Those who suggest we run for the bunker in tough economic times fail to see the opportunities that we have to make our island a better place to live. Lost in the anxiety many are feeling over the County budget is a practical application of sound economic principles.
We need to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities that tough times provide by funding capital improvement projects that will benefit our island now and in the future.
This administration proposes a $56 million bond authorization to take advantage of these opportunities. With these funds the County will build important roads, parks, housing and waste disposal projects that our communities desperately need. The bond authorization will position us to take advantage of near-record low interest rates and any additional federal stimulus programs that offer interest rebates. Construction companies desperate for the work are submitting low bids, so we save more money while employing workers to keep our families strong and dollars flowing throughout our local economy.
Even while our economy is struggling, our island is still growing with a resulting increase in demands for service. We cannot afford to sit on our hands and say “no can” to our critical needs when we have the capacity to address them.
This is our administration’s first bond authorization request because we preserved our borrowing capacity to use at the right time, which is now, and the debt will be paid down over 20 years with the bulk of it paid as our economy improves. Such long-term borrowing is the normal way governments manage the cost of capital improvements.
Our current debt service rate of 10.3 percent will remain below the 15 percent threshold for responsible borrowing even with the addition of the bond sale we are proposing.
In July, three national bond rating firms — Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch — evaluated our County’s financial outlook and determined that Hawai`i County is a good investment risk because of our sound approach to budgeting and willingness to take the necessary steps to keep our financial outlook strong.
Projects we propose to build include:
- La`aloa Avenue extension to improve public health, safety and the flow of traffic in Kona.
- An additional 16 units of Kaloko transitional housing to provide a safe haven for the most vulnerable Kona residents to help them stabilize their lives.
- Kapiolani Street extension to spur growth and development at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo by opening up nearly 42 acres of undeveloped land for businesses to invest in housing and new commercial activity around the campus.
- New County park facilities in the rapidly growing Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in Puna to provide organized and supervised activities for children, seniors and families that will strengthen the community and make it safer for residents.
- A regional rubbish transfer station and recycling center at Waiohinu to serve the growing needs of the sprawling Ka`u District for solid waste disposal facilities and give businesses relief from the long, costly drive to a landfill in Hilo or Kona.
- New photovoltaic systems in County buildings to save long-term costs and contribute to energy conservation and sustainability.
- Planning the Puna Makai Alternative Route (PMAR), a critical need in the County’s fastest growing district for access in and out during emergencies, to improve traffic safety and congestion on existing roads and provide opportunities to leverage County dollars with federal funding.
- Repairs and upgrades to recreational facilities in North Kohala, including Kamehameha and Keokea Beach parks where facilities that are used extensively by the community have been closed since the 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake.
- These are some of the proposed projects we are proposing to be funded with the sale of bonds that will put people to work, save taxpayer dollars, strengthen our communities and help us paddle our canoe out of the economic doldrums.
The Hawaii County Council again will consider our proposed bond authorization Bill 311 on Nov. 30, and the administration urges Council members to confirm their earlier decision to authorize the sale of bonds for these projects for the benefit of our residents and the future of our island.