Listen to Mayor Kenoi’s comments about the upcoming budget:
Mayor Billy Kenoi spoke Tuesday to more than 150 people at a combined Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce/Kona Rotary meeting. Among other things, he spoke of the County’s success in getting federal stimulus funding for infrastructure projects. Mayor Kenoi says Hawaii County got 38% of federal stimulus money allocated to the state for roads. That includes $46 million dollars for the Ane Keohokalole Highway, the mid level road. Kenoi said there is $15 million dollars more to extend the mid level road between Hina Lani and Ka’iminani, when the Governor will release it.
He also said his administration is working to provide better support to business. One example he cited is in the planning department: Since November, the average time to get a building permit has dropped to only 30 days, from its previous average of from six to twelve months. How did they do it? Before, each permit traveled from department to department. Under the new plan, the departments all gather in one room, and they move the permit through at lightning speed.
Plans for next year’s budget, due March 1st to Hawaii County Council, are still not firm. He did say he’s already reduced actual people, not just head count, by 142. The Mayor was not ready to go public about an area of concern to everybody—will property taxes be raised? Kenoi said he’s still gathering information. He said he wants to keep homeowner property rates at current levels—but until he gets a complete picture of what each department can do to cut expenses, everything is on the table.
The Mayor and several cabinet members also addressed several miscellaneous items:
-County Park and Rec Director Bob Fitzgerald said the final Environmental Assessment for Makae’o Park, Old Airport Park, is done. Now, the challenge is finding the funding to move the project forward.
-Lako Street: there has been a strong community desire to extend Lako Street down to Ali’i Drive to provide a mauka-makai connector. The Mayor said finally the issues regarding the estate that owned the property between the Lutheran Church and Ali’i Drive are close to being resolved. Warren Lee said they’ll start property acquisition as soon as they are able.
-La’aloa mauka makai connector: the design is complete, and the Mayor has asked for the ok to get funds via a bond float.
-Mass transit routes have increased by 20%, and ridership is up by 52%. Right now, the County Bus is free, but odds are, there will be a fare proposal included in the budget.
-Director of Water Supply Milton Pavao said the Ocean View well is coming along, and should be complete by September, 2011.
-Mayor Kenoi said he continues to oppose the Department of Education’s proposal to charge an impact fee only on Kona building projects. The DOE acknowledged the first school they plan to build on Hawaii Island will be in Waikoloa–but that’s 15th on the list!! DOE is imposing an impact fee now in Maui, but the Mayor said it is not fair to single out areas to be charged–especially if DOE plans no new schools in the area.
-Mayor said the County Emergency Operations Center was the first in the state to mobilize when the February, 2010 tsunami threatened. He gave kudos to Quince Mento and all the County workers.