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Big Island community raises matching funds to continue air service

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HILO >> Air service at a small airport on the Big Island will continue this year after officials and community partners raised the amount required in matching funds.

The county council approved the remaining amount in matching funds last week for the Waimea-Kohala Airport, accepting contributions from residents and groups to support the funding from the county, West Hawaii Today reported.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had threatened to cancel a subsidy to Mokulele Airlines, citing federal rules that require 5 percent in matching funds from the community for the $400,000 contract.

The federal subsidy is intended to support small communities whose nearest airport is 40 miles away from the closest hub airport. The airport on the island’s north side is about 39 miles (63 kilometers) from the Kona International Airport.

To meet the funding requirement, the council took $10,673 from contingency funds allocated among council members and $8,000 from the county Department of Research and Development, which is the agency that promotes tourism. The rest of the funding came from the Waimea community.

“Had we allowed this to lapse, it would have taken literally an act of Congress to bring it back,” Councilman Tim Richards said.

The state Department of Transportation had planned to cover the matching funds, but it learned the federal rules prevented it, a spokesman said.

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