New legislation provides relief to homestead ag water users

Legislation designed to reduce water rates for homesteaders on Molokai received approval last week from members of the joint Senate Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Agriculture.

State Representative Mele Carroll

Besides lowering water rates for homesteaders who use the Molokai Irrigation System, House Bill 1483 will also require the Department of Agriculture to forgive past due bills owed by Molokai homestead farmers. The collection of past due bills has been a contentious issue for the MIS Water User Advisory Board for several years.

The legislation, introduced by Representative Mele Carroll, will now go to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for consideration.

“I am very happy and grateful for the passing of House Bill 1483 HD1 by the joint Senate Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Agriculture,” said Carroll.

“With the severe economic impacts facing Molokai and its residents on a daily basis, HB1483 HD1 will help to bring some much needed relief to Molokai’s homestead farmers, whose very lives are dependent on the availability of affordable water,” Carroll added. “House Bill 1483 HD1 provides an additional instrument for the necessary financial relief that is imperative to sustain their livelihood.”


Veterans Center case moves toward trial as veterans reject settlement offer from Maui County

Molokai veterans have been waiting four years to receive building permits to construct a center.

Maui County Council voted unanimously yesterday to present the Molokai veterans with an offer to settle the dispute over the Molokai Veterans Center.

When the veterans looked at the offer put together by the Maui County Policy Committee, they were “insulted,” said Larry Helm, commander for Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans.

Details of offers proposed by either side are confidential and not available. However, Helm said the two sides are not even close at this time.

“They are playing games,” said Helm. “[This offer] shows the continuous disrespect for the veterans, what we represent and what the center represents.”

With this current impasse, the case will be going before federal Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi on Monday, who replaces Judge Leslie Kobayashi. After hearing arguments from both sides on the nine separate claims made by the veterans, Puglisi, a veteran himself, will either compel the two sides to reach a reasonable settlement, bind the case over for trial or grant Maui County’s motion for a dismissal. If dismissed, Helm said the veterans will file an appeal.

If a trial date is set, Helm believes the county will be more open to settling once revealing depositions are taken and made public. However, the process of offers and counter offers will officially be over after Monday.

“Once they see the facts, any reasonable person would be appalled that any government would allow that to happen.” Said Helm.

The problems for the veterans center project began shortly after it started four years ago. A series of miscommunications, delays and misinformation led the veterans to file a lawsuit in federal court in September of 2010.

At first, zoning issues prevented the veterans from receiving a building permit to begin construction of a 3,000 square-foot building and lanai on a plot of land on Wharf Road in Kaunakakai donated to them by Molokai Ranch.

Then the issue became the water line. Although the current four-inch water main received approval from the Maui County Fire Department, the Department of Water Supply concluded it was not adequate for fire suppression.

While other businesses and homes on the same water line, or smaller water lines, have received permits, the veterans still remain out in the cold. This perceived unequal treatment is a large part of the veterans’ complaint.

When Alan Arakawa ousted Charmaine Tavares as Maui County mayor in November, he said this case is a “no-brainer,” said Helm, and that the building permit would take two weeks. According to Helm, the offer put forward by the Arakawa administration is no better. Arakawa said it is now out of his hands and must be handled by lawyers, said Helm.

But even if a settlement is reached, Helm said the $250,000 grant from the state legislature will not be enough to cover all the costs associated with constructing the center. The general contractor who had agreed to do the project at a discount is no longer available.

All that Helm and the veterans want now is a reasonable offer that will cover the costs of delays, legal expenses and include an apology for how this was handled.

“An honest offer includes an apology and compensation for the delays and wrongdoing,” said Helm. Even if other veterans feel this is not fair compensation, Helm said he would override them in an effort to get this project off the ground before any more veterans die.

Helm says that the money Maui County has already spent on the numerous hearings, legal costs and travel expenses is well over $300,000. “These expenses can be easily identified,” said Helm. “All for a $112,000 building.”

Solar panels heat up Ke Nani Kai condos

Darryl and Jody Canady sit on their lanai at Ke Nani Kai behind a screen shade that barely blocks the reflective glare from the solar panels on the condominium office building.

Photovoltaic solar panels are hot, and not just because of their booming popularity in providing clean electricity.

The reflective glare from the panels can seriously heat up a home. Just ask Darryl and Jody Canady of Ke Nani Kai condominiums on Molokai’s West End.

Most afternoons, at around 3 p.m., a laser-like beam of sun glare hits the Canady’s lanai and living room from the reflection off the photovoltaic panels placed on the east-facing roof of the Ke Nani Kai office. The longtime Ke Nani Kai residents estimate that the panels heat up their home an additional 10 degrees on sunny days.

Since the 124 panels spread over three arrays were installed in January, the problem continues to get worse as the days grow longer and the sun rises higher in the sky.

“The owners were just not taken into consideration,” said Jody Canady.

The original plan from the solar contractor, Sunetric LLC, only showed panels on two sides of the building. A third array was planned to cover the flat roof that extends over the swimming pool lanai. Unfortunately, the timing of the project did not allow the owners to approve the extension of the lanai roof before the federal tax credits and grants expired at the end of 2010.

The Canadys are also bothered by the lack of benefit this project offers the condo owners. Since each condo unit has its own electric meter, the power generated does not reduce the electricity bill for individual owners.

The net metering agreement between Ke Nani Kai and Sunetric pays for 15 percent of the common electricity bill for the condo association. This 20-year lease agreement allows Sunetric to sell back excess power from the 40-kilowatts power plant to Maui Electric Company for a profit. The Canadys, along with Ke Nani Kai Board of Directors Vice President David Baccus, estimate this saves the association $300 to $400 per month on its electric bill.

“We will never see one penny from Sunetric or Ke Nani Kai,” said Darryl Canady.

Baccus disputes the Canadys view of this project.

“We need to do things to lower our costs,” said Baccus, “especially since the cost of water will continue to increase.” Baccus claims that this project, along with other cost-saving measures, have lowered maintenance fees 8 percent over the past couple of years.

Baccus acknowledges that the glare is a problem for the Canadys and for one other unit in the 120-apartment complex. To solve this, Baccus said that the panels will be removed from the east-facing roof and placed on the roof of the pool lanai. To do this, the owners must first vote on the roof extension.

“We agree that the panels will have to be relocated,” said Baccus. “This is a problem that can be solved.”

Another potential problem with the project is the lack of permits. When Sunetric filed for a Special Management Area assessment with Maui County, the company only mentioned the roofing work on the office building and did not describe the photovoltaic installation.

“They totally ignored every permitting requirement,” said Molokai Staff Planner Nancy McPherson. Apparently, Sunetric did pay a violation penalty for the project. Because the company underestimated the total value of the project, the 10 percent fine will also need to be reassessed.

“I couldn’t have been more disappointed with them [Sunetric],” said Baccus, concerning the company’s failure to seek an SMA permit in a timely manner.

Another potential problem is that this project failed to receive approval from the West Molokai Association, the umbrella homeowners’ group that represents all three condominium developments in the Kaluakoi area. The WMA board denied the project by a 7-0 vote. Baccus said he did not know the reasons for the WMA rejection.

If the project is valued at $125,000 or less, Ke Nani Kai will only need an SMA minor permit. If a finding of no significant impact is made by the Maui County Planning Department, and the Molokai Planning Commission concurs, the solar panels will see many years of sunlight.

A vote of condo owners to extend the lanai roof was taken Saturday at the association’s annual meeting. With only 51 percent voting in favor, the owners failed to approve the extension. The measure needed 66 percent to pass. The future of this project remains uncertain.

Strong start to MIL season for girls softball

Molokai first baseman Samantha Makaiwi takes the throw from pitcher Jasmine Borden (hidden behind runner) on the way to an 11-1 victory on Friday.

The Molokai girls softball team extended its perfect record to 6-0 in the Maui Interscholastic League with two home wins against St. Anthony over the weekend.

Samantha Borden pitched Friday’s game and led her team to an 11-1 victory.

The Farmers got their bats going on Saturday and scored 25 runs in a 25-5 blowout. Molokai’s Amanda Makaiwi hit two home runs and a triple, finishing with nine RBIs, and pitched a complete game. Natalia Levi also homered, had a double and three RBIs for the Farmers,

Tennis teams fall to St. Anthony

The St. Anthony tennis team also visited Molokai this past weekend. On Friday, the Molokai girls team lost four matches to one while the boys team fell three matches to one.

The St. Anthony girls shut out Molokai on Saturday, five matches to none. The Farmer boys salvaged one match victory, losing three matches to one.

Subsidized Kalaupapa flights to make air travel more affordable

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood informed Kalaupapa residents yesterday that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s has committed to offering subsidized air service to and from the isolated peninsula that could reduce fares as much as 60 percent.

The problem with Kalaupapa air service began in July of 2009 just after a conflict arose between the State Department of Transportation and Pacific Wings, the only commercial carrier servicing the isolated peninsula. Pacific Wings employees accused airport security officers of harassment when DOT officials attempted to serve the company a citation at the Kahului, Maui airport.

In response, Pacific Wings stopped flying to all of its Hawaii routes briefly. When service returned, airfare to Kalaupapa more than doubled to a cost of around $500 round trip. The airline also said they could not afford the cost of wheelchair lifts at that time. Pacific Wings CEO Greg Kahlstorf said that the fares more closely reflect the true cost of doing business.

Pacific Wings had earned the federal contract to serve Kalaupapa by being the only airline to decline the federal subsidy. Federal law prohibits another air carrier from entering a market that is already being served subsidy-free.

According to Hawaii’s U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Secretary LaHood plans to find a new provider using an Essential Air Service subsidy that will make flights more affordable for Kalaupapa residents. The EAS federal subsidy will cover up to 90 percent of the ticket price to the winning bid.

Already, a charter service that occasionally flies to Kalaupapa, Makani Kai Charters, has expressed an interest in providing daily service to the site of the Hansen’s disease settlement.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono said she has been working on the legislative language that could be included in the FAA reauthorization bill the House plans to take up next week. Hirono said that if federal transportation officials resolve the issue administratively, then Congress need not get involved.

Through this competitive bidding process, LaHood said he hopes to have an air carrier ready by summer. He also said federal funds will be used to buy a ramp and related equipment to help accommodate patients and residents dealing with disabilities.

“The Kalaupapa community needs and deserves affordable air service to connect with their families and health care providers and for other necessities,” said Senator Akaka yesterday. “This morning we heard their stories of hardship caused by the high fares and lack of a wheelchair ramp at the airport.”

Maunaloa School classroom burglarized

The sixth grade classroom at Maunaloa Elementary School was burglarized over the weekend of March 4.

According to Maui County Police Detective Eugene Santiago, Cottage C, which sits in the back of the Maunaloa School campus, had its back door pried open some time between March 4 and 7.

“This was a crime of opportunity,” said Santiago. Although no other rooms were broken into, the burglars unsuccessfully attempted to enter two other buildings.

Stolen from the room was an Apple router, a Flip camera and a Sony digital camera. Santiago said the losses were estimated at $300.

No other similar thefts have occurred this year in the Maunaloa community. Santiago called this a random crime.


Opinion: Tragedy of suicide needs attention

By David Lichtenstein

I have lived on Molokai for less than four years and in that time three people I knew have taken their own lives. For an island of less than 8,000 people, that seems like a lot to me.

The most recent case involved a former student whom I had the opportunity to teach last year at Molokai High School where I work as a substitute teacher.

Gaig Tylor Yap was a quiet and respectful student. He was only 19 when he was flown to Honolulu last week after being treated at Molokai General Hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died March 16 at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu.

According to Maui County Police Captain Wallace Tom, Yap phoned the police just before 10 p.m. on March 15 from Pala’au State Park. Police were unable to keep him on the line. By the time emergency responders arrived on the scene, Yap had already been shot.

“All indications are that it is a suicide, but it is still being investigated,” said Tom.

According to the State Department of Health, Maui County recorded the highest suicide rate of any Hawaii county between 2005 and 2009.

While I was unable to find statistics specific to Molokai, clearly this is a local problem, particularly among our youth. What can we do about it?

Health care experts will generally recommend that people considering suicide seek out friends, family, coaches or mentors, religious leaders, doctors, co-workers, therapists or counselors for help.

A suicide and crisis hotline is also a good place to start. The Hawaii hotline can be reached at 1-800-753-6879. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-TALK (8255).

If you know a youth — or anyone for that matter — who is at risk, encourage them to talk to someone about it. It is hard to know exactly what drives a person to take their own life, but the more we can talk about this problem openly the greater chance our community has in dealing with it.