle for market. Once the lands are grazed down, they will be made available for more intensive farming projects proposed by the community.

“To have the largest agricultural park in the state of Hawai‘i be a County and community one is a very humbling, satisfying, and rewarding experience. Our job was to just remove obstacles, hurdles and barriers along the way,” said Mayor Kenoi.

While the grazing project will clear vegetation growing on the property for the initial group of farmers, the County has also entertained a number of offers from companies that wish to make use of ironwood trees which have taken over a majority of the property. Proposed uses for the ironwood include everything from flooring to fuel cells to biomass.

Other uses of the Kapulena lands could range from community gardens to larger-scale ranching and commercial production of crops to educational programs that will encourage youth to enter agricultural fields, Mayor Kenoi said.

The Kapulena Agriculture Park is operated by the Hāmākua Farm Bureau on a portion of the County-owned Kapulena lands just above the Hāmākua ditch between Honoka‘a and Waipi‘o Valley. Last year, the County worked with partners – including inmates from the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center – to clear old cane haul roads and install fencing and gates for security to support grazing on this portion of the Kapulena lands.

The commitment of 1,739 acres in Hāmākua represents a major increase in the available opportunities for farming on the Island of Hawai‘i. The state operates agricultural parks in Pāhoa, Hāmākua, Pana‘ewa and Keāhole, but the 1,739 acres at Kapulena amounts to more land for farming than all of those existing state-run agricultural parks on the island combined.

In addition to the County of Hawai‘i and the Hāmākua Farm Bureau, participants in the Kapulena lands include University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“To see collective energy result in a beneficial project that also is focused on growing the next generation of farmers, growing the next generation of ranchers, to have been a small part of that is something I’ll always remember,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We didn’t talk about agriculture or talk about sustainability but actually brought the community together to make it happen and getting it done is the most satisfying, rewarding part of the job.”

Big Island Will Purchase Three New Buses with Federal Grant Money

I mentioned the other day that the State of Hawaii was going to receive $8.44 Million in Federal funding for new buses and that $1.2 million of it would be going to the Big Island.

Mayor Kenoi announced the following today how Hawaii County would allot that funding:

The County of Hawai‘i will receive $1.2 million in grant money to purchase three new buses for its Hele-On fleet.

The money comes from the Federal Transit Administration State of Good Repair grant program. The modern buses will replace three older ones being retired from the Hele-On fleet, which features 51 buses carrying 1.2 million passengers a year all around Hawai‘i Island.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi said the county plans to purchase 49-passenger motor coaches to improve and expand upon its island-wide bus service. The new buses will be wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned, and equipped with bicycle racks.

“These funds will go a long way in helping us improve our transportation services,” said Mayor Kenoi. “They will replace buses that are over 17 years old.” Mayor Kenoi said U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye was instrumental in securing this grant.

“The buses we will purchase will provide a more comfortable and enjoyable riding experience for our residents,” said Mayor Kenoi. “We would like to thank Senator Inouye for his assistance in obtaining the funds for this project.”

A key strategic goal of the federal Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration is to assist municipalities with the improvement and maintenance of America’s buses and bus facilities. About $650 million has been made available by the Federal Transit Administration to improve the condition of transit equipment across the nation.

New Pana‘ewa Covered Play Courts, Renovated Family Center Opened

Hundreds of keiki, parents and kupuna attended Saturday’s grand opening of the $3.1 million Pana‘ewa Covered Play Courts and rededication of the Pana‘ewa Family Center during a public ceremony at Pana‘ewa Park in Hilo.

While being serenaded by local musicians, community members toured the 26,000-square-foot, gym-like structure offering three regulation high school basketball courts that can be converted into regulation volleyball or tennis courts.

A roof and partial sides protect the playing areas from rain, providing the community with its first indoor athletic venue in the 34-year history of Pana‘ewa Park. Young athletes quickly benefited from the facility’s design that sheltered them first from Saturday’s hot sun and then from passing showers that would have left outdoor courts unusable.

“This wonderful place, this pu‘uhonua, is going to serve our community for generations to come,” Mayor Kenoi told audience members. “This project is about love and family and taking care of our kamali‘i and our haumāna.”

Mayor Kenoi said Saturday’s dedication was one of his proudest days serving the people of Hawai‘i Island because it meant delivering on the vision of providing a facility where keiki can exercise out of the rain while learning the value of teamwork and sportsmanship.

“I want to thank so many people who put so much aloha, so much love into this project,” Mayor Kenoi said, adding the completion would not have been possible without the hard work of numerous community volunteers, contractors and County personnel. He then read their names to deliver a personal mahalo.

Contractor GW Construction built the facility for $3,065,980. GW Construction, fellow contractor Roger Hill Ltd., community volunteers, and County staff also installed a new scoreboard to serve the park’s main softball field and football field.

A retractable, overhead netting system allows the facility’s three courts to be used simultaneously. Modular interlocking tiles, specifically designed to reduce impact-related injuries without sacrificing athletic performance, were used for the playing surface.

“I look at this facility, and it’s like a dream,” Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi said.

Significantly cheaper than a traditional gymnasium, the covered play courts use an open-air design and ceiling insulation in place of costly air conditioning. Energy-efficient LED lights and translucent skylights further reduce operating costs.

Engineering plans developed for the Pana‘ewa Covered Play Courts are owned by the County of Hawai‘i and will be used as a template to provide similar facilities to other communities, Mayor Kenoi said.

Kumu Moses Kaho‘okele Crabbe delivered a traditional pule or blessing before the public, led by keiki basketball players, entered the covered play courts and prompted tested their basketball skills.

Saturday’s celebration also included reopening the park’s newly restored and expanded Pana‘ewa Family Center. Located adjacent to the new play courts, the Pana‘ewa Family Center includes bathrooms meeting accessibility requirements, an administrative office and an expanded multi-purpose room measuring more than 1,400 square feet. The center, which replaces a former center damaged by fire, provides the community with an accessible public meeting and gathering space that will be home to a computer lab and future Summer Fun programs.

Construction was a collaborative effort between County staff and volunteers from the Pana‘ewa Hawaiian Homestead Community Association and The Men of Pa‘a.

Pana‘ewa Park was originally opened July 17, 1978. It was built for $201,809 by Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd.