Senate WAM Committee Visits East Hawaiʻi

October 29, 2017, 2:02 PM HST (Updated November 2, 2017, 9:07 AM)
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    Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele assisting with theKeaʻau High School beautification project. Oct. 28, 2017.

    On Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, members of the Hawaiʻi Senate Committee on Ways and Means wrapped up a three-day-tour of Hawaiʻi island.

    WAM members participating in some of the stops on Saturday’s tour of East Hawaiʻi were Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (chair), Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran (vice chair), Sen. J. Kalani English, Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele, Sen. Michelle Kidani, Sen. Gil Riviere, Sen. Maile Shimabukuro and Sen.Glenn Wakai.

    Sen. Russell Ruderman and Big Island Councilwoman Elaine O’Hara were also present at some of the stops on Saturday, as well.

    The first stop was Keaʻau High School, where the Senators saw students participating in a campus beautification project. Senators also saw a replica of the space shuttle that the students restored last year. Rodrigo Romo from PISCES explained the importance of the project and the need to get funding so the replica can be stored in a building where it won’t incur further damage.

    Senate Ways and Means Committee at Kea‘au High School. Oct. 28, 2017.

    WAM members inside the space shuttle replica. Oct. 28, 2017.

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    After leaving Keaʻau High School, the Senators traveled to Kua O Ka La Public Charter School in the Pohoiki area,  where a “Family Day” was taking place. The Senators listened to requests for funds so that the school could get a commercial-grade kitchen and were given a quick tour of the school grounds.

    Ku O Ka La PCS. Oct. 28, 2017.

    PGV Senior Director Michael L. Kaleikini explains geothermal to the WAM committee members. Oct. 28, 2017.

    The Senators then went to Puna Geothermal Ventures where they learned about the process of creating electricity from geothermal energy. They also learned about the land that the plant itself sits on from Kapoho Land Partnership Manager A. Lono Lyman.

    Puna Geothermal’s new sign. Oct. 28, 2017.

    After the Puna Geothermal plant tour, WAM members went down Kapoho Road and spoke with Puna Papaya Farmers who talked about many of the issues they were having. One of the primary things the farmers focused on was the wages being so low and that, in turn, it’s hard to find good workers. The industry would love to expand, the farmers said, but without a workforce, they can’t.

    Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele and papaya farmers. Oct. 28, 2017.

    WAM committee members with papaya farmers. Oct. 28, 2017.

    Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele and papaya farmers. Oct. 28, 2017.

    The committee members then had lunch at Kaleo’s Restaurant in Pāhoa.

    Senators talk to the librarians at the Pāhoa Public Library. Oct. 28, 2017.

    After lunch, the Senators went to the Pāhoa Public Library where they listened to concerns from the head librarian. The librarian said one of the primary concerns was that there was no way to separate children from adults.

    Another issue was parking.

    While Pāhoa’s library has a larger distribution of books, DVDs and is used more than the Mt. View or Kea‘au libraries, they only have a staff of four while the other libraries have five.

    Senators at the Puna Community Medical Center. Oct. 28, 2017.

    After visiting the library, the Senators concluded their tour of the Big Island at the Puna Community Medical Center, where they listened to board members talk about the need for funding the center.

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