HILO — Just two weeks before she’s set to leave office, Ka‘u Councilwoman Brittany Smart is fulfilling a campaign pledge she made two years ago to make County Council meetings more accessible to her far-flung constituents.
Ka‘u residents who want to testify at — or just watch — the County Council meetings next week will be able to do so at the Ocean View Community Association building as the council tests its videoconferencing equipment and connections. Committees meet at the West Hawaii Civic Center on Tuesday beginning at 9 a.m. The council meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
“By the skin of my teeth, I was making sure that was done,” Smart said Friday. “It’s been a long, drawn-out process.”
Smart had originally wanted a full-fledged council district office in Ka‘u so she could meet with constituents and get other work done without having to make the long haul to Hilo or Kailua-Kona. But budget constraints and a space crunch made that goal unattainable over her two-year term.
Smart, a freshman, decided not to run for re-election after redistricting threw her in the same council district as South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford.
The process of hooking up a Ka‘u site was complicated by the shortage of appropriate space in Naalehu. Smart had sought a site there because it’s halfway between Pahala and Ocean View. But a site couldn’t be found that had the required parking and Internet hookups, she said.
The money for the equipment came from the Ka‘u district’s office budget, she said. In addition, it will cost $100 per day for each meeting at the community center for rental and cleaning fees.
Smart didn’t know how much the equipment cost. The County Clerk’s Office was also unable to provide a figure by press time Friday.
If all goes as planned next week, the council plans a pilot project to continue working out the kinks before the site can be considered permanent.
“I am really happy this is going forward,” Smart said. “It’s been a long time in the making but at least we’re taking that first step.”