Governor Abercrombie Releases $100,000 for Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council Offices in Naalehu and Honokaa

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of two grants totaling $100,000 to Hilo-based nonprofit Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC) for its Naalehu and Honokaa offices.

HCEOC Naalehu Office

HCEOC Naalehu Office

The Governor approved the allotment of funds in the amount of $50,000 each for the Naalehu and Honokaa offices for planning, design and construction for emergency repairs and access improvements, as identified by members of the state Legislature.

“This money will be used to improve accessibility for our kupuna and the disabled, particularly those living in remote communities,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “These funds represent an investment in community and nonprofit efforts that will have significant impacts in the lives of local individuals and families they serve.”

HCEOC Honokaa Office

HCEOC Honokaa Office

Repair of HCEOC satellite offices will facilitate outreach and services (transportation, energy and education programs) to disadvantaged residents dispersed in rural communities on Hawaii Island. A popular program is the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which subsidizes electricity or gas bills of qualified disadvantaged households. Each June, HCEOC provides outreach for the energy assistance program administered by the state Department of Human Services and local utility companies.

Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory Update – Lava Pond Remains Active

Kahaualeʻa 2 flow and lava pond in Puʻu ʻŌʻō remain active

Mar 21, 2014: The Kahaualeʻa 2 flow remains active, with the active flow front slowly moving through thick forest northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. The flow front today was 8.2 km (5.1 miles) northeast of the vent on Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which is visible in the center of the photograph, although partly obscured by fume and smoke from burning trees.

Mar 21, 2014: The small (10 meters, or 30 feet, wide) lava pond within the northeast spatter cone on Puʻu ʻŌʻō experiences cyclic rises and falls of the lava surface called “gas pistoning,” driven by the buildup and release of gas in the pond. At the time of this photograph, the pond surface had dropped following the release of gas.

Mar 21, 2014: The lava pond surface at its highest level observed during our field work today—just before the release of gas caused it to drop during the fall cycle of the gas pistoning.
Mar 21, 2014: Spattering at the edge of the pond during the fall cycle.

Mar 21, 2014: The release of gas from the lava pond at Puʻu ʻŌʻō nearly obscures the spatter (fluid fragments of molten lava) being thrown about a meter (3 ft) high.

Lava lake activity in Halemaʻumaʻu continues

Mar 21, 2014: The lava lake at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano remains active. During our observation today, the lava lake surface was about 40 m (131 ft) below the rim of the vent (the Overlook crater) within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.

Paniolo Cattle Company Formed by Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative

Following a successful grass-fed beef trial on Hawaii Island, Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative announced the launch of the Paniolo Cattle Company, a joint venture aimed at statewide local beef production. The pasture-to-table enterprise taps into a growing demand for high-quality, affordable, locally raised beef.

Parker Cows

Paniolo Cattle Company will begin with 1,400 head of cattle to be raised at Parker Ranch on Hawaii Island.  This represents the largest commitment of grass-fed beef by a single ranch in the state and will increase the supply of grass-fed steers to the market by nearly 35 percent.

Parker Ranch provides calves and cattle management expertise for the joint venture and Ulupono Initiative contributes the intellectual capital to develop best practices for profitability and sustainable agricultural methods.  Both entities have financial interest and will handle the commercial aspects of the business.  Parker Ranch, headquartered in Waimea on Hawaii Island, is Hawaii’s largest cattle operation, and the state’s second largest landowner.

Ranching profitability has long been impacted by fluctuating costs of oil and corn.  The price of cattle over the last decade has increased about 57 percent, while the price of feed has increased 129 percent, causing conventional ranching returns to suffer.  Paniolo Cattle Company seeks to reduce costs substantially by animal husbandry based on sound pasture management.

“This joint venture is about trying to level the cost of beef, creating an at-home thriving cattle industry that is energy-efficient and protects us against volatility in fuel and feed costs,” said Dutch Kuyper, CEO of Parker Ranch. “Restaurants, food markets and consumers want quality and consistency in beef, at reasonable prices.”

The goal is to create a more robust local beef supply chain and ensure that a quality, consistent product is available to all Hawaii consumers, not just the high-end market.  In the pre-commercial trial on Hawaii Island, conducted from September 2012 to May 2013, 80 percent of the beef was graded “choice.”

Market research conducted by Ulupono indicated that Oahu consumers would make the shift to local beef if the quality was consistent and prices were reasonable.  Ulupono has been exploring the grass-fed beef model for nearly four years.
“We view this as an equal partnership of capital and capabilities based on shared values, mutual respect, and a commitment to the future of ranching in Hawaii,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative.  Ulupono Initiative is an impact investment firm focused on Hawaii operations that promote a self-reliant community.
Paniolo Cattle Company plans to expand statewide and has begun talks with ranchers on Oahu, Maui and Kauai to broaden the program’s reach and benefit Hawaii ranchers, processors, and consumers in every county.  The pace of expansion will be based on the market demand.

Kuyper and Datta said meetings with Gov. Neil Abercrombie and cattle ranchers were the catalyst behind pursuing a value-based brand that increases the sustainability of Hawaii’s food supply and reduces the headwinds facing the local ranching industry.  “The State understands the food security issues. We’ve gotten a lot of support and guidance from Scott Enright, State Department of Agriculture board chair,” said Datta.

Paniolo Cattle Company will be involved in the full cycle of beef production, from grazing and finishing to working with processors and distribution.

In the initial grass-fed stage, cattle are free to roam and graze pasture until they reach about 800 pounds. The finishing stage requires active management to assure consistent nutrition to grow to 1,150 pounds, which produces high-quality meat that has the tenderness consumers seek.  Paniolo Cattle Company will operate irrigated finishing forage pastures and employ rotational pasture techniques to achieve consistency and quality, an approach not widely practiced in Hawaii.

“Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative both share the core value of caring about our aina and we’re committed to finding solutions that allow us to be here for the long-term providing affordable, high quality food for our community,” said Datta.  “The rotational grazing approach is a regenerative agricultural method that will improve soil health and increase pasture fertility.  Converting pasture to higher yield grasses, and reinvesting in our natural capital will pay dividends for years to come.”

Officer and Firefighter of the Year Recognized Last Night

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized Sergeant James Correa as “Officer of the Year” and Captain Darwin Okinaka as “Firefighter of the Year” in a dinner ceremony Thursday evening (March 20).

Sergeant James Correa as “Officer of the Year” and Captain Darwin Okinaka as “Firefighter of the Year”

Sergeant James Correa as “Officer of the Year” and Captain Darwin Okinaka as “Firefighter of the Year”

Sergeant Correa, who joined the Police Department in March 1998, is assigned to the South Hilo District, where he heads the Special Enforcement Unit. Captain Okinaka joined the Fire Department in May 2000 and is in charge of the Training Bureau.

During a ceremony at the Hilo Yacht Club, each honoree received a plaque from the Aloha Exchange Club, certificates of commendation from the governor’s office, the mayor’s office, the Legislature and the Hawaiʻi County Council, and a gift basket of donated items and gift certificates.

Correa was honored for his leadership role in capturing two escaped prisoners.

On December 5, 2012, two inmates escaped from Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center after overpowering and assaulting a correctional officer. In the aftermath of the escape, the Police Department formed two teams, one from each side of the island, to lead an intense man hunt for the fugitives.

Sergeant Correa was assigned to lead the Area I Task Force in East Hawaiʻi, while Sergeant Bradley Freitas was in charge of the Area II Task Force in West Hawaiʻi. The two teams worked together tracking down all leads. Due to their commitment, one prisoner was arrested in Kaʻū two days after the escape. The second was tracked down a week later in Puna.

In nominating Correa for the honor, Captain Robert Wagner said citizens were grateful for the dedication of the task forces members, who worked long hours to protect the safety of the public.

“It can be very stressful to be given the task of apprehending two dangerous escapees, especially when everyone on the island is expecting quick results so their families can return to their normal lifestyle,” Wagner wrote in nomination papers. “There were many officers involved in this manhunt, but the direction, decisions and leadership of both Sergeant Correa and Sergeant Freitas were critical in ensuring both task forces worked together efficiently for their common goal.”

Correa thanked the Exchange Club for the honor but credited everyone involved for the successful outcome. “It’s a team effort,” he said. He also thanked his fiancée for being so understanding about his job responsibilities. “She’s the one who always has to change the schedule,” he said. Correa said his father, retired Chief James Correa, is a constant reminder that he has big shoes to fill.

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares said Sergeant Correa was hand-picked to head the Special Enforcement Unit because of his extreme dedication to the department and to serving his community and because of his investigative skills. “Sergeant Correa, you’re doing a fine job of filling those shoes,” he said.

Fire Captain Okinaka was honored for his leadership, attitude and community service. During the past year, he was the core facilitator for Fire Fighter recruits, leading 29 of them to realize their dreams of protecting the community. Okinaka continues to take the lead in assisting with voluntary community service events with the recruits, such as the painting of the NAS pool parking lot, painting of the exhibit structures at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, providing first aid service at booths at the Muscular Dystrophy walk and American Cancer Society Relay for Life, as well as being an integral part of the planning and operations team for the annual Hawaiʻi Fire Department’s EMS Week Festivities and Fire Prevention Week events.

Fire Chief Darren Rosario said in a written summary that Okinaka has been known as “the Fire Fighter’s Fire Fighter” since he first joined the Fire Department. “He could be counted on to help with anything anyone needed at work,” Rosario said. “Throughout his career, his work ethic always exemplified the core values of our department: integrity, pride, commitment to service, safety and teamwork.”

In accepting his award, Okinaka said he remembers seeing a “Firefighter of the Year” award for his father when he was a boy. “I was proud of him,” he said, adding that he never thought he would earn the same distinction. “Thank you, Chief Rosario, for believing in me,” he said. He also thanked his assistant chief for his guidance and his wife for her support.

The “Officer of the Year” and “Fire Fighter of the Year” awards are projects of the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.

Big Island Police Charge Hilo Man for Crimes That Occurred on Both Sides of the Island

Hawaiʻi Island police have charged a 53-year-old former Hilo man with various offenses stemming from crimes that allegedly occurred on both sides of the island.

Christopher Brian Perkins

Christopher Brian Perkins

At 12:33 a.m. Thursday (March 19), Kona patrol officers responded to a nuisance call at Honokōhau Boat Harbor and made contact with Christopher Brian Perkins, who was seated in a light blue 1990 BMW sedan. Officers recovered what appeared to be marijuana after obtaining permission to search the car.

Perkins also was wanted for a burglary and credit card offenses that stemmed from an incident in which a Kailua-Kona couple reported that their home had been forcibly entered. It was initially believed that nothing had been removed from the house but investigation revealed that several unauthorized transactions had been made at businesses in Kona using the victims’ credit card number. Perkins was identified as the suspect through video surveillance that police recovered from one of the businesses.

Perkins was initially held in the Kona police cellblock while detectives from the Area II Criminal Investigations Section continued the investigation.

In Hilo, detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section were investigating a burglary that took place Sunday (March 16) at a home in the upper Kūkūau Street area, where jewelry and a firearm were reportedly stolen. Detectives recovered video surveillance from the property and were able to link the BMW seen in the video to Perkins, who had recently acquired the car. Police were actively seeking him for questioning.

At 7 p.m. Thursday (March 20), after conferring with prosecutors, Kona detectives charged Perkins with first-degree burglary, five counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, five counts of fourth-degree theft, five counts of third-degree identity theft, two counts of third-degree computer fraud, seven counts of second-degree forgery, and one count of third-degree promoting a detrimental drug. His bail for the Kona cases was set at $234,000.

Perkins was then arrested on suspicion of first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, and second-degree theft in connection with the Hilo case. He was transferred to the Hilo cellblock while Area I detectives continued the investigation into that case.

At 9 a.m. Friday, after conferring with prosecutors, Hilo detectives charged Perkins with first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, second-degree theft and two counts of ownership/possession prohibited (firearms and ammunition). His bail for the Hilo case was set at $110,000.

Detectives have recovered the stolen firearm and ammunition.