Friday, January 11, 2019

State audit blasts Honolulu rail authority, Board of Education to re-vote on superintendent's contract, homeless coordinator defends progress, Hawaii's space defense plan, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands


Blistering audit blames political rush to construction for ballooning rail costs. The auditor documented $354 million in change orders related to Honolulu’s rail project. Hawaii News Now.

Audit: Honolulu Rail Agency Hid True Costs From Public View. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation did not even level with its own board of directors about ballooning expenses, a new report says. Civil Beat.

Premature contracts increased rail cost by $354M. Star-Advertiser.

State Auditor: HART Increased Rail Project Costs by 79.5 Percent. State Auditor, Les Kondo, says a review of records and staff interviews revealed that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation or HART awarded contracts too early knowing the work could not be completed on time. Hawaii Public Radio.

A scathing audit of Honolulu's rail project says city officials are neglecting their responsibility on a project it says has a "fragile" financial plan and an "artificial" timeline. KHON2.

Audit of Honolulu rail says HART's lack of transparency 'undermines' ability to secure money. The audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) found that the costs went from $5.122 billion in 2012 to $9.188 billion in 2018. KITV.

Hawaii auditor says premature contracts inflated rail costs. Officials prematurely awarded contracts for Honolulu’s commuter rail line a decade ago to minimize public criticism and show the project was moving along. But this practice dramatically swelled costs as plans changed, a new audit of the vastly over-budget project said Thursday. Associated Press.

Unrealistic deadlines and the release of contradictory information due to a desire to minimize public criticism have resulted in cost overruns and delays to Honolulu’s 20-mile rail project, according to an audit released by the Hawaii Office of the Auditor on Thursday. Pacific Business News.

Full text: Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation: Report 1 is available here.

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School Board To Revote On Superintendent’s Contract — This Time Publicly. Concerns were raised after the board voted in executive session to reward the state superintendent with an additional contract year. Civil Beat.

Homelessness Coordinator Touts Progress As Lawmakers Criticize Pace Of Work. Hawaii homelessness has decreased two years in a row, said Scott Morishige, but legislators contend the administration isn’t spending money fast enough. Civil Beat.

Hawaii completes modernization of state payroll system. Hawaii's state payroll system has finally moved into the 21st century, with Gov. David Ige announcing on Thursday that all state employees have successfully transitioned to a new system as part of a $17 million modernization project. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii’s tax revenue projection adjusted for slower growth. The reduction means the state might have $55 million less to spend than expected. Associated Press.

State legislators will have to work with a smaller budget than had been anticipated just two days ago. The Council on Revenues lowered its state general fund forecast by .8 percent Wednesday, retreating from a 5 percent growth projection in September to 4.2 percent. Garden Island.

State lawmaker to reintroduce bill to ban plastic straws, Styrofoam containers. Hawaii tried to ban plastic straws and Styrofoam containers, but failed, last year. Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the 2018 bill, plans to reintroduce the idea when the Legislature convenes this session. KITV.

Hawaii military plans for space defense race. The United States and other nations are now acting with haste to protect their space-based assets. That priority was highlighted at a Chamber of Commerce Hawaii Military Affairs Council annual meeting Thursday at the state Capitol. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiian Airlines carried an all-time high of 11,840,178 passengers in 2018 amid a fleet expansion that helped generate a seventh straight year of record visitor arrivals to the state. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

The Honolulu Elections Division is standing by its policy of accepting mail-in ballots from the U.S. Postal Service after 6 p.m. on Election Day, despite a challenge by defeated City Council candidate Tommy Waters that argues those votes should not be counted. Star-Advertiser.

Scandal that’s ensnarled police, prosecutor’s office takes another turn: Investigating a drug trafficking ring. An officer’s anticipated guilty plea Friday in connection with a widening public corruption case against former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife will also take the case in an entirely new direction — one that ties Katherine Kealoha to a prescription drug trafficking ring. Hawaii News Now.

Trump’s Border Wall Could Imperil $345M Ala Wai Canal Flood Control Project. The president is considering declaring a national emergency and taking funds from Army Corps of Engineers projects. Associated Press.

State tours possible relocation site for the encampment at Waianae boat harbor. Oahu’s biggest homeless village could be moving to a piece of state land in Waianae. Hawaii News Now.

The H3 Freeway Kaneohe-bound will be closed between the Halawa Interchange and the Kaneohe Interchange for filming of Magnum P.I. KHON2.

Despite the news of its upper grades closing at the end of the school year, Saint Francis School alumni remain hopeful they might be able to save the 94-year-old institution. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

A circuit court judge ordered the county jail’s warden to court for a second time after a pretrial murder detainee who was previously erroneously released from custody wasn’t brought to court for a recent hearing. West Hawaii Today.

The probe into the mistaken release five months ago of an accused murderer is ongoing, but the Department of Public Safety says it has worked to modify and strengthen procedures to prevent a repeat of the flub. West Hawaii Today.

Officials share memories of old Hilo jailhouse. The impending demolition of the old Hilo County Jail brought together public safety officials and local dignitaries Thursday to share memories of the historic building. Tribune-Herald.

State and local officials attended an event at the Old Hilo Jail building off Waianuenue Avenue on Thursday, to share stories on the vacant structure before demolition begins in the coming weeks. Big Island Video News.

The state Department of Health has confirmed a new case of rat lungworm disease in an infant from Hawaii Island. Star-Advertiser.

Maui

$600K Contract for Haiku Roadwork Begins. Road resurfacing and other work has started on Peahi and Pauwela roads in Haiku, according to the Maui County Department of Public Works. Maui Now.

The gates at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge remain locked Wednesday morning. Signs posted say the refuge is closed due to “the lapse in federal appropriations.” Maui News.

The Napili Park Playground in West Maui is closed while crews complete repairs due to vandalism reported at the facility. Maui Now.

Kauai

Though the government shutdown is still ongoing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to return staff to wildlife refuges across the country to ensure access. Among them is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Garden Island.