Updated 

In brief | Big Island & State | 2-25-14


Empty building burns in Pahoa

An unoccupied, unpermitted structure on Molokai Road in Pahoa burned down Sunday evening.

Hawaii County firefighters responding to the 8 p.m. call found the 1,200-square-foot building engulfed with flames. The building partially collapsed. The loss was estimated at $140,000.

The owner is unknown. The cause of the fire was under investigation, according to the Fire Department.

New design helps smart phone, tablet users find state license info

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Professional and Vocational Licensing Division has adapted its online database, of more than 375,000 Hawaii licenses to allow easier access for mobile devices.

The website is pvl.ehawaii.gov. Last year, about 40,000 out of the 500,000 page visits on the PVL license search were conducted with a mobile device.

“With the proliferation of mobile devices, the move to give consumers easy, on-the-go access to information about our licensees makes perfect sense,” DCCA Director Kealii S. Lopez said. “This new user-friendly search tool makes it easier for consumers to quickly check if a potential professional for hire holds a current license in good standing.”

The design elements of this online service follow the new state website template, optimized for touch screen technology and smart phone interfaces by providing larger text, buttons designed with touch response functionality, and custom layouts for screens across multiple devices.

Police arrest 27 for suspected drunken driving

Big Island police arrested 27 motorists for suspected driving under the influence of an intoxicant from Feb. 17 through Sunday.

Police cited seven drivers in South Hilo, four in Puna, two in Ka‘u, 10 in Kona and four in South Kohala.

Ten drivers were involved in a traffic crash and one driver was younger than 21, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

So far this year, there have been 195 DUI arrests, compared with 176 during the same period last year, an increase of 10.8 percent.

There have been 231 major accidents in 2014, compared with 205 during the same period in 2013, an increase of 12.7 percent.

There were three traffic fatalities on island this year, compared with eight fatalities during the same period last year, a decrease of 62.5 percent.

4 Kauai teachers protest new evaluations

KILAUEA, Kauai — Four public school teachers on Kauai are so frustrated with new educator evaluations that they’ve sent the state a protest letter calling the system a “disaster.”

The Kilauea Elementary School teachers complained in the letter sent earlier this month that the new system requires an overwhelming amount of work and that there hasn’t been adequate training in implementing the evaluations.

The evaluations were implemented after a bitter contract dispute between the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said with anything new, there will be some who are unhappy with changes.

The Garden Island reported the nationally board certified teachers said they are in favor of evaluations but the new system is hurting morale and is too time consuming.

Hawaii election campaign fund needs boost

HONOLULU — The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is urging taxpayers to support the state’s election campaign fund.

The league asked last week that taxpayers indicate on their income tax returns that $3 for individuals, or $6 for joint filers, should go to the fund.

The league said boosting the fund will make it easier for candidates to run for office without having to use their own money or rely on money raised by private political action committees.

The fund needs help because it has dropped below the $3.5 million minimum threshold required by law for the money to be used for elections.

Once it’s replenished, the league expects candidates will be allowed to use the funds for the 2016 state House of Representatives elections.

Solar project to supply 5 percent of Kauai’s power

LIHUE, Kauai — Kauai’s utility plans to build a $54 million solar power project on 60 acres in Anahola.The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative said the 12-megawatt solar project will power 4,000 homes.

It’s expected to supply 20 percent of Kauai’s electricity during daylight hours. It will also provide 5 percent of Kauai’s annual electricity needs.

The utility said Friday its board and members of the Hawaiian Homes Commission voted to approve the terms of a 25-year lease for the land under the project.

Ownership of the solar array will transfer to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands after 25 years.

County officials: Maui farm fines from feds unfair

WAILUKU, Maui — County officials say it’s unfair for the federal government to fine Maui farms for wage violations because most farmers aren’t aware of the rules.

The U.S. Department of Labor last year fined four upcountry farms and one farm labor contractor because investigators found field workers weren’t being paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The department also cited farms for other violations, including unsafe transportation for workers.

The Maui News reported Monday representatives from the Maui County Office of Economic Development and the Maui County Farm Bureau say the investigation was unfair when most farmers on the island aren’t informed or educated about federal standards

Economic Development Coordinator Teena Rasmussen noted the labor department doesn’t have a Maui district office and hasn’t done enough outreach.

By local and wire sources