Twelve furlough days planned for Maui County employees

Tomorrow, the first day of Fiscal Year 2011, a plan to furlough Maui County employees will be implemented.

The plan, estimated to save the county $3.5 million, begins July 16 and will affect several county offices and employees on Molokai.

Offices on Molokai that will be closed include the Maui County Council district office, Real Property office and the Department of Motor Vehicle and Licensing. Administrative offices and all payment windows and counters will be closed as well.

The county’s furlough Fridays for the year will begin July 16 and include Aug. 13, Sept. 24, Oct. 8, Nov. 5 and Dec. 10 for 2010, and Jan. 28, Feb. 11, March 11, April 8, May 20 and June 24 for 2011.

On weeks that have furlough days, refuse collection pickups on Molokai will be made on Wednesday.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares has also agreed to reduce her pay for the equivalent of 12 furlough days.

Guest opinion: Windmills — The future of Molokai?

By Steve Morgan

Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet and host Jens Peters, CEO of Alpha Wind out of Denmark. For those unfamiliar with this company, Alpha Wind is one of the oldest and largest windmill companies in the world. Meeting up with other potential partners, Mr. Peter’s visit to Molokai confirmed what his company had been evaluating for several years, clearly demonstrating that a large scale wind project on Molokai had the potential of being extremely profitable and a project that he believed could genuinely accomplish many of the goals that he and his partners perceived were important to the residents of Molokai.

These goals included the following: (1) Preserve large tracts of land for future generations (2) Create an energy subsystem that would allow Molokai to be energy self sufficient (3) Reopen West End hotels and other abandoned commercial facilities (4) Develop a desalination plant (5) Develop large scale organic agriculture (6) Construct and maintain West End Emergency facilities (Fire station, etc.)

These were not just ideas, the aforementioned goals were the perception of someone who possessed the ability to understand the engineering, technological and financial challenges in making these ideas a reality.

In the three days that I spent with Mr. Peters I came to appreciate his depth of insight, transparency and what I believe was a genuine concern for the cultural and environmental welfare of our island. While Mr. Peters was excited about such a project, he also made it very clear that the impact on our island would be more significant than just the visual impact of windmills on the horizon, acknowledging that there would be significant traffic involved with the developmental stage of the project (especially surrounding the harbor) and that this stage could last several years. In fact Mr. Peters questioned whether or not the size of our harbor might have to be increased in order to allow the large turbines and other machinery on to our island, and of course questioning whether this would be something that Molokai would even consider?

Mr. Peters also noted that roadways and underground power lines would need to be constructed and installed between the large number of windmills. Thus, at least for a given period of time, a maze of barren roadways and trenches would significantly scar the landscape surrounding the windmills. These were significant issues that Mr. Peters felt that the community would need to understand before proceeding with this project.

There are many details surrounding what I have just described and whether or not Alpha Wind still maintains interest is unsure, but the bottom line is that a project of this size has pros and cons and, yes, this is something that will impact the entire island.

It will be the job of the Molokai community to objectively weigh out what is being proposed by First Wind and to weigh in balance whether or not the goals of the community can genuinely be accomplished through such a project. If Molokai becomes factionalized and divided in its consensus, we will all lose and only end up with bread crumbs. On the other hand if we can set aside our differences and unite in consensus, then ours will be a voice that will be difficult to ignore.

Community Plan update greeted with guarded optimism at open house

Molokai Planning Commission Chairman Steve Chaikin explains the process for the Molokai Community Plan to Jade Bruhjell at the open house Saturday at the Kaunakakai Elementary cafeteria.

The update of the 2001 Molokai Community Plan began its three-year process Saturday with an open house marked by friendly county planning officials talking story, sharing chili and rice and gathering initial information in the Kaunakakai Elementary School cafeteria.

Maui County’s Long Range Planning Division will use the existing 2001 community plan as the foundation for this update. Lori Buchanan, of the Molokai Planning Commission, believes that this time around the county has “better tools to help the public” participate in the planning process.

Buchanan said the goals of the 2001 plan were not met because they were not “doable,” she said. “The county is better equipped and prepared to see this plan through,” she said.

One tool the county has at its disposal is a recently adopted Countywide Policy Plan, which is part of the County of Maui 2030 General Plan.

According to John Summers, planning program administrator for the county’s Long Range Division, the policy plan offers a broad foundation for meeting various county objectives, while the community plan “can be far more specific in how to respond to community needs.”

Another key tool identified by Summers is “significant advances” in the quality of the GIS, or Geographic Information System, maps and surveys of Molokai, “for the whole island and for each community as well.”

The next step is for a Community Plan Advisory Committee to spend six months reviewing the communities needs to develop a draft plan. A variety of community workshops will explore options for future land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure development, historic, cultural and environmental resource management as well as community design possibilities.

Long range planner for Maui County and former Molokai staff planner, Nancy McPherson, emphasizes that there will be several more community outreach events between now and the end of the year to collect more mana’o from the community. These events will also allow for participatory issues identification and idea and design brainstorming. The next events will be held in the fall of this year, but the county is still finalizing those dates.

“There will be more opportunities for the community to give their mana’o and participate in the process between now and December and we will be working harder to get the word out to the community well in advance,” said McPherson.

The CPAC begins meeting in the spring of 2011 to identify issues and opportunities that come out of a series of community engagement workshops and to start finalizing the draft plan.

The CPAC will be composed of 14 members, with two-thirds appointed by the county council and one-third by Mayor Charmaine Tavares or her predecessor.

Late in 2011 the Molokai Planning Commission will have six months to review the draft. Public hearings will take place to receive input on a detailed planning matrix.

The plan will be revised based on the MoPC comments and presented to the full Maui County Council for a 12-month review. After public hearings, the draft plan will be finalized and updated.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a strategy for implementation of the plan will be developed.

Around the Kaunakakai cafeteria Saturday were maps and posters asking the public to identify planning priorities for Molokai. Comments were written on sticky notes showing suggested revisions of the 2001 community plan.

Another 36 sticky notes could be seen on a poster under the question: “What kinds of strengths and resources does Molokai have?” Other suggestions were written on stickies and placed on a poster under headings such as “housing,” “economy,” infrastructure,” “cultural,” “environment,” “education” and “other.”

While there was a genuine sense of optimism in the room over the public involvement in the plan, others were skeptical about what kind of impact this updated plan will actually have.

“We’ve been through this before,” said community activist Walter Ritte. “It was very important then (in 2001) and it was put on the shelf.”

When asked how this plan could help Molokai’s future, Ritte said he was “not sure.” He did admit that this plan should better reflect changes that the island is going through now. In 2001, the plan never even used the word “sustainability,” according to Ritte. “We are the only Hawaiian island that can actually implement a truly sustainable future.”

Ritte did say the process has been improved by offering a variety of ways to receive community input. He added that he also liked the new planning staff.

David Yamashita, Kathleen Kerr and McPherson will be heading up the LRD staff in developing and implementing the Molokai Community Plan.

Kaunakakai reaches limit on renewable energy sources

New renewable energy projects are short circuited, for now

To guarantee continued reliable service to its power grid, Maui Electric Company will suspend the development of any new solar energy systems in Kaunakakai.

It was in February that The Molokai News reported that Hawaiian Electric Company asked the state’s Public Utilities Commission to suspend the development of new photovoltaic systems on Maui, the Big Island, Lanai and Molokai. Hawaiian Electric, and its subsidiary Maui Electric Company, believe the number of renewable-energy systems poses a threat to the reliability and stability of its transmission system.

Now it appears that the PUC agrees with this assessment. The Kaunakakai circuit for the Molokai power grid has been closed off to any new alternative energy projects, including photovoltaic solar panels, until the system’s reliability can be improved.

Previously, the PUC had set a limit of 10 percent intermittent energy sources for any circuit on the grid. The percentage of energy coming from intermittent sources such as wind or solar, known as the feeder penetration limit, was increased to 15 percent by the PUC.

On Molokai, the power grid is served by a diesel fuel power plant, which provides constant energy as opposed to intermittent. If the percentage of power distributed by the diesel plant fluctuates because of an input of intermittent energy into the grid, the flow of energy and reliability of the system is compromised.

Now that Kaunakakai has reached the 15 percent limit, MECO is halting immediate approval of new systems. Hawaiian Electric Company spokesman Darren Pai resists calling it a moratorium.

“There is no suspension of new systems,” Pai said. “We are aggressively looking for ways to increase the levels of penetration,” he added.

But now, any business or residence in the Kaunakakai circuit interested in installing a photovoltaic system must first conduct a interconnectivity study to insure that reliable service is maintained across the grid.

Pai hesitated to say how much an interconnectivity study will cost. “It depends on different factors, such as size, but it might cost anywhere from $30,000 to $35,000 depending on the project,” Pai said. “We recognize this expense, that is why we are looking for technical solutions.”

Pai admitted that even after conducting this expensive study, it would not guarantee approval of a renewable energy system.

“The study looks at what types of interconnective systems might work and give you a better idea of what it will look like,” said Pai. To make a building more energy efficient may require a combination of different solutions, said Pai.

This new policy for alternative energy projects will not prevent Molokai General Hospital from installing solar panels, however. Apparently that project was taken into consideration when the 15 percent limit was calculated.

MECO will continue to study methods to increase alternative energy sources for Molokai in an effort to meet Governor Linda Lingle’s goal of having 70 percent of the state’s energy provided by renewable sources by the year 2030.

After a 50-year hiatus high school football returns to Molokai

The Molokai High School football team, 1960-61.

High school football is coming to Molokai this fall in a big way.

How big?

“Imagine ‘Friday Night Lights’ on Molokai,” said head coach Mike Kahale, who started developing a strategic plan to bring football to Molokai High School over two years ago.

“This is very exciting,” said Kahale, a former physical education teacher at Kualapu’u Elementary School who recently accepted a social studies teaching position at Molokai Middle School. “Our kids should be afforded every opportunity, like other MIL schools, and not be shortchanged because we are geographically restricted. The students of Molokai High School will now have the opportunity to play a sport they’ve only dreamed of.”

The last time Molokai High School had a football program was in the 1960-61 school year. Despite lacking a program, Molokai has produced a professional football player. Kimo “Scooby” Von Oelhoffen played at the University of Hawaii and Boise State before starting a 15-year NFL career with teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.

The Maui Interscholastic League has agreed to sanction an eight-man football league to begin this fall that will include Molokai, Seabury Hall and St. Anthony high schools. Kihei Charter has expressed interest along with other schools that may join in the future.

The league will start with baby steps. The first year it will be a passing league with full pads added in the second or third year with full MIL sanctioning expected in the third year.

Seabury Hall Athletic Director Steve Colfesh made an eight-man football proposal at the Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association conference. The idea was well received with lots of feedback and interest from schools on the Big Island with the possibility of a state tournament discussed. The state requires three participating leagues before it will consider a state championship level tournament.

On Molokai, Kahale is looking for community help and support. The team will be seeking donations, sponsors, grants and any other ideas to help this endeavor. Raising funds to cover travel expenses will be the biggest hurdle but “one that can be overcome,” said Kahale.

Tax deductible donations can be made through Friends of Molokai High and Intermediate. The program is also looking for a container to store equipment and help with getting the football field in shape. Watering the football field is still an unresolved issue.

Already the program has received an equipment grant from USA Football for two consecutive years. Shoulder pads have been received and this year the program expects to get tackling dummies and blocking pads.

Used weight training equipment has been donated by Kamehameha-Kapalama that is worth thousands of dollars. Kamehameha Head Football Coach David Stant, who led his team to the 2009 state championship, can be thanked for the weight equipment. Gary Clark, head football coach at Kealakehe High School, donated other equipment after Kahale made statewide solicitations.

Besides donations, Kahale is also looking for help with coaching. A few local guys have already committed but they are still looking for a few others with some high school or college football coaching experience.

Contact Mike Kahale at 567-6602 at home or 658-0834 on his cell. His email is mikekahale@yahoo.com.

News briefs: new police sergeants; high school football this fall; Red Flag warning still in effect

Molokai will receive two newly appointed sergeants.

Randy Esperanza, who served on the Molokai Patrol District for a year back in 1997, was promoted to the rank of sergeant last week. He is a 14-year police veteran from Oahu who started his career in the Lahaina Patrol District. He was part of the Crime Reduction Unit and Field Training Program, training dozens of recruits as a field training officer for the past nine years.

Nelson Hamilton is the second sergeant that will be coming to Molokai. He was also just promoted last week within the Maui Police Department. Hamilton joined MPD in 1998, starting in the Wailuku Patrol District before being assigned in 1999 to the Lanai Patrol District, where he developed an interest in narcotics investigations. He has been the senior officer for most search warrants served on Lanai. Hamilton and his wife have two daughters.

Eight-man high school football coming to Molokai

The Maui Interscholastic League will start an eight-man football league this fall, the first of its kind in the state.

At this time only St. Anthony, Seabury Hall and Molokai have committed to participating. Kihei Charter may join but it is uncertain.

More information on this new league and the Molokai team will be reported when it becomes available.

Red Flag Warning continues

The National Weather Service in Honolulu has continued the Red Flag Warning for leeward sections of Maui and Molokai, in effect until this evening at 6:00 p.m.

Molokai Planning Commission meeting canceled

The Molokai Planning Commission regular meeting scheduled for today at noon at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center has been canceled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for July 14, 2010.

MobiPCS to expand service with approval of six new cell antennnas

Red Flag warning

The National Weather Service in Honolulu has issued a Red Flag Watch for leeward sections of Maui and Molokai, in effect through this afternoon.

The cell phone service provider MobiPCS will be able to provide better coverage for its customers in the Kaunakakai area and along the coastline of Molokai with approval of the installation of six new cellular antennas.

The Molokai Planning Commission approved the permits for this installation on June 9 at its regular meeting at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center.

Two public hearings were held on this matter for two different special use permits and Special Management Area minor permits. The first request for permits came from Sprintcom, Inc. to continue to operate three roof-mounted cellular antennas on top of the Luci Wilhelm Center in Kaunakakai, more commonly known as the Paddlers’ Inn building. Approval for a five-year special use permit was granted unanimously.

The second public hearing also involved cellular antennas on top of the Paddlers’ Inn building. This request was for the construction and installation of six new cellular antennas on the building.

Carl Young, representing MobiPCS, showed the commissioners photos of the proposed antennas and their impact. The antennas would all be under the 35-foot height limit.

In earlier testimony, local resident Karen Ashley expressed concern about the radiation that these antennas would emit. Ashley is a cancer survivor and believes that the radiation is carcinogenic and could lead to lawsuits against Maui County. Young assured the commissioners that the radiation output is quite low and is not of any danger.

Rob Stephenson, president of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, testified in favor of the installation, explaining the importance of this service to the business community. Larry Helm also expressed his support of this project.

Commissioners asked about the emergency shutdown procedures for these antennas and were assured that they could be shut down remotely if necessary. The commissioners were also shown a letter of support for this project with 100 signatures. The permits were approved unanimously.