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In Brief | Big Island & State 3-5-14

March 5, 2014 - 12:05am

Police warn of scams

Hawaii Island police are warning the public about several scams reported by residents.

A Keaau couple reported being the target of three telephone scams within two weeks. The first was a telephone call to their cellphone claiming they had won the Publisher’s Clearing House prize of several million dollars and that someone would soon deliver it. The area code showed the call originated from Jamaica.

The second apparent scam was a call to the couple’s home phone from a blocked number by a woman with a foreign accent who asked questions about the recipient’s computer.

The third scam was a late-night phone call from an Arkansas area code with a “mechanical female voice” claiming the couple’s Master Card had been blocked. The recipient hung up the phone and then researched the scam and learned the next step is for the caller to ask for the recipient’s credit card number.

Police urge the public to be suspicious of requests for personal information over the telephone or by Internet and not to provide such information without independently verifying that the request is legitimate.

Kern, County Council lauded for albizia bill

Gov. Neil Abercrombie kicked off Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness week Monday with a proclamation and special recognition of this year’s Hawaii Invasive Species Council Award Recipients. Declaring that “invasive species pose the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s health, environment, economy, and people” the governor praised the award recipients for their dedication to protecting Hawaii and encouraged everyone to continue the fight.

Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week continues with volunteer opportunities across the state. On Hawaii Island, volunteers can help with native replanting on Mauna Kea. For more information, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/hisaw/2014events.

There is also a statewide opportunity for the public to help save Hawaii’s coconut trees. A group of students from the University of Hawaii known as the Beetle Busters are organizing a mission to track down the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle. Members of the public can download the Project Noah application to join the mission, take photos of coconut trees they suspect may be damaged by beetles, and submit them to the Beetle Busters for review. To see photos of beetle damage, and to join the Beetle Buster mission, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/hisaw/beetlebusters.

Hawaii Island’s MVP was Councilman Zendo Kern, Puna, and the Hawaii County Council. Kern introduced, and the council unanimously approved, an ordinance to allow the county to enter occupied private property to remove hazard trees and other unsafe flora, after adequate notice has been given to property owners. If the property owners do not remove the hazard themselves, the county will arrange removal and send them the bill. This ordinance is precedent setting in allowing a county agency the authority to enter private property for the removal of an invasive species, including the damaging albizia tree.

Lawmakers move to keep school years shorter

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers have passed measures in both chambers to set the public school year at 990 instructional hours over 180 school days.

Both the House and Senate have advanced bills that would repeal a 2010 law that scheduled an increase in the school year to 1,080 hours by 2016.

Lawmakers who disagreed with that measure said in discussion that mandatory time in class does not necessarily improve student outcomes.

The Department of Education supports the bills, saying they would save the state money. The Hawaii State Teachers Association opposes them, saying instructional hours should be determined by collective bargaining rather than legislation.

Abercrombie releases $550K for Kohala High

Gov. Neil Abercrombie Tuesday announced the release of more than $65.6 million to the state Department of Education for capital improvement projects, including $550,000 for a Kohala High School project.

The work will remove an architectural barrier at the school and provide program accessibility for the disabled in accordance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

Bill requiring Internet sales tax advances

HONOLULU — The Hawaii House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require retailers to collect taxes on Internet sales transactions.

It also would make third party referral websites that connect customers with sellers collect some taxes or face a penalty.

Democratic Representative Kyle Yamashita said that as the Internet becomes more popular, the state has to adapt with the times. He said the state also has to figure out how to maintain its revenues.

Republican Representative Gene Ward opposes the bill, saying that islanders import nearly everything they eat and shouldn’t have to pay more taxes to get what they need. He said people are still struggling from the recession and trying to make ends meet.

House lawmakers passed the bill 42-9. It now moves to the Senate.

Pilot’s ex-wife: No answers yet in crash

KAHULUI, Maui — The ex-wife and business partner of the pilot who died when a small plane crashed and burned on Lanai says she still doesn’t know what went wrong.

Sheila Magers and Richard Rooney own and operate Maui Air. Rooney and two Maui County Planning Department employees were killed when the chartered plane crashed last week in a former pineapple field about a mile from the Lanai airport. Three other Maui County employees aboard the flight were injured with burns.

Magers said in a statement Tuesday that Maui Air is cooperating with federal investigators trying to understand the crash.

She said she and 66-year-old Rooney divorced in December but remained close and continued to run the company together.

She said she lost the man she loved and worked with for 27 years.

By local and wire souces