(Editor’s note: Following is a letter Puna resident Toby Hazel recently wrote to Puna Councilman Daniel Paleka, regarding issues involving the Pahoa Senior Center and the planned park project.)
Open letter to Daniel Paleka, council person for District 5:
Following up on our phone conversation concerning the Pahoa Park Project phase one and two, for a total of $54 million. You have suggested that I list some of the needs of the senior members of our community. For seven years since I have been asking for a senior center for Pahoa, one of the central requests has been for a certified kitchen and a dedicated room for computer education including high speed internet connection for the whole park, emanating from the senior center building that was previously the fire station and already had the internet connection.
Mayor Billy Kenoi gave us the building after the fire department moved into their new building, and “PROMISED” to give us the high speed internet, but eventually all we go was a free dinky dial up and no computer room. The Park and Rec planner, James Komata, has had fears that someone would do “porn in the parking lot.” I have been assured by expert computer specialists that these sites can be blocked. We could have a dedicated computer room in the senior center or the community center if P & R would remove all the summer fun materials they have stored in the meeting rooms. Part of the $54 million needs to be spent building some storage space so existing meeting rooms are open to public use.
I believe about $3,000 worth of donations were either thrown away or stolen by P & R personnel during the renovation of the senior center building. Geothermal funds, $184,000, were used to renovate the center. There are five decades of seniors running from mid 50s up to 100 years old and most of these people will never play baseball. Most of us are not interested in Bingo either. For many years Pahoa had only one activity, yoga. At last count we had six or seven classes. The director of P & R “PROMISED” to replace the stolen entertainment center donated by Pahoa REalty and the barbecue and umbrella donated by Home Depot. Theis never took place since Dorothy Baxter who feels that she speaks for all seniors denied the replacement as well as the request to have an overhead projector to each classes. Dorothy plans to represent lower PUna on the Mayor’s Committee on Aging for the rest of her life. Nothing is possible unless these few individuals are asked to step aside in these final decisions. We, the people, demand to be included in the planning and decision making of our park and any other projects affecting our immediate lives. The kitchen could not only produce nutritious organic food for all seniors, but classes in canning. And wholesale cooking would support us in emergencies and support low income seniors. We have in the past requested HCC Culinary students to help in this project giving them a must-needed experience while aiding the community. Nutrition for seniors is under P & R and is currently serving the cheapest frozen and packaged foods, and possibly GMO fresh food from Richard Ha.
Kamana Senior Center in Hilo has 170 activities and a dedicated sewing room. Kea’au has about 70 activities, refusing the offer to set up a complete ceramic studio and we in Pahoa deserve planning an equal amount of recreation and support for our seniors without commuting to other towns. We want to know what the budget for our center is and plan appropriate activities for all ages and types of seniors including access at night for movies, popcorn, and discussions. We wish to form our own clubs similar to the Photography Club that meets once a month in Hilo. We need Margaret Yafuso, the P & R person, to come to us and not have to send everyone chasing after her for permission to do the slightest thing. Applications to teach classes should be available at the center or online, with timely inclusion into the schedule. We would prefer continual classes instead of the semester sessions created by P & R, if the class and teacher agree to the format. The Pahoa Community Center issues keys to people for evening events. We insist that we NOT have to pay the County of Hawaii extra for the use of the building. Even part of the $54 million could fund many activities and pay people here in Pahoa to lead classes. Grants should be written to augment programs rather than dumbing down the seniors with Bingo. We have also asked repeatedly for dedicated walking and biking trails THRU the park.
I will take these concerns to the Ethics committee, and now request discretionary funds to begin to bring us up to standard in District 5, but first P & R must turn a green light on for thousands of seniors living in lower Puna and agree to modify the park plan for full community use.
Since the Pahoa Park Committee was forcibly disbanded by the so-called leaders of the Pahoa Village Master Plan, we have lost the platform from which to speak toP & R about these issues. But we were never allowed to attend many meetings where we might have expressed the details of our needs that have been repeatedly expressed in the Puna Community Development Plan over the many years that we have participated in this process.
Toby S. Hazel