Committee to receive update on county’s disaster relief efforts

County administrators will present an update on their plans to continue to provide disaster aid to lava-affected communities during a meeting today of the County Council Finance Committee.

Diane Ley, director of the Department of Research and Development, and Roy Takemoto, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, will discuss how the county’s eruption recovery team will spend millions in disaster aid provided by state and federal agencies.

Ley said the presentation also will include discussion about a disaster recovery framework that could be quickly adapted to deal with potential future disasters.

The presentation is a follow-up to a similar one in March, when council members grilled administrators for specifics about how funds would be disbursed and found their answers lacking.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said the March presentation did not provide sufficient data to explain why certain expenditures were allocated to certain parts of the recovery process and what determined the size of the allocations.

“I just want to make sure our spending plan is reflective of our community’s needs,” Kierkiewicz said.

In particular, Kierkiewicz said she is concerned that Puna and Pahoa receive sufficient funding to not only be revitalized but “reimagined.”

Ley said a significant amount of the expenditures already made were used to hire consultants, which came from a $10 million grant from the state in November.

“Those were big expenditures,” she said, but added the county has a wide range of resources to manage recovery efforts, including a $66 million federal grant to the state that was announced last month.

“Recovery is both near-term and long-term,” Ley said. “We’re trying to find a way to manage both.”

The presentation is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kailua-Kona. It also will be streamed live on the Hawaii County website. Citizens will be allowed to provide testimony before the presentation.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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