LAHAINA - Seeking continued support for West Side projects, Tenth District Rep. Angus McKelvey (D) recently hosted a visit by the State House Finance Committee to Lahaina.
The House delegation included the chair of the committee, Marcus Oshiro, and committee members Ty Cullen (vice-chair, Public Safety Committee), Linda Ichiyama (vice-chair, Transportation), Majority Leader Pono Chong, Kyle Yamashita, Mark Hashem (vice-chair, Agriculture), Barbara Marumoto and Minority Leader Gene Ward.
The visit was part of a statewide tour of all islands to assess various projects and programs that were approved, and to help plan priorities for the supplemental budget that will be formulated during the 2012 session that begins in January.
Members of the State House Finance Committee visited the Friends of Moku'ula to learn about the group's restoration project.
"When they were planning their Maui visit, Chair Oshiro contacted me about coming to Lahaina to see the progress of the various capital improvement projects that we secured with their assistance over the last five years," said Rep. McKelvey.
He added that because the state budget originates in the Finance Committee in the House, "their support is critical in getting these things through."
The committee's visit included a tour of Lahainaluna High School and its Boarding Department, Moku'ula, Lahaina Harbor and a brief overview of the Lahaina Bypass work.
Committee members toured the soon-to-be-completed, state-of-the-art cafeteria at Lahainaluna and talked with the boarding students, as they escorted them on a tour of the campus, the agricultural operations and the dorms.
"I'm glad to see that the support we gave Rep. McKelvey for the Lahainaluna boarding program continued a tradition that has helped a lot of kids in Hawaii go on to lead successful lives," said Oshiro.
"However, it is important that they seize on the potential the boarding program has for creation of a center of excellence, especially given all the potential it has in the areas of renewable energy, agriculture and earth sciences."
At Moku'ula, members heard from Friends of Moku'ula Board President Kimo Falconer, Executive Director Shirley Kahai and others on current plans for the restoration of Moku'ula and the timelines for the proposed visitor center (visit www.mokuula.com/).
Oshiro and others were particularly interested in what other sources of funding the organization had secured, as well as the financial plan for the visitor center and the restoration of the pond and the island.
Rep. Chong noted that the Friends of Moku'ula needs firm financial commitments from other sources to gain state support next session.
"I think that is where the partnerships Moku'ula has with the County of Maui, the federal government and other private entities will help to bolster the case for some type of state support for the visitor center, which will also help to add parking to Lahaina Town and create more jobs locally," McKelvey said.
At Lahaina Harbor, the state officials were briefed about the tsunami damage and the importance of the current work being done to dredge the channel because of the sand deposited by the March 2011 surge and south swells during the summer.
"The money we are using for the emergency dredging is coming from the state match for the Lahaina Harbor ferry terminal improvement project, which is currently still in the design phase, because of ongoing work between the state and the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission," McKelvey explained.
"Because of that, we are going to need their support to replace those monies next session. This is why we're coming to the harbor and seeing what an essential transportation and economic hub it is, as well as its importance to the community."
After the tour, Oshiro said, "I thank Representative McKelvey for taking time out of his busy schedule to take us around Lahaina and see the community and all of the the things that are going on this side of the island... it's a great town, and I can see why he is so passionate about West Maui when he is in Honolulu... we look forward to working with him and Senator (Rosalyn) Baker to continue to help the community."