Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Eternal flame proves
all too temporal

Question: I was looking at the war memorial across Beretania Street from the state Capitol and noticed the eternal flame was not burning. The memorial says: "The Eternal Flame burns as a tribute to the men and women of Hawaii who have served in our armed services in the defense of liberty, freedom, and justice. It burns not only in memory of those who have made the greatest possible sacrifices for their fellow citizens, but as a beacon of courage and hope for all mankind." Since the state places the monument in such high regard, shouldn't it keep it lit? Or maybe the state can't pay its gas bill?

Answer: The Eternal Flame went on the blink several months ago because of broken parts and has been burning, somewhat erratically, with a temporary fix.

The state Department of Accounting and General Services is responsible for maintaining the metal sculpture and torch that make up the memorial.

DAGS is working with the Gas Co., which installed the original lighting fixture, to come up with a permanent fix, said state Comptroller Russ Saito, head of the department.

"We're trying to expedite this process," he said, but could not yet give a timetable as to when this might happen.

In the meantime, either employees of the Gas Co. or DAGS check daily to see if the flame is lit, relighting it by hand if it is not, Saito said.

One problem is that there are not very many experts knowledgeable about maintaining memorial flames. Another is that there is no standard design, and now there are no replacement parts for the Hawaii memorial, he said. The original system is "obsolete."

In the interim, the Gas Co. has "cranked up the volume of gas" to try to keep it going, but the flame does go out periodically, Saito said.

After months of considering the problem, including looking at memorial flames on the mainland, an expert with the Gas Co. "has finally decided he can't repair it, and he's got to replace it with a new state-of-the-art device," he said.

There was some reluctance to do that because replacement will involve cutting open the base of the sculpture to put in a new electronic ignition and gas solenoid, he said.

However, there might be no getting around that procedure.

Asked about costs, Saito said DAGS is hoping that the Gas Co. will consider donating the time and materials to restoring the flame.

"We most assuredly want (the flame) burning for the reasons your reader cited," Saito said.

Q: My wife and I are planning a trip to Virginia and need to know if my Hawaii disabled parking placard will be honored there. Can you help?

A: According to the state Disability and Communication Access Board, there is reciprocity among all the states for valid placards, so yes, your placard should be honored in Virginia.

For more information, call 586-8121 or e-mail dcab@doh.hawaii.gov.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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