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In brief | Big Island & State | 4-10-14

April 10, 2014 - 12:05am

Missing Kona teen found

Hawaii Island police have located 16-year-old Kona resident Shellsea Gouveia-Asuncion, who was reported missing.

She was found April 3, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Police combating distracted driving

Hawaii Island police will increase enforcement of distracted driving as part of a national campaign called “U Drive U Text U Pay,” which runs today through Tuesday.

Distracted driving is a problem of national concern, according to the Hawaii Police Department. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration finds the task of driving requires a driver’s full attention in focusing on the roadway and driving maneuvers.

Any distraction that diverts a driver’s attention from the primary tasks of maneuvering the vehicle and responding to critical events increases the driver’s risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. A distraction is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, mind off the road or hands off the wheel, the department stated.

On July 1, 2013, the state enacted a law prohibiting the use of cellphones and other mobile electronic devices while operating a vehicle (with certain exceptions) and to specifically prohibit activities such as texting, instant messaging, gaming and emailing, which divert a driver’s attention.

One-way traffic pattern for Merrie Monarch Festival

In conjunction with the 51st annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a temporary one-way traffic pattern will be in effect on Kalanikoa Street in Hilo, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Traffic will be allowed to flow in the makai, or northerly direction on Kalanikoa Street between Piilani and Kuawa streets during the festival. The one-way traffic pattern will remain in effect from noon April 23 through 8 a.m. April 27, the department stated.

Motorists traveling west on Piilani Street will be allowed to turn right onto Kalanikoa Street. Left turns will also be allowed onto Kalanikoa Street from Piilani Street.

Both right and left turns will be allowed to one-way traffic on Kalanikoa Street to access the Hoolulu Complex and businesses in the area. Regular two-way traffic will remain in effect on Manono, Kuawa and Piilani streets, the department stated.

Army’s presence in Pacific won’t diminish

HONOLULU — The commander of U.S. Army Pacific said the military’s presence in the region won’t diminish despite cuts elsewhere.

The Army’s presence in the Pacific has grown to 106,000 active-duty soldiers from about 90,000. That’s a nearly 18 percent increase as military officials plan drastic cuts elsewhere over the next five years, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, said Hawaii’s approximately 22,500 active-duty soldier count will remain about the same. He also said a 4,300-soldier Stryker Brigade that was said to be vulnerable to cuts and possibly moving to Washington state won’t be leaving.

“How we have forces based in the Pacific we see remaining about the same for the next several years,” Brooks said.

“There are some adjustments that we know we’re going to have to do,” Brooks said, citing as an example his own headquarters being cut 13 percent. Those cuts are expected to be carried out through attrition.

The four-star general made the comments Tuesday at a Waikiki news conference. The Association of the United States Army is holding a land power in the Pacific forum through Thursday. It’s the second year the event is being held in Hawaii.

Thirteen countries sent delegations to the conference.

Hawaii gets poor grade for children’s oral health

HONOLULU — Hawaii has more dentists per capita than any state except Massachusetts, but children here have among the worst rates of tooth decay in the country.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday data from Delta Dental Plans Association found the percentage of Hawaii children who had one or more cavities in the past three years was at 48 percent.

One of the reasons for that is Hawaii’s water supply is not fluoridated, except on military bases.

The state Health Department hopes to launch a pilot program to provide dental sealant to children in low-income schools.

The Pew Center gave Hawaii an F grade in its most recent report on how well the state is protecting children from tooth decay. It’s the same grade Hawaii received the previous two years.

Hawaii Senators grill state hospital administrator

HONOLULU — Lawmakers quizzed the acting Hawaii State Hospital administrator in a hearing to investigate accounts of violence and mismanagement at the facility.

State senators on Wednesday pushed William Elliott to explain hiring practices at the psychiatric hospital. They also questioned his qualifications for overseeing the hospital and probed possible nepotism in hiring.

Hospital workers have come forward in recent months with accounts of frequent violent attacks by patients. They’ve said that low staffing contributes to danger for workers at the hospital.

Elliott said there are about 60 full-time jobs that remain open at the hospital. He said most of those positions are covered by temporary hires through a staffing agency.

Elliott has been covering two administrative jobs at the hospital for more than a year.

Hawaii lawmakers pass minimum wage hike

HONOLULU — Lawmakers have passed a bill that will raise the minimum wage in Hawaii.

The House passed the measure Tuesday. Before it goes to the governor to become law, its details will have to be hammered out in conference with the Senate.

In its current form, the bill raises Hawaii’s minimum wage by 50 cents beginning next year and by 75 cents a year until it hits $10 an hour in 2018.

It doubles the existing tip credit to 50 cents but restricts it to employees whose wages and tips together exceed the minimum wage by at least $7 an hour. The tip credit is the amount an employer can withhold from the wages of a worker who also earns tips.

Hawaii’s minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2007.

By local and wire sources

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