- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County may borrow up to $20 million to pay for emergency road work so Puna residents will have a way in and out of their communities if lava crosses the area’s main highway. The funds would allow the county to cover costs if it is unable to get federal funding for the work.

The county council is scheduled to discuss a resolution on the matter Wednesday, West Hawaii Today (https://bit.ly/1yAo2od) reported. The measure says the county intends to authorize a bond issue to reimburse itself for expenses if necessary.

Floating a bond covers a worst-case scenario if funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other sources isn’t available, Deputy Finance Director Deanna Sako said.

“We’re hoping for federal funding first,” Sako said. “We’re still talking to FEMA.”

The county is spending $3 million to open Government Beach Road, which was a one-lane dirt road, and to connect Railroad Avenue between Hawaiian Beaches near Pahoa and Hawaiian Paradise Park.

The latest project, the reopening Chain of Craters Road where it was buried by past lava flows, could cost between $12 million and $15.5 million, a spokesman for Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday.

The county’s total bond debt as of June 30 was $359.8 million, according to a report from the Finance Department.

If the other roads are cut off, a trip to Hilo from Pahoa would be about 64 miles by the Chain of Craters route, which would take residents through Volcano. The trip using the other roads is currently 17 miles.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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