Roads agency scrambles to trim brush
Can you please find out whether the governor has laid off all of her highway maintenance crews -- or if they are all on strike? Our state highways are in a deplorable condition, with the weeds growing higher than our cars, especially at major interchanges and alongside major roadways. Check out the Kalihi interchange and along the freeway near Vineyard offramp -- where are the crews? I realize some crews may be deployed to deal with cutting trees to make mountain roadways safer, but I would bet there are many more crews than that who have somehow disappeared. What is happening?
Answer: Things should be looking up, or should we say, down, along the freeways in about a month or two, although seriously overgrown areas should be addressed sooner.
The problem, according to Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, is that some landscaping maintenance contracts expired at the end of 2007 and that, "it will take some time in getting them renewed" via the bidding process.
We asked why the contracts were allowed to expire before new ones were in place.
"We may have miscalculated the time needed to put the new landscaping projects out to bid as part of the procurement process," he acknowledged. "Nevertheless, we apologize for the gap in service and hope to have this resolved soon."
He acknowledged the overgrown brush were a safety concern in some areas.
On top of the area you cited, we pointed out the mass of grass near the H-1/University Avenue area.
"We asked our limited staff to trim back the grass for the time being along areas that may be creating a sight distance problem, such as near the University interchange area, by next week, as you suggested," Ishikawa said last week.
He said the public can call 831-6714 if they feel other areas need to be trimmed back now for similar reasons.
The maintenance contract for H-1 freeway from Middle Street to Ainakoa Avenue is expected to resume by the end of January. Bids were opened earlier this month for the landscaping contract for H-2 freeway from Mililani to the H-1/H-2 merge, and the Transportation Department hopes to have the grass cut back there in the next month.
Bids for three other landscaping contracts are scheduled to be opened by the end of January, Ishikawa said. They are for the H-1/Kunia interchange and Fort Weaver Road area; the H-1/Waiawa interchange; and H-1 in the area near Salt Lake Boulevard and Puuloa Road.
Q: Costco advertised a product, regular price $10.99, less $2.50 instant savings, for a net of $8.49. It charged a state general excise tax on $10.99. Is this allowed?
A: Yes, if the tax is passed on to the state, which it is.
All such coupons say that the tax is applied to the full amount of the item, "to make sure that the Department of Taxation gets its money properly," said Robert Loomis, general manager of Costco Iwilei.
If Costco is receiving the $2.50 coupon as a sales incentive from the manufacturer, similar to a manufacturer's coupon, then the $2.50 is included as gross income for the retailer, explained Denise Inouye, supervising tax specialist with the Department of Taxation.
"Therefore, the gross income from the sale of the item at $10.99 is subject to (the general excise tax) and Costco should pay the GET to the state on the $11.51," which would reflect the 4.7 percent GET on Oahu and which includes the "pass on" of the GET, she said.
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