County Council update

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Councilwoman Margaret Wille Deborah Chang who was recently appointed to the County’s Cultural Resource Commission. (COURTESY PHOTO)
From left, Mayor Billy Kenoi and Alan Parker, director of the Division of Elderly Services, pose with Robert Green, who is accepting the award for Outstanding Older American for 2014 on behalf of his wife, with Councilwoman Margaret Wille. (COURTESY PHOTO BY COUNCILWOMAN KAREN EOFF)

Budget Matters: The County Council is continuing to review the mayor’s proposed budget for 2014-2015. A copy of the proposed county budget is available for review at my Waimea Council office. The next opportunity for public comment will at the Council’s Special Budget Meeting scheduled for June 2.

Real Property Tax Task Force: The Real Property Tax Task Force is scheduled to meet on May 15 at 10 a.m. in the Hilo County Council Room at Aupuni Center. The primary area of discussion on May 15 will be agriculture land tax programs and exemptions. The Task Force is chaired by Council members Margaret Wille and Dennis Fresh Onishi. The public is welcome to attend and to testify on any of the agenda items.

Contingency Funds: County Council members are continuing to allocate their contingency funds to the various county departments. The idea behind these funds is to supplement various departments for particular programs in their District.

On May 1, the County Council passed a number of my contingency fund appropriations to:

• The Fire Department for boots and equipment for volunteer District 9 Firemen ($5,000)

• Civil Defense for a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, headquarters in Waimea at the Spencer House This appropriation also helps the Waimea community’s effort to maintain the Spencer House as a gathering place for non-profits and community programs. ($10,500)

Civil Defense for equipment for District 9 CERT programs, including for in Waimea, North Kohala, and Waikoloa ($10,500);

• The Prosecutor’s Office to fund a Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program ($2,500);

• Parks and Recreation to fund park equipment for Waikoloa, Kawaihae, and North Kohala ($3,700).

Next month I will report on the remaining District 9 contingency fund appropriations.

Commission Appointments: In addition to approval of the budget and consideration of various pieces of legislation, the Council is also responsible to confirm members to the various Boards and Commissions. Recently, for example, the Council confirmed the appointment of Deborah Chang to the Cultural Resource Commission. Given her in-depth knowledge of trails and public access issues, I was particularly pleased that she had volunteered to be on this Commission. If you are interested in becoming a member of a board or commission call the mayor’s office for information and to request an application at 961-8223. Information about the boards and commissions is also available at the County of Hawaii website.

Older American Award Presentation: A special part of being a council member is having the opportunity to attend many community functions, including recently the Older American Award Ceremony held at the Waikoloa Hilton on May 2. In fact, I took the opportunity to submit a nomination for this year’s outstanding Older American Award. My nominee was Bette Green of Waikoloa. Bette’s dedication to community efforts has been outstanding over the past decade. For example, take her leadership in bringing about the now in-design-phase regional Waikoloa Library, and, in the interim, in establishing a temporary library in an old school bus. To my surprise, Bette Green won the Outstanding (female) Older American award this year. She was unable to attend the ceremony due to a family emergency, so her husband Robert Green accepted the award on her behalf. I encourage residents who are over 55 to consider joining one of the district’s three active senior citizen clubs – Waimea, Waikoloa, and North Kohala — in order to be eligible to participate in some of the numerous club activities and programs, such as this annual Outstanding Older American Award Luncheon.

Opening of the Paniolo Road Extension in Waikoloa: Another recent community event officiated by Mayor Kenoi and Wally Lau that I attended was the recent opening of the extension of Paniolo Road. Pete Hoffmann and many others involved in bringing about this long awaited road construction project were present.

Hokule’a Ceremonial Presentation: Councilmembers also have the opportunity to present ceremonial commendations and recognitions to individuals and groups who have in one way or another excelled or made a special contribution to their community. Recently, for example, the Council awarded a commendation to the team working on the imminent launch of the Hokule’a canoe, as they ready for its departure to undertake a worldwide voyage. The Hokule’a team includes many from North Kohala.

For more information about any council legislation or other council activities, call Wille at 887-2043, or email her at mwille@co.hawaii.hi.us.