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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:41 PM :: 1313 Views

CBS: Maui County Uncooperative with Fire Investigation

Fire: AG Subpoenas Maui County Officials

Special Master: Presiding Judge Had ‘100s of Pages of Disqualifying Information’ in Kalua Case

DLNR: Demolition of Uncle Billy's Hotel Begins Today

HECO Evening Rates to Double under 'Shift and Save' Scheme

Feds ending 9 year boycott of Honolulu Rail payments?

CB: … Under the agreement, the federal government would contribute slightly more than 17% of the cost of the rail line from Kapolei to downtown….

(CLUE: Feds ending 9 year boycott of Honolulu Rail payments.)

A proposed new financing agreement between the Federal Transit Administration and the city that should quickly free up $125 million in new federal money for the long-delayed Honolulu rail project appears on the verge of final approval.

The document still needs the nod from the Honolulu City Council, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the board of directors for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation in the weeks ahead, but it is a significant milestone in the city’s effort to get the project back on firm financial footing.

The HART board will consider the FTA’s proposed new Full Funding Grant Agreement at a special meeting on Wednesday morning. The document was made public for the first time on Monday….

The city submitted a “recovery plan” to the FTA last year that shortened the rail line from the original 20 miles to 18.9 miles to cut costs. The new plan ends the line at a station near the intersection of Halekauwila and South Streets, rather than building it to Ala Moana Center as originally intended.

The new plan also indefinitely defers construction of two rail stations and a 1,600-stall parking garage in Pearl Highlands.

HART officials had hoped those steps would persuade the federal government to quickly finalize a new FFGA and release additional federal funding last December, but that process took a year longer than expected.

The FTA has agreed to release $125 million of that funding once the new grant agreement is finalized….

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a written statement Monday that finalizing the new agreement has been “a long and difficult process….” (LOL!)

Fascinating Factoid: “$744M in 2023 dollars equals $593.44M in 2014” -- HART lost $150M by waiting 10 years to get back on the gravy train.

BACKGROUND:

PDF: Revised FFGA (pg 38 has breakdown of total funding outstanding)

SA: Plan for shorter Skyline wins OK for federal funding 

CB: HART Board Approves New Financing Deal For Rail

read … Honolulu, Feds Reach Draft Deal To Help Fund The Rail Project

Honolulu Board of Water Supply adopts rate hike of over 50%

SA: … The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has adopted a more than 50% water rate hike for a majority of its Oahu customers.

The agency’s board of directors Monday voted 5-1, with board member Gene Albano abstaining, to approve a new 5-1/2-year water rate schedule that will see higher rates phased in, with the first 10% increase kicking in Feb. 1 and the next 10% hike to occur July 1.

Increased rates will occur each year thereafter, until fiscal year 2029….

On July 1, 2025, the rates will rise 9%; 8.5% on July 1, 2026; 8% on July 1, 2027; and 8% on July 1, 2028, BWS says.

The agency’s customer classes — namely, residential, nonresidential and agricultural — will have these same tiered rate increases. However, nonresidential classes, like businesses, and agricultural customers, like farmers, typically pay higher rates due to higher water use, BWS says….

BWS says new rates mean the average single-family household — using about 9,000 gallons of water per month and comprising 60% of the agency’s customers — will see their current $60 monthly water bill rise to about $65 per month, starting in 2024.

By 2028 the same single-family household would pay nearly $98 per month — a more than 63% increase over current water bills….

CB: Honolulu Water Rates To Increase Almost 10% Each Year - Honolulu Civil Beat

KITV: Honolulu Board of Water Supply approves water rate hikes beginning in 2024

read … Honolulu Board of Water Supply adopts rate hike of over 50%

Hawaiian Electric Tries to  Quash Subpoena of Wildfire Whistleblower

Law.com: … Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. filed a Nov. 22 motion to quash the subpoena of ex-employee Mark Thaller, who, from 2014 to 2016, was an energy contract manager responsible for planning renewable energy resources. …

“Throughout his employment with HECO, Mr. Thaller repeatedly raised baseless allegations of corporate improprieties within HECO,” the motion says. “Allowing wholly unrelated and unfounded allegations of corporate code-of-conduct issues from over seven years ago against the Hawaiian Electric defendants into this proceeding would serve no legitimate purpose other than to cast the Hawaiian Electric defendants in a negative light.”

Specifically, the motion says, Thaller accused the company of “various ethical violations and retaliatory employment actions.”…

Mikal Watts, of San Antonio’s Watts Guerra, the plaintiffs lawyer who sought the subpoena, said a jury should determine whether Thaller was what Hawaiian Electric now deems a “vengeful ex-employee.”

“We won’t get into that muddy thicket of who’s at fault,” he said. “He was good enough for the chairman of the board to hire as special adviser to the board of directors, but now he has a vendetta?”

A hearing on the motion is set for Jan. 17….

Thaller’s is the only subpoena that Hawaiian Electric has sought to quash….

(CLUE: Fear.)

read … Hawaiian Electric Ignites Legal Fight Over Hawaii Wildfire Whistleblower

HECOs Fire Management Plan Bypasses Public Scrutiny

IM: …The normal process is for a utility or the Public Utilities Commission to open a regulatory proceeding, invite stakeholders to intervene, have discovery, and maybe an evidentiary hearing, followed by statements of position or legal briefs and then a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and defensible regulatory decision.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) proposed a $190M proposal to address the threat of hurricanes by focusing on hardening transmission lines in non-residential areas. Life of the Land and Ulupono Initiative intervened. Discovery and position statements were completed. The PUC must issue a decision quickly to secure 50% federal funding.

HECO has proposed reconfiguring the proposal at the last minute to address the second and third issues. Ratepayer funds would be used to harden the grid in high wildfire areas and dealing with escape routes.

HECO proposes to bypass stakeholder input by using the end of an open docket in which existing intervenors lack any ability to address issues before the PUC`s decision….

HECO`s 7-page proposal can be downloaded. HECO`s newly established initial selection of projects will focus heavily on hardening infrastructure in high wildfire risk areas….

read … HECOs Fire Management Plan Bypasses Public Scrutiny

Expand interstate licensure compacts

SA: … Hawaii lawmakers took a major step this year toward fixing Hawaii’s doctor shortage by having the state join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). Now they should go the extra mile and also green-light compacts for other medical professionals, such as nurses, physical and occupational therapists, emergency medical service personnel, psychologists, audiologists and many more.

Medical compacts are catching on across the country: 39 states plus Guam and the District of Columbia are members of the IMLC alone, which allows physicians from each member jurisdiction to more easily practice in all the other IMLC jurisdictions. And the benefits are evident.

Marschall Smith, executive director of the IMLC Commission, said during a visit to Hawaii in July that states see, on average, a 10% to 15% increase in their number of licensed physicians after joining the compact, with about 45% of those physicians serving rural and underserved areas. Smith also noted that research shows that joining the IMLC improves health-care quality, particularly in hospitals.

It is welcome that we are addressing Hawaii’s doctor shortage — which stood at almost 800 at the end of 2022, according to the University of Hawaii’s Annual Physician Workforce Report. But doctors aren’t all we need.

According to the Heathcare Association of Hawaii, Hawaii lacks almost 3,900 health-care workers across 89 professions aside from doctors — a 76% increase since 2019. Open positions include 999 registered specialty nurses, 744 certified nurse aids and nursing assistants, 278 medical assistants, 211 licensed practical nurses and 126 social workers.

Fortunately, interstate licensure compacts exist for many of these professions as well, and joining them would mean that Hawaii could reduce its shortages in those fields, too….

read … Expand interstate licensure compacts

Minimum wage to get boost: Hourly rate will rise to $14 in January under 2022 law

HTH: … Minimum-wage employees in Hawaii will get a pay hike of nearly 17% to kick off the new year.

In 2022, then-Gov. David Ige signed a law instituting a multistage plan to increase the minimum hourly wage from $10.10 in 2022 to $18 in 2028. After an initial hike in October 2022 to $12, the next increase will take place on Jan. 1, bringing the minimum wage up to $14….

With that increase, Hawaii will have the 10th-highest minimum wage in the country, tied with Rhode Island and Illinois…..

read … Minimum wage to get boost: Hourly rate will rise to $14 in January under 2022 law

Smuggling Illegal Fireworks Thru OCCC--Jail Guard Finally Quits

HNN: … Previously, HNN Investigates exposed one of the most high profile busts in recent memory. It happened inside the mail room at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

That’s where an adult corrections officer was suspected of having fireworks shipped to the jail from Las Vegas under inmates’ names.

(IDEA: Reduce crime. Legalize fireworks.)

On Dec. 6 of last year, the jail was tipped off by an inspector from the USPS, alerting them to three suspicious packages stuffed with 86 pounds of illegal fireworks.

HNN Investigates confirmed the suspect in that case resigned just two months after the bust.

Meanwhile, a criminal investigation being conducted by the state Attorney General’s office continues. An internal investigation at OCCC is also ongoing….

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

read … $20,000 worth of fireworks found stashed in 92-year-old woman’s carport

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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