Thursday | August 25, 2016
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County recruits Air Guard

An Air National Guard presentation at a national conference gave former Ka‘u Councilwoman Brittany Smart an idea.

If the Air National Guard’s Innovative Readiness Program can dig wells and build infrastructure in other countries, and if Air National Guard members need practice with that kind of work, why not just do that training in the United States, specifically on Hawaii Island, Smart proposed.

The Air National Guard agreed it was a good idea, South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford said Thursday. It is amenable to committing to do infrastructure projects here for five years, from 2014 to 2019, as long as the projects meet the program requirements and the county provides materials, designs, blueprints and completes any environmental studies beforehand.

“They will bring in all of the heavy equipment and their troops and do all the manual work,” Ford said. “It could save the county 40 percent to 60 percent of the cost and we help to train the troops how to do things.”

Part of the appeal, Ford said, was the island’s diverse and often difficult terrain. If the troops can dig in the island’s blue rock, 0r basalt — notoriously difficult to do — or work in cinder, aa or pahoehoe, they will be well-equipped to build infrastructure elsewhere, she said. The Air National Guard, because it works in foreign countries, also is good at respecting cultural boundaries and has procedures to work around historically and culturally relevant sites, she added.

Ford has scheduled a 90-minute presentation by the Air National Guard for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, during the Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The presentation will explain the proposal, she said.

The proposal isn’t intended to cut out unions or local businesses from projects, she added. The county would still advertise the projects — it just might be hard for businesses to submit a bid that costs less than a bid from the Air National Guard at no cost, she said.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Kathy Garson said she did not yet know what the implications of such a proposal might be in light of the Davis-Bacon Act. She was waiting more information from the presentation, she said.