Pāhoa’s Future Discussed With Community Leaders
Puna community members met with state and county officials to discuss the recovery and future of the Pāhoa area of the Puna District.
Approximately 40 to 50 people met at Liko Lehua Pauahi Café on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at 2 p.m. to discuss some of their ideas and concerns with government officials who were available.
Some of the elected officials at the meeting were Rep. Joy San Buenventura, Sen. Russell Ruderman, Sen. Kai Kahele, Council Chair Valerie Poindexter, Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, Councilwoman Elect Ashley Kierkiewicz and Councilman Elect Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder.
Since the May 3, 2018, Kīlauea eruption destroyed over 700 house in the community. Pāhoa has really taken an economic hit with residents and tourists no longer spending money in the small village.
Pāhoa Main Street Representative Matt Purvis said that a business went bankrupt on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando spoke about the National Park reopening soon and some of the economic impacts the park has been feeling. Orlando stated that the loss of income generated at the gates alone was a real detriment for the parks.
One of the primary concerns business owners had was the lack of parking in Pāhoa town. Deputy Director of Hawai‘i County Parks and Recreation Maurice Messina said that people visiting Pāhoa are allowed to use the parking stalls at the community park in town; however, the gates close at 9 p.m. and the only business open that late is the bar, so having the parking being opened only for bar patrons wasn’t realistic and too much of a liability for the county.
Landowner and businessman Gilbert Aguinaldo is proposing a cultural center at the site that was occupied by Pu‘uhonua during the Kīlauea eruption. The proposed cultural center would include a space for arts and exhibits, a restaurant, a gift shop and a small theater.
This proposed center would be located across the Highway from Pāhoa High and Intermediate School at the corner of Pāhoa-Kapoho Road and Pāhoa-Kalapana Road (Highway 130).
Amedeo Markoff, one of the Board of Directors for Main Street Pāhoa, described how he felt the town was in trouble.
“I want to say that I believe the most important issue facing our community [Pāhoa] currently is a catastrophic loss of business,” said Markoff. “Sales took a nose dive in May for everyone but rebounded when the red glow started to fill the sky and it looked as if those businesses left would be ok. I am here to tell you since the glow stopped, we are all in serious trouble. Every business in Pāhoa is down 50%, some as much as 80%. Obviously that is not a tenable situation. Between a loss of income that was from local shoppers and a lack of any serious tourist traffic, we as a town are facing closures and bankruptcies on an unprecedented level. Pāhoa needs help and it needs it now.”
New Mass Transit Administer Sole Aranguiz was present at the meeting and discussed where the county was heading regarding its buses.
Rep. San Buenventura asked about what happened with the county’s doubledecker bus, Aranguiz said the county is acquiring a second doubledecker bus and would begin running routes soon—the cross-island route from Hilo to Waikoloa and back.
Pāhoa Regional Town Center Planning Committee Chair Mark Hinshaw said, “I would like to thank all of the attendees at today’s brainstorming session, Rep. Joy San Buenaventura for facilitating the meeting, Sens. Ruderman and Kahele, USGS, HVNP, Mayor’s Office, County of Hawai‘i Research and Development, Hawai‘i Island Visitors Bureau, Mass Transit, Planning Department and County Council. Mahalo nui to Dawn and Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder for hosting the event at Liko Lehua Pauahi Cafe—a great meeting between government and Pāhoa businesses and planning, moving forward.”