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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pahoa awarded more Weed and Seed funds

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i One of the big breaks for the Pahoa Weed and Seed Program came three years ago, when a skinny, scraggly-looking fellow approached a car by the road in the Pahoa business district to try to make a quick drug sale.

Sitting in the car with the window rolled down was U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo, in a suit and tie. He was visiting downtown Pahoa to see for himself how severe the drug problem in the area had become.

Kubo was being chauffeured around by county Deputy Prosecutor Mitchell Roth, and they stopped on the shoulder of the road in downtown Pahoa so Roth could take a phone call.

The scruffy-looking guy asked Kubo, "You like buy some?" Startled, Kubo asked the man to repeat himself. He did.

"He was sincere. He didn't know who I was, and I wasn't going to tell him, either," Kubo said. "It made me realize, I gotta get involved in this."

Yesterday Kubo was on the Big Island to announce the award of $175,000 in federal funds for the Pahoa Weed and Seed Program, the largest single injection of grant money since Pahoa was designated as a Weed and Seed site in 2004.

Half of the money will go for law enforcement purposes, with the remainder used for social-service projects such as job training and activities for youth.

So far about $250,000 has been spent on the Pahoa Weed and Seed program, including county funds, state funds and federal money from the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Formula Grant Program.

That money was used to install surveillance cameras in downtown Pahoa, and to demolish two downtown buildings that were allegedly used as drug houses.

The money also went to pay police overtime, to stage an anti-drunk driving educational program for teens, to finance job training and to hire a Weed and Seed program coordinator for the area, Roth said.

Roth and others said the Weed and Seed program has significantly curtailed the open drug dealing downtown.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.