Maui Files Suit Claiming it was Stranded with $44 Million in Debt Securities

By Wendy Osher

The County of Maui is demanding a jury trial in a lawsuit it filed last week against Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. The county claims it was stranded with $44.2 million in debt instruments when the firm abandoned its practice of supporting auctions for the SLARS or Student Loan Auction Rate Securities.

According to the docket filed with the U.S. District Court of Hawaii, the County of Maui purchased the securities on or after August 16, 2007.  The suit claims the firm abandoned its practice of supporting SLARS auctions on or about February 13, 2008, claiming it could no longer sell the securities at par.

Today, the County of Maui owns $32 million of SLARS that are not liquid.

The County of Maui further claims it would not have purchased SLARS at all if it had known of the grown risks associated with the investments.

SLARS are secured by pools of student loans guaranteed by government agencies under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.

Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares is expected to comment on the litigation during a press conference in Honolulu later today.

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Installation of Kea Street Sidewalk to Cause Traffic Delays in Kahului

Maui County began work today on a sidewalk installation project on Kea Street in Kahului.  The new sidewalk is being installed on Kea Street between Holua Street and Papa Avenue.

Photo by Wendy Osher.

The contract was awarded to Zoe Builders and is expected to be completed by February 26, 2010, barring any weather delays.

Work will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Motorists and pedestrians are advised to use alternate routes during the construction period. Those traveling through the area should expect delays, due to lane closures, and should use caution and observe all signs and traffic control personnel in the area.

(Posted by Wendy Osher;  Supporting information courtesy County of Maui)

Molina Seeks Extension for Affordable Housing Appropriation Through 2015

Posted by Wendy Osher

Council Vice Chair Michael Molina is seeking a continued appropriation for affordable housing.  Under a charter amendment approved four years ago, 2% of real property tax revenues go towards building and expansion of affordable housing opportunities for families within very low to moderate income levels.

The current amendment expires after this year, while the new proposal seeks a continuation through 2015.  If revenues stay consistent, Molina says an estimated $4 million could be generated annually for the Affordable Housing Fund.

“We can’t afford NOT to set these revenues aside to help our families find affordable housing and put our people back to work,” said Molina.  “this charter amendment should not only be viewed as an affordable housing initiative, but also an economic stimulus,” said Molina.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the construction of one home generates the equivalent of 3.05 full time jobs for an entire year.

Over the last three fiscal years, the County council appropriated more than $13 million to the Affordable Housing Fund from the 2% real property tax revenue.  The council has reportedly appropriated over $10 million for approximately 240 affordable housing units.

Over the last three fiscal years, none of the proposed affordable housing projects, as requested for appropriation by the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, have or will assist families above 80% of the county’s median income.

“The Moderate to gap income families are working teachers, police, fire fighters and hotel employees that are making money, but are unable to afford to save for descent housing,” said Molina.  “If we do not do something to help these individuals, we will lose them to the mainland and they will have to be separated from their families,” Molina said.

Census Jobs Available in Hana, Waiehu and on Molokai

By Wendy Osher

Hawaii local census offices are hoping to hire more than 3000 temporary workers to assist in the effort of counting the state’s population for the 2010 Census.  Officials say an estimated 300-400 people will be hired in Maui County.  Temporary jobs of up to two months include census takers, enumerators and crew with pay ranging from $12.75 to $20 per hour.

“We need to hire more than 1400 workers to provide coverage to the neighbor islands and the Waianae coast of Oahu, as well as 1700 part time census workers to canvass local communities in Honolulu,” said Kelly Kaawa, Waianae’s Assistant Manager for Recruitment.

The recruitment effort is focused on finding workers who come from the communities they will serve and whose language skills match local areas. Neighborhoods in particular which need census workers include: Hanalei, Kauai; Puna and Kau, Hawaii; Hana and Waiehu, Maui; the entire island of Molokai and the Waianae coast of Oahu.

Workers will be paid for training and receive weekly paychecks.  The new hires, whose jobs begin in May, will follow up with residents who do not complete and return the 2010 Census questionnaire.  The questionnaires are expected to reach Hawaii mailboxes in mid to late March.

To apply, call 1-866-861-2010 or visit www.2010censusjobs.gov.

Maui to Use Stimulus Funds to Improve Energy Efficiency of County Facilities

The County of Maui is seeking proposals from qualified vendors to conduct investment grade energy audits using federal stimulus funds. Twelve county facilities, including fire stations, senior centers and a community center will be audited under the plan. The audit is expected to provide baseline energy data, physical condition of the buildings, and basis for energy efficiency savings measures.  Funds for the audit were provided by the U.S. Department of Energy utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

“This is a significant step towards finding energy savings for the County,” said Mayor Charmaine Tavares. “From this study we can make decisions based on data collected and make good progress on our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The deadline for proposals to be submitted is 4:00 p.m. on Friday, February 26th, 2010. Proposals will be accepted by the Department of Finance, Purchasing Division, located in the Wells Street Professional Center at 2145 Wells Street, Suite 104, in Wailuku.

Solicitation documents are available at the Office of the Department of Finance, Division Purchasing, or online at www.mauicounty,gov/bids.aspx

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting Information Courtesy County of Maui)

Maui County to Publish Green Book Directory of Eco Conscious Businesses

Eco-conscious businesses are invited to submit their information for inclusion in The Maui County Green Book.  The publication is scheduled for release in May and will be printed on recycled paper with soy ink.

The guide is being created in partnership between the County of Maui and Haynes Publishing Company of Wailuku.  The directory will include eco-conscious businesses on Maui, Molokai and Lanai that provide sustainable, and, or, environmentally friendly products or services.

In addition to the printed version, The Maui County Green Book will also be available digitally in the form of a searchable, interactive web directory.

To have your company included in The Maui County Green Book, fill out the application available at www.mauicountygreenbook.com , describing products and, or, services offered.

Mayor Proclaims February “Got Choice… Think Local” Month on Maui

Mayor Charmaine Tavares issued a proclamation today declaring February “Got Choice… Think Local” month in the County of Maui.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares looks at a promotional t-shirt displayed by Economic Development Coordinator Deidre Tegarden (left). Photo courtesy County of Maui.

The proclamation kicked off the county campaign, which promotes the support of Maui businesses and encourages the public to keep their dollars circulating within the community.

Promotions featured during the month-long campaign include incentives like a complimentary reusable shopping tote for consumers with receipts totaling at least $50 spent at any business in Maui County this year, and coupons valid for various benefits offered by the more than 180 participating local businesses.

During the proclamation signing, Tavares said, “You have choices to make everyday on what to spend your dollar on. This is the way we can all make a positive difference in our community during these tough times. Put your dollar into the right hands – the hands of someone in our own community.”

County of Maui Economic Development Coordinator Deidre Tegarden said the campaign is, “already taking off in a big way.”

In her remarks, Mayor Tavares said, “Buying local is an investment in our community that supports local families, and highlights how buying locally produced, fresh and nutritious agricultural products can help ensure that there will be farms and ranches in our county for future generations.”