Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Thursday, July 18, 2024 79° Today's Paper

Kokua Line

Public workers, retirees told to use snail mail for inquiries

Question: Could you look into something for the thousands of city and state retirees? The Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund handles medical retirement benefits. They never answer the phone, and instead you get this message: "Because of the high volume of calls, we can’t answer the phone. Please call again later." But there is no opportunity to leave a message, like before.

Answer: For now, employees and retirees are advised to send a letter noting, "Attention: Sandi Yahiro," instead of calling.

Yahiro, acting assistant administrator, said she knows members are having "great difficulty" getting through to customer service representatives. The problem has been a shortage of staff.

And because people were leaving so many messages, "we couldn’t keep up with returning calls," she said. "And if someone leaves a message and doesn’t get a return call, that’s just as frustrating as not getting through at all."

Because of that, the decision was made to take away the option of leaving a message.

However, there is some good news. "We have recently filled all of our vacant positions and are looking for additional resources where available," Yahiro said.

The new hires are being trained, but until they get up to speed, it’s best to write a letter.

Yahiro said she is pursuing various ways to reduce the processing backlog and allow callers to talk to an employee.

"I am working very hard at trying to improve things here," said Yahiro, who was named acting assistant administrator earlier this year. "At this time it’s ‘baby steps.’ But I will continue to try to find ways to help with our staffing resources as well as ways to improve processes to create better efficiencies."

Question: There is a "HT Sidewalk Excavation" on Ward Avenue in front of the Ross store that has obstructed the sidewalk for several months. The sidewalk has been dug up around a Hawaiian Telcom utility cover and surrounded by yellow tape. Why was the sidewalk dug up, and why isn’t it being restored?

Answer: Thanks to your complaint, the sidewalk has been restored.

It turns out both the city and Hawaiian Telcom had worked in the area.

Based on your report, Hawaiian Telcom sent someone to check the area, where it had hired contractors to replace a pull box "a while back," said spokeswoman Ann Nishida Fry.

In the meantime the city had worked on the sidewalk.

There apparently was "confusion" between the two entities about which one would smooth out the perimeter around the box, Nishida Fry said.

Hawaiian Telcom sent a contractor out Monday "to take care of this," she said. That work was completed Monday afternoon.



To a police officer on biker patrol in the downtown district. You missed the portion of training that involved communicating with others. Wearing a badge does not allow you to talk rudely and with no respect to the people you are supposed to protect. We were traveling with my 12-year-old daughter. It seemed as though you were angry at the world even before you walked up to the window. Don’t take out your frustrations on my family. — Angry Traveler

We passed on your "auwe" to the Honolulu Police Department, with the officer’s name. In such a situation, you’re advised that you could call 911 and ask to meet with a supervisor.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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