Author Archives: Melissa Kelsey

Pau Hana Inn Bought By Molokai Community Health Center

Friday, August 7th, 2009

By Dan Murphy

Molokai has seen its share of ups and downs and the Pau Hana Inn has weathered many of them. Now, it is about to experience another transformation – one that will foster both good health and economy for the island. The Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) purchased the old Pau Hana Inn from New Hope Christian Fellowship on July 31 for $2.75 million.

MCHC’s Executive Director Desiree Puhi spearheaded the effort to complete the sale. Puhi took over at the Health Center in July 2008 and immediately recognized a need for more space. The 5.9 acre plot, located makai of King’s Chapen in Kaunakakai, will be a major increase in space from the 2,400 square foot office that the MCHC has used since its opening in 2004.

“We were too cramped to meet all of our patients’ needs and we also needed more room to continue to grow,” MCHC Financial Director Cyrus Siu said.

Siu estimated that the process to convert the retreat center into a medical facility will take almost a year. He said they hope to be fully functional by July 1, 2010, but that date may change based on how quickly they can acquire Special Management Area permits and begin the renovations.

Sweet Business

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Sweet Business

Kimberly Svetin on keeping Kamoi Snack-n-Go afloat    

By Melissa Kelsey

Kimberly Svetin mingles with ice cream customers at Kamoi Snack-n-Go. 

It is stores like Kamoi Snack-n-Go, home of Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, that help the small town of Kaunakakai retain its characteristic flavor. Ube flavored ice cream, toys sold by Molokai vendors and candy brands you have not seen since you were a child are just a few things found at Kamoi Snack-n-Go that are hard to find anywhere else.

Behind the pleasant customer service and ono scoops of ice cream is the business savvy, community minded Kimberly Svetin, who was born and raised on Molokai.  

“I am just happy to still be in business,” said Svetin. “People do not realize how expensive it is to run a business here.”

Among her secrets to keeping such a challenging business afloat, Svetin said she makes it her priority to make sure her employees are happy. Offering flexible hours and good benefits are just two of the ways she achieves this goal.

“If you treat your employees well, they will treat the customers well,” said Svetin. “Without customers, you don’t have a business.”  

Svetin said she makes sure she takes the time to listen to what customers have to say. Listening to employees is also important, because they spend so much time directly interacting with customers.  

“I think as businesspeople, we need to be much more focused on the customer experience,” explained Svetin.

Returning Home
After growing up on Molokai, Svetin moved away for college and did not return for 18 years. While she was away, she graduated from Pomona College in California with a degree in history. As a student, she worked as a manager at a retail store, an experience she said taught her the fundamentals of running a business. She lived in the cities of Washington D.C., Seattle and Los Angeles. She traveled to Europe, and for a while lived closer to home on the island of Maui. While living in Seattle, she developed a successful marketing and consulting business.  

When Svetin returned to Molokai, she worked helping manage several Molokai businesses her family owns, including Kamoi Snack-n-Go. She immediately noticed that the space in the store was not being utilized to its full potential. With a focus on purchasing goods from people who live on Molokai, Svetin brought new snacks, candies and toys to the shelves.   

“The more we can support these smaller vendors, the more money will stay on the island,” said Svetin.   

Svetin described her return home as a bittersweet experience. To be closer to family and raise their children on Molokai, both Svetin and her husband, Todd, left lucrative, urban jobs. Svetin said she still misses her former business clients and the abundance of opportunities to take road trips and travel to new places. However, she said she is happy for her kids, who can grow up on Molokai and experience the same island life she experienced as a child.

“Their video game is Molokai,” said Svetin, describing her kids’ life.   

Planning for the Future
For young people who hope to do business on Molokai someday, Svetin recommended leaving Molokai for a while to learn and practice business skills.

“You learn from your mistakes,” said Svetin. “Get the experience before moving here.”

She advised finding good business mentors and doing research to determine what types of businesses are not already on Molokai. For herself, she said she would love to see Japanese, Chinese and Mexican restaurants, as well as more second hand thrift stores.

“Don’t duplicate what is already here,” she recommended.

Giving Back
From giving free ice cream to blood donors to donating money to the Little League, Kamoi Snack-n-Go has earned a reputation for giving. School groups regularly visit the store to learn how ice cream is made.

“It all comes back to you,” said Svetin, when asked why the store has a focus on contributing to the community.

She said her kids and their friends also motivate her to stay involved.

“What can we do as a community to improve education outside of school?” asked Svetin. “How can we give our kids the opportunity to travel?”  

In the case of Kamoi Snack-n-Go, the answer may be stopping by for an ice cream cone.

Molokai High Hires Principal and Vice Principal

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Melissa Kelsey

After last school year closing in leadership limbo, Molokai High School has hired a new principal and vice principal, after the June 31 retirement of both former Principal Linda Puleloa and former Vice Principal Earl Nakamura.

Meet the Principal
New Acting Principal Denise Kelly has a long history of working with Molokai schools. Previously, she worked as Acting Principal of Kilohana Elementary and as a District Educational Specialist, overseeing special education at Molokai and Lanai schools. Kelly said two of her goals for Molokai High are to ensure that that the school meets standards for No Child Left Behind and to prepare students for college. Her title will change from Acting Principal to Principal after she completes the state-required Administrator Certification for Excellence (ACE) program.

Rate Increases Approved

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Public Utilities Commission passes Molokai and Lanai exceptions

Young Brothers Press Release

Young Brothers received approval from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate increase for regulated inter-island cargo services on July 28. The average overall rate increase will be 13.46 percent. The newly approved rates include a 9.66 percent increase for containerized cargo, a 9.22 percent increase for automobiles and “roll-on, roll-off” cargo and a 21.26 percent increase for less than container load (LCL) cargo, except for Molokai and Lanai, for which the LCL increase is 12 percent. The rate increases become effective for cargo booked on barges sailing on August 1.

“The revenue from this rate case is needed to finance new investments in vessels and other cargo equipment, and to pay for costs associated with maintaining reliability of service and the same number of sailings, despite falling cargo volumes,” said Roy Catalani, Young Brothers’ Vice President of Strategic Planning and Government Affairs.

Last December, Young Brothers submitted a request for an average rate increase of 17.9 percent to the PUC, including a 15 percent increase for containerized cargo, a 10 percent increase for automobiles and “roll-on, roll-off” cargo and a 25 percent increase for LCL cargo.

Mansion Unsuccessfully Appealed

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Zappacosta house ruling remains intact.

By Melissa Kelsey

In the minds of some Molokai residents, a 21,000 square foot mansion with 10 bathrooms, a separate guesthouse and a barn should not qualify as a single family farm dwelling.

“Why can’t everyone on Molokai live simply so we do not cause a footprint on this `aina?” asked community member Hanohano Naehu at the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) meeting last Wednesday.   

More than three months ago, the MoPC voted to exempt Pierluigi Zappacosta from having to obtain a Special Management Area (SMA) permit to build a mansion complex on Molokai shoreline agricultural land. Zappacosta is a cofounder of Logitech, a computer mouse and keyboard manufacturing company which markets products in over 100 countries.

Disagreeing with the ruling, community member Steve Morgan decided to appeal the MoPC’s decision. Two months ago, he wrote a letter to county Planning Director Jeffrey Hunt, arguing that Hunt wrongly described the mansion as a “single family farm dwelling,” thereby misleading commissioners into exempting the project from the permit.

The Power of Youth

Monday, July 27th, 2009

The Power of Youth

Molokai team works to restore native habitats.   

Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps Press Release

Molokai youth participating in the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps internship program completed a work project at Pu`u Hoku Ranch last week. First row, left to right: DJ Kaai, Keaka Kaiama, Kailana Ritte-Camara and Ray Brito. Second row: CJ Kaiaama, Kaipo Dudoit, Keani Acasio, Kuuipo Lenwai, Falon Will-Staudenraus and Kaulana Buchanan.  

Molokai youth were given the chance to work in the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps this summer. As interns, they not only serve their community by restoring native habitats, they also earn three University of Hawaii college credits while doing so. This month, the Molokai group spent their time at Mo`omomi, Kamakou, Kaho`olawe and Pu`u Hoku Ranch. Throughout each project, the team furthered their education on native plants and invasive species, completing papers and presentations on topics they studied throughout the program.

“I think any time you get young people involved and teach them something about the place they live, it has very lasting effects,” said Brittney Orton at the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps. “They can now take the knowledge and skills they have gained through this program and apply it to their lives.”    

Commissioners Defer on Credit Union

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Commissioners Defer on Credit UnionExpansion plans raise concerns for neighborhood residents.

By Melissa Kelsey

The general consensus at the Molokai Planning Commission meeting today was that the Federal Credit Union remodeling project would be good for Kaunakakai. However, the site designated for the new paved motor vehicle entrance is currently a play area for children who live in the nearby teachers' cottages.

The Molokai Community Federal Credit Union is a vital center of island commerce, helping residents of the Friendly Isle collaborate to obtain loans and financing. Inside its worn-out, pink building on Ala Malama Street, the Federal Credit Union (FCU) is cramped for space. As a result, the organization is seeking permits to expand its facilities, according to Molokai Staff Planner Nancy McPherson.  

Last Wednesday, the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) voted to defer making a motion on whether or not FCU can go ahead with its remodeling plans. McPherson said FCU hopes to expand the front of its building closer to the sidewalk and move the parking lot to the back of the building, making a rear entrance to the parking lot from Kukui Place Road.

“This will bring vitality to the community,” said MoPC Vice Chair Steve Chaikin. “There is no question this will be a great improvement.”

McPherson said FCU has an agreement with St. Sophia Church to share the proposed parking area. As a result of elderly and handicapped church patrons struggling with inadequate parking at St. Sophia, the church needs the new parking lot to function well, according to an architect representing the church.   

However, several community members present at the MoPC meeting expressed concern about the proposed location for the new parking lot, and the increased traffic it would generate for Kukui Place Road. The site of the proposed parking lot entrance is currently a common play area for neighborhood keiki.     

“There are many small children playing in front of the road right in front of the teachers’ cottages,” said community member Melvin Chung, who welcomed the expansion, but worried about the specifics. “If it is approved, it will be added congestion, inconvenience and a safety problem.”

Jonathan Smith, manager of the teachers’ cottages on Kukui Place Road, suggested that the FCU entrance remain at its current location in the expansion plans.

“Our community really needs this project,” said Chaikin. “We have to come up with some kind of solution that is good for both parties.”

Requesting more time to review the expansion plans, the commissioners voted unanimously to delay making a decision on the project until the August 5 MoPC meeting.

“We have got a bunch of smart people here,” said Chaikin. “I would like to see people come up with some various best case scenarios so that we have a chance of moving this thing forward.”  

No Deal Between Jetstream and HECO

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Proposed hydrogen development on Molokai speculative  

By Melissa Kelsey

The announcement that a $219 million dollar hydrogen power plant would break ground on Molokai in as early as 30 days has been baffling for both local residents and those in Hawaii’s energy industry. Details reported by the Honolulu Advertiser and the Associated Press last week implied that the project headed by New Mexico-based company Jetstream Wind was immanent.

However, Jetstream Wind has not begun discussions with Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) about the possibility of supplying Molokai with electricity, according to a HECO spokesperson. Technology of the proposed development would use electricity generated from wind and solar to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, utilizing the hydrogen to generate more electricity.

“We have not had any contact whatsoever with this company, not even a phone call,” said the HECO spokesperson.

The company’s idea to establish a hydrogen power plant on Molokai is still in early stages, according to Jetstream Wind Chief Acquisitions Officer and Director Gibo Baca.

“We are in very, very preliminary discussions about that possibility,” said Baca. 

Water Service Resumes

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Water Service Resumes

Community rallies to conserve water as county pump is repaired.

By Melissa Kelsey

Contractors from Beylik Drilling and Pump flew in an extra crew to allow for both day and night work shifts to replace the pump at Kualapu`u Well.

After more than a week of uncertainty, repairs to the pump at the county well in Kualapu`u were completed last Saturday. The county well began pumping water into the one million gallon Kaunakakai water tank at a rate of 800 gallons per minute after the fix, according to county spokesperson Mahina Martin.

“It is so amazing to me how this community pulled together and handled the situation,” said Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

Tavares explained that a Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) well had been temporarily supplying the Kaunakakai tank with water, ever since repair work to Kualapu`u Well began last month. The real problem occurred when the DHHL pump broke, leaving Kaunakakai and Kalae without a stable source of water.

If residents of Kaunakakai and Kalae had not been able to conserve water, their taps would have run dry within 24 to 36 hours, according to Tavares.

Molokai General Hospital and its 28 dialysis center patients would have been most severely affected if the Kaunakakai central water tank had gone dry, Martin said. During the water shortage, most of the dialysis patients were relocated off-island to minimize risk.

“The correct decision given the information at hand was to move the patients out,” said Tavares.  

Last weekend, county officials praised the Molokai community for their water conservation efforts. Work crews from the Department of Water Supply, the Department of Public Works and Beylik Drilling and Pump who worked for nine days straight to avert a potential crisis were also lauded. Officials said Fire Captain Travis Tancayo led disaster prevention efforts. The Department of Hawaiian Homelands generously allowed the county to make use of a second well. Liberty Dialysis worked with the county to care for Molokai dialysis patients. Firefighters, hospital and community volunteers went door-to-door to inform the Molokai community about the situation. Queens Hospital and Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) donated $2500 each to help dialysis patients with travel costs.

Molokai Pizza Café stopped using their ice cream machine because it requires water to operate, and began using paper dishes to avoid dish washing, according to Martin. Monsanto voluntarily turned off water sprinklers even though their water comes from a different source than Kualapu`u Well. Although their water supply was not at risk, Martin said they wanted to avoid misdirecting others.

Solar Scholars

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Renewable energy system installed at Kualapu`u School.

ProVision Solar Press Release

When Lydia Trinidad, principal of Kualapu’u School, saw the school’s electricity costs go through the roof last year, she knew it was time to do something. Last year, the average electricity rate at Kualapu`u School was the highest rate in the United States. With the prospect of that cost going up even higher, the school’s local advisory panel decided to install a net energy metered photovoltaic solar system.

“We knew we needed a way to keep our costs in check and invest in a system that would keep our costs stable, as the price of power fluctuates,” said Trinidad.

After receiving a number of bids for the project, Trinidad chose to work with ProVision Solar, a company based in Hilo. ProVision president Marco Mangelsdorf said the system should produce about 20 percent of the daily power needs at Kualapu`u School. The system has the capacity to cover over half of the school’s daily power needs if the school chooses to expand the system. It is the largest renewable energy system of its kind for any public school in the state of Hawaii.