POSTED: Saturday, July 25, 2009

A great place to play

Honolulu has been named one of 93 Playful City USA communities, honoring the city's commitment to providing quality playgrounds and parks.

The designation is made by KaBOOM!, a national group dedicated to building play spaces for children.

The group selects communities based on access to parks and playgrounds and the quality of the play spaces.

Hilo was also recognized as a Playful City USA community for this year.

For more information visit www.kaboom.org.

Officials weighing moving inmates

State officials continue to monitor investigations into alleged sexual assaults against female inmates at a Kentucky prison where 169 Hawaii women are being housed, but have made no decision on whether to transfer them or bring them home.

“;We're looking at all possible options at this time,”; Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said yesterday at a news conference.

He said there are no plans to send any additional female prisoners to Otter Creek Correctional Facility in Wheelright, Ky., or any other mainland prison, at this time.

A team of state officials visited the facility this month to investigate the allegations.

Of 23 allegations against guards, seven involved Hawaii inmates, Frank said. One 2007 case resulted in the firing of a guard on charges of second-degree sexual abuse, while the other cases remain under investigation.

The Community Alliance on Prisons, a local advocacy group, has urged the state to bring back all female prisoners housed on the mainland.

Frank said that is a possibility, but doing so “;would create a burden here because we would be maximizing all possible bed space available.”;

UH faculty offered mortgage help

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is offering to help faculty members with mortgage guarantees, and lower fees and payments for the purchase of a first home.

The pilot project, called the Mortgage Assistance Guaranty Program, also offers mortgages with lower down payments, lower closing costs and favorable interest rates and loan fees.

It is aimed at retaining faculty, said UH President David McClain in a news release. McClain said that if successful, the program will be expanded to other campuses and more employees.

About $1.6 million from the university's Housing Assistance Revolving Fund will be used to provide the mortgage guaranties. An additional $500,000 from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology will be available for its faculty.

The basic program provides a first mortgage up to the lower of 80 percent of the purchase price or appraised value up to a maximum of $625,500. A second mortgage up to 17 percent of the purchase price will be guaranteed up to $125,000.

The university selected Bank of Hawaii, through a competitive bidding process, to also provide reduced loan fees, reduced second mortgage interest rates, a no private mortgage insurance requirement, free Bank of Hawaii VISA or American Express card, free overdraft protection, free traveler's checks and free cashier's checks to participants. For information regarding eligibility, process and selection criteria, contact Kathy Cutshaw, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for administration, finance and operations, at 956-9190.

Zoo plans to release Hawaiian crow

A conservation program trying to reintroduce the Hawaiian crow in the wild is seven birds away from its goal, according to a San Diego Zoo news release.

The Zoo's Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program wants to gather 75 alala birds in a flock before releasing them into the wild, a news release said.

On July 16 the 68th bird, a chick born in a conservatory on Maui, was flown to a bird conservatory to join its nest mates in a Big Island conservatory. It was the eighth alala hatched this year.

Kauai getting its eighth fire station

Construction of a new fire station in Kealia, Kauai, is expected to lessen the burden on another station that handles 25 percent of the alarms for the island, according to a county news release.

Kauai County broke ground for the $4.7 million station on Monday. Completion is scheduled for January 2011.

The new station, along Kuhio Highway, between Friendship House and St. Catherine's cemetery, will be the eighth on the island and the second in the Kawaihau district, the release said.

“;Over the past several years, the Kawaihau district received approximately 25 percent of the call load for the entire island, making it the busiest district on Kauai and it doesn't appear to be abating,”; Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho said in the release.

The station will house 15 firefighters and a hazardous-materials team that currently operates out of the Lihue station.