Friday, June 28, 2002

Mayor Kim wants
emergency road open

By Rod Thompson

HAWAIIAN ACRES, Hawaii >> Big Island Mayor Harry Kim plans to use personal diplomacy today in an attempt to persuade the rural Ainaloa community to reopen its portion of the emergency road that its officials closed Wednesday.

Kim's assistant, Andy Levin, told the neighboring Hawaiian Acres Community in a meeting last night that Kim wants to avoid legal actions and plans to meet with Ainaloa officials today.

"The mayor is very, very clear. The road should be open," Levin said.

About a dozen residents of Hawaiian Acres at the meeting voiced their frustration over the road closure.

Attendees remained orderly but sometimes became tense as they questioned whether Ainaloa's action is legal, given that county and federal money were used to upgrade existing roads and create the emergency road.

Ainaloa placed a locked gate across the Puna Emergency Access Road, most of which is privately owned, because of traffic hazards posed by cars coming from or through Hawaiian Acres.

Since the road opened a few years ago, it has become a major shortcut for traffic between upper Puna and lower Puna. The increased traffic has resulted in speeding, numerous accidents and deaths, Ainaloa community officials said.

"They feel there are hundreds of cars more there than before," Levin told Hawaiian Acres Road Corporation members at last night's meeting. "There is a hazard there. There is a problem there."

Last night's Hawaiian Acres gathering was a regular road corporation meeting, but about a dozen area residents used the opportunity to voice their frustration.

"This is extortion," one man said.

Levin asked the attendees to see the viewpoint of the Ainaloa community and to avoid talk about legal solutions such as a lawsuit.

"The mayor doesn't want to go the legal route," Levin said. "First and foremost he wants to cut down on hostility."

Ainaloa Road Committee chairman Philip Brazier said the mayor called and asked "very nicely" for today's meeting. The committee has no agenda and is willing to work with the mayor, he said.

Ainaloa officials maintain that the county, at a minimum, should take over ownership and maintenance of its road. But they also have asked for a long list of accompanying improvements, most linked to safety, such as cutting down blind hills on the road.

E-mail to City Desk


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