Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Budget limits ambulance
signal controls

Question: The Honolulu Fire Department and city Emergency Medical Services vehicles have been equipped with Opticon (automated traffic signal control) for several years now. Only a small percentage of intersections are now able to be controlled by Opticon even though a majority of the intersections have the sensors in place but not active. Opticon not only allows EMS and fire crews to respond more rapidly, but also decreases the likelihood of emergency vehicle accidents at intersections controlled by the device. Why has the city not made this lifesaving device a priority?

Answer: Because of budget constraints, primarily.

It costs about $15,000 to install the system at each intersection, according to Donnie Gates, assistant chief of operations for the city Emergency Medical Services Division.

About one-third -- 250 of 750 intersections on Oahu -- are equipped with Opticon since the system was introduced here about 10 years ago.

But all new intersections are automatically equipped with the sensors, Gates said. As each intersection is upgraded, "the Opticon system will be included," he said.

Gates said it's not true that sensors at some intersections are not activated. All intersections that have the Opticon sensors "are working," he said.

Q: Why are the lights on at Waimanalo Park baseball field when there's no need for them? It's on at 5:40 p.m. when it's still light, and it's on late at night when no one is around. It was on one recently when it rained super hard day and night. It seems like such a waste.

A: The lights are on an automatic timer, to go on at 5:30 p.m. during the winter months and around 6:30 p.m. during the months when daylight is longer. They are set to begin blinking at 9:30 p.m. and go off at 9:45 p.m.

However, the lights are also set up so that someone must manually activate them, explained Sheila Wensel, supervisor for the Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo Complex for the city Department of Parks & Recreation.

She explained that at meetings of the Waimanalo Sports Council, "we've had requests to leave the timer on so that when the (sports) leagues aren't using it, the public has a chance to use the ball field. That's the reason we leave it on seven days a week."

Regarding the lights being on during a rainstorm, Wensel said, "It could have been someone that came down and just was fooling around, because we have that problem."

Despite that problem, "for the greater good, we leave the lights on," she said.

Call the district parks office at 233-7300 if you have any more questions or concerns.


To Scout Reid, a first-grader at Punahou School. She found the cash I dropped in the parking lot of the Blaisdell Center on Valentine's evening. She brought it to her father, Pat, who called to tell me that they were teaching her moral values and were returning it to me. It pays to report missing items because there are honest people out there, and the Reids are an example of such special ones. A warm aloha to them. -- Elaine O. Lewis, Kaneohe.


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