Governor’s Maui Council of Neighbor Island Advisors to Focus on Issues Facing Maui Farmers

The Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors for Maui meets today, Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5 p.m. at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center. 

Guest speakers will include:

Anna Mae Shishido, Maui port supervisor, Plant Quarantine Branch, Department of Agriculture, will speak on the agricultural inspection services on Maui.

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Warren Watanabe, president of the Maui Farm Bureau, will address issues facing Maui farmers.

Henry Oliva, deputy director, State Department of Human Services (DHS), and Sandie Hoback, a consultant, will speak on the DHS proposal for a reorganization of public assistance eligibility processing functions.

Governor Linda Lingle created councils of neighbor island advisors to give neighbor island residents a stronger voice in state government. The Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors for Maui holds monthly public meetings to seek community input, advise the Governor of important issues and make recommendations for state boards and commissions.

The members of the Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors for Maui are: Madge Schaefer (chair), Kathryn Ghean, John Henry, Lori Ululani Sablas, Gail K. Takeuchi and Leona Rocha Wilson.

Lingle Proposes Structural Reform of Hawaii School System

By Wendy Osher

Governor Linda Lingle is calling for structural reform of Hawaii’s school system. In her State of the State Address, Lingle announed a proposal to introduce a constitutional ammendment calling for the transition of the Department of Education into a cabinet level department. Under the plan, the superintendent of schools would be hired by the next governor, “…so all of us will know clearly ‘where the buck stops’,” said Lingle.

“It is time for Hawai‘i to make the Governor accountable for public education,” Lingle continued.

 

A press release issued by the Governor’s office today said, “The current school system lacks clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability. Because the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, and the Superintendent of Education all have roles to play, the public does not know who to hold accountable for consistently mediocre performance.”

Specifically, this bill amends the State Constitution to make the Department of Education into a “principal department of state government” (i.e., a cabinet department). The State Constitution provides generally that a principal department has its leadership (whether an executive officer or a board/commission) nominated and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed by the Governor. According to the measure, a board of education becomes unnecessary under the proposed structure.

Lingle said the measure would make the Governor directly accountable for the condition of public education within the State, as the Governor will be held accountable for his or her selection of superintendent, and the subsequent educational performance under that superintendent.

The measure states, “This will improve the State’s ability to effectively and expeditiously manage educational resources and execute policies and procedures.”

A companion measure is being introduced to make the necessary statutory amendments that set out the specific structural details of the proposed new relationship between the Governor, the superintendent, and the Department of Education.

Provisions in that measure would repeal the powers and duties of the publicly elected Board of Education; establish the Department of Education within with state administration to serve as a cabinet-level department; and authorize the Governor to appoint the superintendent of education, subject to confirmation by the State Senate.

Maui Pineapple Saved With Newly Formed Company: Haliimaile Pineapple Company, Ltd.

January 1,2010 marks a new day for pineapple production on Maui, as a team that includes five former Maui Pineapple Company executives assume operations of Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc.

The five join Ulupalakua Ranch’s Pardee Erdman in running the newly named Haliimaile Pineapple Company, Ltd. The new company will officially assumes operations tomorrow, January 1, 2010 and will continue to grow and market fresh pineapple under the established Maui Gold® Brand.

HPC has purchased and licensed key assets, and leased farm land, equipment and buildings from ML&P with plans to serve the Hawaii market.

“We are proud to continue the 100 year legacy of pineapple on Maui,” said Darren Strand, president and CEO of the new company.

“Haliimaile Pineapple Company brings new hope for a new year by immediately saving 65 agricultural jobs with an expectation of adding more in the future,” said Strand.

Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares responded to the announcement this afternoon saying, “I am extremely grateful to the company for their commitment to continue Maui Gold pineapple on Maui. I was excited to hear that nearly 70 employees will retain jobs associated with Haliimaile Pineapple Company and I’m confident that the new company will find success.”

“The company founders, shareholders and directors are to be commended for their work in making this happen. Since first learning about this effort, I’ve been very excited about the possibilities. The fact that jobs are saved and pineapple farming continues is absolutely great news for our county,” said Mayor Tavares.

Governor Linda Lingle also welcomed the news saying, “I can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year than with preservation of 65 agricultural jobs and the prospect of creating more jobs for our residents in the long-term. The new company and the ongoing cultivation of pineapple on Maui will help stimulate our economy and also inject a boost of confidence in what has been a challenging year.”

Key shareholders and directors in the new company include Pardee Erdman, owner of Ulupalakua Ranch; Doug Schenk, former president of Maui Pineapple Company; former vice presidents of MPC, Doug MacCluer and Ed Chenchin; and current operating directors for MPC, Darren Strand and Rudy Balala. The group brings over 150 years of combined expertise in growing and packing premium pineapple on Maui.

HPC will consolidate its plantation, fresh fruit packing facility, cold storage, and shipping operations in Haliimaile to maximize efficiency and product quality. Company officials say they will continue to provide the highest quality of fresh pineapple to local hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets while increasing its direct consumer business.

ILWU Local 142 Maui Division Director, Willie Kennison said, “We are grateful to Haliimaile Pineapple Company for saving these jobs to make this a happy New Year for so many Maui families.

In a news release today, company officials said they would hire existing ML&P employees and the ILWU will continue to represent the company’s workers.

ML&P Chairman and Interim CEO, Warren H. Haruki said, “We are gratified to see the continuation of pineapple farming on Maui. The new company’s simplifie3d business model and targeted local market, along with the flexibility and cooperation of the ILWU are key ingredients for their future success,” Haruki said.

(Posted by Wendy Osher)

Kahului Library gets $77,000 for Air Conditioning

More than $4 million in state funds were released for improvements to public libraries across the state.

Kahului Library. Photo by Wendy Osher.

The Majority of the funds, $2,570,000, will be used to finance additional design and construction costs for energy efficiency projects at public libraries statewide.

Governor Linda Lingle also released $77,000 in additional construction funds for the replacement of the air conditioning units at Kahului Public Library.  The total estimated cost for the project is $477,000.  The project is scheduled to be completed in July 2010.

Similar improvements are being done at the Hawaii State Public Library where an additional $1,500,000 will be used to replace the building’s air conditioning towers.  The towers are almost 18 years old and in recent years have had repeat problems with leaking water onto the roof of the library.

“Public libraries serve an important role in our state. Therefore, they must be kept safe and provide a comfortable educational environment in which our residents and students can read, do research and learn,” said Governor Lingle.

Planned projects include installation of photovoltaic systems and window tinting to control room temperatures and lighting.  In addition, selected libraries will undergo retro-commissioning to systematically optimize building systems so they operate efficiently and effectively.  Retro-commissioning buildings is done to reduce operating and utility costs, extend equipment service life and reliability, and reduce the volume of emergency or trouble calls for maintenance staff.  The improvements are expected to be completed by summer 2010.

The effort supports the Governor’s Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, which aims to have 70 percent of Hawai‘i’s energy come from clean sources by the year 2030, including 40 percent from renewable energy and 30 percent through energy efficient measures.

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting information provided by the Office of the Governor, State of Hawaii)

State Moves Closer in its Plan to Ship Wind Energy From Maui to Oahu

The state is seeking bids from companies interested in linking Maui County to Oahu using a system of undersea cables.

 

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File Photo by Wendy Osher. Governor Linda Lingle (L) touring the Kaheawa Wind Power facility in Maalaea in February of 2008.

The proposed project was unveiled a year ago when the state entered into an agreement with Hawaiian Electric companies to connect the islands into one electrical grid, allowing renewable wind power generated in Maui County to be transmitted to Oahu for consumption.

 

Those opposed to the project rejected the concept of valuable resources begin shipped off island; and argued that resources should benefit the respective islands first.

 

Governor Linda Lingle voiced her support for the project saying, “The interisland cable project is an important piece of infrastructure needed to achieve the goal of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative of 70 percent clean energy by 2030.”  “We are committed to making sure all environmental, economic, cultural and community issues are fully addressed,” she said.

“As the most oil-dependent state in the nation, a clean energy future is no longer simply a desire, it is an absolute necessity.  The State-Hawaiian Electric energy agreement represents a bold step towards achieving energy security, and the progress made over the past year demonstrates that Hawai‘i can serve as a clean energy role model for the rest of the nation,” said Lingle.

Hawaiian Electric Executive Vice President Robbie Alm said, “This achievement – and achievements yet to come – depend on an unprecedented unity of purpose and willingness to cooperate among individuals, businesses, institutions and government in Hawaii.  Whether oil prices go up or down, we must stay focused on making the long-term investments to get to a clean energy future.”

In September, the PUC issued its decision and order on the feed-in tariff principles, which provides a price guarantee for electricity produced by sun, wind and hydroelectric sources that Hawaiian Electric companies will pay for renewable energy fed into the electricity grid.  The set rate under the feed-in tariff provides an incentive for renewable energy developers to invest in Hawai‘i by creating certainty and transparency.

In addition, Clean Energy Scenario Planning and Advanced Meter Infrastructure or “Smart-Grid” (planning ahead to enable more distribution of renewable energy on the grid) are among the other PUC proceedings underway.

Maui already has a 30 megawatt wind farm located in the hills above Ukumehame.  First Wind’s Kaheawa facility became the first operating wind farm in the United States to have a habitat conservation plan.

The EIS for the Undersea cable project will consider the impacts from the installation, operation, maintenance, possible repair, and potential long term development envisioned for the interisland power cable, mitigation strategies, and alternatives.  A contract award is expected by the end of this calendar year.

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting information provided by the Office of the Governor, State of Hawaii)

Save Our Schools Pushes For Special Legislative Session To Lift Furlough Fridays

A group of concerned citizens will hold another rally on Maui this Thursday to drum up support for a special legislative session aimed at repealing the state’s furlough Fridays at public schools.

The Save Our Schools campaign will be circulating a petition calling for the special session.  Event organizer Liza DeLaRosa Walker called the furloughs “unacceptable” and wants lawmakers to look at dormant relief funds to supplement the shortfall in the Department of Education.  The group is urging Governor Linda Lingle and state lawmakers to hold a special session to come up with alternative funds to cover the 17 imposed furlough days.

“The children of Hawaii should not pay for this state’s budget deficit with the loss of their education,” the group said in a press release issued today.

The rally will be held Thursday October 15, 2009 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Hana Highway and Dairy Road intersection in Kahului.  A similar event held last week drew an estimated 60 participants.

(Posted by Wendy Osher)

Maui Electric Seeks 9.7% Rate Increase

Maui Electric Company is requesting a rate increase for Maui County customers in 2010.  The 9.7% increase translates to $28.2 million.  The funds generated are projected for use toward capital improvement projects and increased operating and maintenance costs.

MECO President Ed Reinhardt.  File Photo by Wendy Osher.  February, 2007.

MECO President Ed Reinhardt. File Photo by Wendy Osher. February, 2007.

If the full request is approved by the PUC, a typical residential home on Maui would see a $13.43 per month increase for a total bill of $172.46.  That is reflective of 600 kwh monthly use.  On Lanai, (500 kwh per month), the likely increase would be $14.61 per month for a total bill of $181.80.  And on Molokai, (500 kwh per month), the likely increase would be $13.65 per month for a total bill of $172.69.

If approved, the earliest anticipated time frame for the increase to take affect is mid-2010.  MECO’s last rate increase of 3.7% was received in December 2007.  Company officials say the 2007 increase was the first in nearly nine years.

Company Predient Ed Reinhardt acknowledged the challenging times, but said MECO must also make investments for service reliability.  “We’ve made concerted efforts to contain costs and improve efficiency, but we must also make the investments to fulfill our responsibility to provide reliable service to our customers,” said Reinhardt.  “A strong electric grid is also the backbone needed to support the integration of even greater amounts of renewable energy for our customers,” said Reinhardt.

FUNDS PROPOSED FOR CIP PROJECTS AND SERVICE RELIABILITY

Company officials say the increase would cover more than $122 million in new capital projects to improve service reliability including the installation of a new photovoltaic system at the Kahului Baseyard, and the replacement of control systems at generating units in Maalaea.  The company released the following list of major projects on their radar:

  • Replacement and upgrade of power plant control systems for Maalaea Generating units M17 and M19.
  • Installation of a new 100-kW photovoltaic system at MECO’s Kahului Baseyard to incorporate solar energy into MECO’s facilities.
  • New or expanded substations to support past and future growth and improve service
  • Replacement and upgrade of underground lines to improve service reliability
  • Investments in transformers, poles, meters and other facilities to maintain reliable service and fulfill new service requests from customers.

MECO’s requested increase would also cover costs for more frequent inspections of utility poles and lines and increased tree trimming around power lines for greater reliability and more extensive servicing of generating units to maintain efficiency.

The proposal also includes a lower depreciation expense which incorporates new proposed depreciation rates that distribute recovery of the cost of capital assets over a longer period of time.

MOVE TOWARD RENEWABLE GENERATION

As part of an energy agreement signed under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, Maui Electric, Hawaiian Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Company agreed, along with Governor Linda Lingle, the State of Hawaii Consumer Advocate, and the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, to pursue a new regulatory model called “decoupling,” that would de-link the earning of revenues from electricity usage.

“This could be a game changer that sets a new environment for us to work even more with our customers to help them use energy efficiently and to use more renewable sources,” said Reinhardt.  Company officials say the level of revenues set in the rate case, could be used to set the base starting point for decoupling.  The PUC is evaluating the details of the decoupling model in a separate docket.

Company officials say the decoupling model could move the utility away from earning revenues based on the amount of electricity sold and instead encourage the utility to help its customers use less electricity and install more distributed renewable generation.

PUBLIC HEARINGS PART OF PUC REVIEW

The PUC is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed 2010 increase in the next few months and an evidentiary hearing in mid-2010.  The PUC may grant an interim increase within 10 to 11 months following the application, but the PUC is not obligated to do so.  The timing and amount of any final increase is up to the discretion of the Public Utilities Commission.

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Information Provided by Maui Electric Company)