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Hawaii Island News, 24 December 2009


KITV has learned that negotiators for the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association have reached an agreement to end school furloughs.  The deal was reached after about two hours of talks Wednesday morning at the Board of Education Office.  Officials say that the deal requires legislative approval, but that there is no need for changes to the teachers’ contract.

President Barack Obama and his family are expected to arrive on Oahu sometime today to spend a short Christmas vacation on Oahu’s windward side.  The President delayed his trip because of debate on the new national health care plan.  That plan passed the Senate early this morning–a move the President called a major step to making health insurance reform a reality.

Governor Linda Lingle’s plan to balance the state budget by using the county’s share of the transit accommodations tax is getting a lukewarm reception from state lawmakers.  Big Island state representative Clift Tsuji tells the “Hawaii Tribune-Herald” that the governor’s proposal demonstrates a lack of understanding or being sensitive to the county’s financial needs.  Tsuji says a better plan would be to keep some of the county’s money while raising the general excise tax.

A man who landed a fatal kick to another man in an argument over a beer has been found guilty of manslaughter.  According to the “Hawaii Tribune-Herald”, a jury deliberated for less than five hours before returning the verdict against 37-year old Robert Eain Grant for the killing of Daniel Martina on November 1st, 2008.  Grant will be sentenced on March 9th.

The promise of federal tax credits is driving up home sales in West Hawaii.  Real estate agent Gretchen Lambeth tells “West Hawaii Today” that homes under $400,000 are moving the fastest and, when they do get to market, they don’t last long.  New home buyers and their anticipated tax credits made November a banner month for West Hawaii, with twice the number of sales in the month, compared to November of 2008.

County attempts to provide more affordable housing are at a standstill.  Hawaii County Councilman Pete Hoffman tells “West Hawaii Today” that problems experienced with the $40 million Waikoloa Workforce Housing project clearly show weaknesses in the code.  Reacting to the current project impasse, Mayor Billy Kenoi is considering a rewrite of Chapter 11 by pushing the definition of “affordable” back within the range of people’s incomes and by adding more enforcement to the code.

Keahole Solar Power LLC has powered up the 4-acre Holaniku solar farm at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  This is the first commercial solar thermal application of Electra-Therm’s closed-loop organic Rankine cycle technology.  Darren Kimura, the founder and chief executive officer of Keahole Solar Power and Sopogy Incorporated, told “West Hawaii Today” that the machines have the ability to power more than 250 homes and to eliminate more than 2,000 barrels of oil a year.

The first annual Honolii Beach Park Surf Gathering and Surf Camp for children with Autism and other disabilites will be held on Sunday,  December 27th at Honolii Beach Park.  Sponsors of the event are inviting children with autism or other disabilities to spend a day surfing and enjoying the beach.  The Hawaii chapter of Surfers Healing will provide the boards and safety vest.  The event is being put on in cooperation with the County Department of Parks and Recreation.  For details, call 961-8860.