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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

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$145M from stimulus boosts neighbor isles

By B.J. Reyes

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A total of $145.2 million in federal stimulus money has been invested in neighbor island initiatives ranging from road and building upgrades to new buses and increased funding for social service programs.

Neighbor island officials reported some barriers in applying for the funds under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act but said cooperation with state agencies has helped get money to their specific programs.

Officials gave updates yesterday on the economic stimulus funds to a legislative committee charged with overseeing how the funds are being spent.

"It's for us to find out if there are any barriers or roadblocks for the counties and if there are things that we can assist them with," said Sen. Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului), who sits on the committee.

"It looks like the counties are utilizing the ARRA funds to the best of their ability, and we just want to be there to support them and provide some guidance for our congressional delegation," Tsutsui said.

STIMULUS PROJECTS

A look at some of the projects being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:

Big Island, $115 million

» $35 million for Ane Keohokalole Highway, also known as Mid-Level Road, to run parallel to Queen Kaahumanu Highway from Henry Street to an area mauka of Kona Airport.
» $16 million to the University of Hawaii-Hilo College of Pharmacy for a health records pilot project to develop a regional electronic records system.

Maui, $16.3 million

» $1 million toward the purchase of three new buses for public transit.

Kauai, $13.9 million

» $7.4 million to double the capacity of the Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant.
» $3.4 million to collaborate with the state Department of Health on the "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" program, which focuses efforts on reducing obesity.

Source: Legislative Federal Economic Stimulus Program Oversight Commission

To date, Hawaii has received 874 contracts, grants or loans under the stimulus program totaling $1.1 billion, according to recovery.gov, the federal government website that tracks stimulus spending.

The Big Island has received $115 million; Maui County, $16.3 million; and Kauai County, $13.9 million. The City and County of Honolulu, which came before the committee last month, has received $102.5 million.

The largest project on the Big Island plans to use $35 million for Ane Keohokalole Highway, also known as Mid-Level Road.

Kevin Dayton, executive assistant to Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi, told the committee that construction is getting to the point where "we're in a position to make it much more visible to the community."

Maui Budget Director Joe Pablo said the county has been able to expand and increase bus service with the help of stimulus funds, while Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho's representative Anne Marie K. Wooton outlined the steps being taken to upgrade waste-water facilities and other infrastructure on Kauai.

Officials also discussed steps being taken to ensure that programs started or aided by stimulus funds will be able to continue once the one-time funds run out.

Kenoi said in a telephone interview that the county has set itself up to sustain the projects by creating other economic opportunities. For example, he noted the Mid-Level Road project would open development of a 2,200-unit affordable housing project in Kona and open more Hawaiian Homes lands for development.






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