The views expressed in this news summary are mine unless otherwise stated.
Big Island of Hawaii News is following these news stories through Sunday, 10 March 2013:
State budget makes progress in Legislature.
Three Hokulia developers file bankruptcy papers.
Schools get rewarded for improved student test scores.
Whales spotted in Puhi Bay.
DETAILS (with sources cited):
(Associated Press). The state House Committee on Finance has passed a nearly $23.3 billion budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, about $590 million short of Governor Abercrombie’s request for 23.8 billion.
Chairwoman Sylvia Luke told AP reporter Anita Hofschneider that the “committee took a cautious approach despite positive revenue projections because of uncertainty cast by federal budget cuts and ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.”
Despite the reduction in the overall spending plan, reporter Hofschneider said “the budget meets the governor’s request for at least $100 million per year to draw down the state’s growing unfunded liabilities.” Chairwoman Luke added that legislators are committed to resolving the increasing cost of employee retirement and health benefits and will allocate $100 million for fiscal 2014 and $105 million for fiscal 2015.
The Committee on Finance appropriated funding for several capital improvement projects and added positions at various state departments, including 19 specialists and inspectors for invasive species protection at the Department of Agriculture.
(Stephens Media). On Friday Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida told reporters Nancy Cook Lauer and Erin Miller that taxpayers “aren’t likely to lose money because of bankruptcy filings…by three developers of the upscale Hokulia project on the Kona Coast.”
Developer 1250 Oceanside and its two allied developers, Front Nine LLC and Pacific Star, are petitioning for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while they attempt to restructure $680 million in debt. Most of the debt is being held by new lender Sun Kona Finance LLC.
Ashida said he and his staff will keep a close watch on proceedings the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu. Ashida told reporter Lauer and Miller that Hawaii Island taxpayers are already protected because the county received $12.5 million in cash from Oceanside several years ago as part of its agreement with the county. Asida added that the county is a secured creditor for $20 million and is on the first tier of the creditor’s list , with 80 Keopuka lots, valued at more than $20 million, serving as collateral. Ashida said “that money is ours, right now.”
In his bankruptcy filing, Red Hill 1250 Inc. President and General Manager Craig Pickett declared that the three developers “intend to restructure and resolve their secured and unsecured debt…so that development of the Hokulia project can proceed to completion and to enable the future development of the Keopuka property.”
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). The “Race to the Top” program to encourage student excellence is beginning to pay off for both students and their schools. According to reporter Colin Stewart, “eleven Hawaii Island schools succeeded in earning $330,000 in federal award money for their schools after showing improvement on their Hawaii State Assessment reading and math scores.” HSA math and reading scores are used to gauge school progress through the nationwide “No Child Left Behind” program.
At the first “Strive HI Awards” ceremony last week on Oahu, Governor Abercrombie and state Department of Education officials gave $1 million in one-time grants recognizing “significant academic progress over two consecutive years.” The funds must be spent within a given time frame and may only be used for specific programs, such as technical infrastructure, professional development, equipment, music instruments, and computers.
Hawaii Island school recognized by the federally supported program include Kalanianaole Elementary and Intermediate and Keaau High School, which were among four other schools that each earned $25,000 for scoring among the top 5 percent of schools in math and reading improvement; Haaheo Elementary, Kahakai Elementary, Keaau Middle, Kealakehe High, and Pahoa High and Intermediate, which won $12,500 for scoring in the top 5 percent statewide on the math test, while Ke Kula O Ehuikaimalino and Kohala High won $12,500 for doing the same in the reading portion of the HSA examination.
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). Those passing by Puhi Bay on Friday were treated to the scene of a mother humpback whale teaching her calf how to breach the surface of the ocean off the Keaukaha coastline. According to the “Hawaii Tribune-Herald”, the pair “spent the morning lazing about under the sun, as onlookers marveled from the shore, aboard kayaks, and from atop the bay’s break wall.
UH-Hilo marine biology professor Jason Turner said the mother and calf may be part of several pairs that have been seen around the bay over the past few days. Turner said they may appear to be close to shore, but examples like this “ust tell us that the water is deeper than we perceive from the shore, and that the whales are perfectly safe using that area.”
Each Wednesday, professor Turner takes his students out to Puhi Bay to monitor and document the whales with photographs and underwater sound recordings. Turner also serves as the “East Hawaii disentanglement responder” if a whale is found to be struggling with marine debris.
HAWAII ISLAND WEATHER THROUGH SUNDAY, 10 March 2013:
Hilo and vicinity–Mostly cloudy with a few scattered showers.
Kailua-Kona and vicinity–Partly sunny with a few isolated showers west of Waikoloa and south of Captain Cook.
Highs near 82. Lows near 63. Winds shifting to the east southeast, 6-12 mph, by Sunday.
Sunrise Sunday–6:32 a.m. Sunset Sunday–6:29 p.m. Total hours of daylight Sunday–11 hours, 56 minutes, and 09 seconds.
HAWAII ISLAND TIDES FOR SUNDAY, 10 March 2013:
Hilo High Tide–2:23 a.m./2:36 p.m. Hilo Low Tide–8:43 a.m./8:36 p.m.
Kailua-Kona High Tide–3:01 a.m./3:14 p.m. Kailua-Kona Low Tide–9:20 a.m./9:13 p.m.
HAWAII ISLAND SURF FORECAST THROUGH SUNDAY, 10 March 2013:
Hapuna Beach breaks–flat to 1 foot. Kona and Banyans–1 to 2 feet. Ka’u and Pohoiki–2 to 3 feet. Hamakua, including Kolekole Beach Park–1 to 3 feet. Hilo and Honolii–1 to 2 feet.
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PRG HAWAII NEWS WITH RUSS ROBERTS