Kauai budget plan adds rangers
LIHUE » Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste has proposed a $155 million operating budget for the next fiscal year which includes more park rangers and planning enforcement officers.
The budget, a nearly 5 percent increase over the 2007-2008 fiscal year, includes an additional $4.7 million for collective-bargaining increases.
"It's not a frivolous budget," he told reporters yesterday. "It's all stuff that has to be done."
The budget increase will be chiefly paid by revenues generated from new construction, and no property tax rate increases are planned, Baptiste said.
Included in the increase is funding for overdue building maintenance and renovations, filling 14 new positions and purchasing large equipment instead of leasing, the mayor said.
Of the new positions, the mayor proposes to double the amount of park rangers on the Garden Isle, to six from three; add three planning department enforcement officers to go after illegal farm dwellings and transient vacation rentals; and three more lifeguards for new towers at Anahola Beach Park and Kee Beach.
Also in fiscal year 2009, the mayor has asked to spend $1 million to evaluate county facilities for renewable energy projects, such as photovoltaic systems, he added.
Kau Hospital said to need repair
HILO » The remote Kau Hospital on the Big Island needs so many repairs that it would probably be cheaper to build a new hospital, said Ron Schurra, head of the East Hawaii branch of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.
Legislators from the Big Island were to tour the hospital today.
Hospital administrator Merilyn Harris said the plumbing is leaking, the roof is leaking, none of the hospital is air-conditioned except for the business office, many of the roof-mounted ventilation fans are not working, acute-care rooms lack hot water and a wall-length crack in the day room, although not a structural threat, gets wider with every earthquake.
The X-ray machine is so old that repair parts are hard to find, she said. That is due to be replaced in 2009, but a CAT scan machine, standard in small mainland hospitals, also is needed, she said.
The 36-year-old facility with 21 beds currently uses 18 of them for long-term care, but elderly patients are projected to increase 46 percent in the Oahu-size district by 2015, she said.
Schurra said up to $300,000 is needed to plan for a new hospital.
Police, Fire, Courts
Officers recover pilfered textile art
In a little more than a day, Honolulu police arrested a suspected burglar and recovered textile art much to the relief of two visitors from Tahiti.
The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii reports that the textile art -- used for designs for aloha wear made by major local companies -- was worth about $250,000.
The pair's car containing the artwork was stolen after a break-in at their hotel room at the Breakers Hotel early Thursday in Waikiki, VASH said. The burglars also took wallets, a purse, jewelry and a car key while the pair slept.
VASH said Pearl City police found the car yesterday and recovered the textile art.
"The police did a great job in this case. Not only were they able to retrieve the car, but the visitors got their expensive artwork back as well. In this type of crime against visitors, it's rare that their valuables are located and returned," said Jessica Lani Rich, president of VASH, which assists visitors who are victims of crimes.
Drug search turns up 2 bombs
Police discovered two explosive devices yesterday morning after executing a drug search warrant on Lauiki Street near Ala Wai Elementary and Iolani schools.
Police evacuated the building at 522 Lauiki St. and shut down the street for 1 1/2 hours while the bomb squad removed the devices. The devices were taken to another location for disposal, police said.
Police arrested a 49-year-old man who lives in the building on suspicion of third-degree promotion of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a prohibited explosive device.
Stolen-car case yields narcotics
Police have arrested a 23-year-old man allegedly carrying narcotics while driving a stolen car.
Police said that shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday, officers saw the suspect driving the car near Pauoa Road and Nuuanu Avenue. During a search of the suspect after he was pulled over, officers found two bags of narcotics on him, police said.
The suspect was arrested for investigation of auto theft and promotion of dangerous drugs, a second-degree felony.
Lawman's badge and ammo stolen
Honolulu police have recovered items stolen from a vehicle, including a badge and firearm magazine belonging to a deputy sheriff assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Public Safety said the break-in occurred Wednesday night and that by midday Thursday the items were recovered. She said the only items belonging to the deputy sheriff were the magazine and badge but that other items also had been stolen.
Department plans DUI checkpoints
For the rest of this month, the Honolulu Police Department will hold extra sobriety checkpoints to reduce drunken driving during St. Patrick's Day weekend and spring break.
Checkpoints will be set up at unannounced times and locations through March 31, an HPD news release said.
Police also are continuing a federal sobriety checkpoint program to stop alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. At least one checkpoint per week will be set up through September.
In related news, HPD officers arrested 3,861 impaired drivers in federal fiscal year 2007, the release said. As of yesterday, eight people have died in eight Oahu traffic accidents, compared with 21 fatalities in 18 accidents at the same time last year. Two of the accidents were alcohol- or drug-related, police said.