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Letters to the Editor: 8-30-17

August 30, 2017 - 12:05am

Kona’s water problem needs to be a No. 1 priority

It’s time we start talking about the big picture regarding our water pump problems. It initially sounds like no big thing to stop irrigating our landscapes when compared to priorities like drinking, cooking and bathing.

But perhaps Keith Okamoto and Harry Kim might take it more seriously if there’s a class action lawsuit by homeowners, condo developments, and food growers to be reimbursed for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in plants they’ll lose from lack of water.

And how about the revenue all the garden centers will lose as sales stop, and the firing of landscapers who make a living tending to people’s yards. Let’s not stop there, real estate will take a hit when buyers decide to pass on a community that can’t provide a basic utility. The tourist economy will also suffer when word gets out that water can be turned off without notice. We need bees and plants, and without water, that fragile system will collapse.

The water district’s lack of planning and poor management doesn’t warrant emergency measures for our community. The mayor needs to pull his head out of the silo mentality that’s currently limiting possible solutions. Get creative and start moving money from one budget to another to fund a quick and viable solution. Whatever is being done now needs to be expedited hundredfold. Negotiate better warranties with suppliers, put people in charge who aren’t retired on the job. Start treating this problem like it’s our No. 1 priority.

Yvonne Martin


How did we get here?

The Navy sacked the commander of the 7th Fleet in the wake of the four recent collisions of ships under his command. No, he wasn’t running the ships. But the Navy held him accountable for bad practices within the fleet of approximately 60 ships. You can bet the next commander will prioritize navigation and collision-avoidance.

Proportionally, our North Kona water supply is in greater crisis. Five of 13 wells are down. The current head engineer/manager of the Department of Water Supply has been in that position for two years. But he was assistant head engineer starting in 2003. And he has been in the department since 1996. He recently cited cumbersome procurement rules as the problem in getting our wells back on line.


Procurement relative to this problem should have been done years ago. Others have mentioned that fitting our wells with uniform hardware would make replacement parts interchangeable from one well to another, as well as reducing the cost of maintaining parts inventory. You can’t wait until after your wells start breaking down to develop that uniformity and initiate that kind of procurement.

And, last week he explained that testing incoming repair parts is the hurdle to getting the five wells back to operational status. OK, OK, set up a testing protocol for the future. But the question remains: How did we get this far behind in our preventive maintenance?

How long would HELCO retain its Big Island manager if HELCO’s power capacity were down by 5 of 13?

Don’t get me wrong … I don’t think it’s a government versus private industry issue. Maybe the problem is that there is no accountability in county government, where we seem to have bred a culture of mediocrity. The task ahead isn’t to fix blame. But we must prepare for the future. Maybe we need new admirals in the Water Department – ones who have track records of avoiding collisions with the inevitable.

James W. McGowan


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