HONOLULU (KHON2) — With Safe Travels set to end on Friday, what will happen to the thermal scanners and other expensive equipment at the airports? It’s a $27 million question.
The state Department of Transportation spent $27 million of federal funds to install thermal scanners and tracing cameras last year at airports statewide. They were used to detect people who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher as a way to track incoming passengers who may have COVID. But on March 26, the state will stop doing that.
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“What do we do with this equipment, very expensive equipment sitting there on your property?,” said Sen. Sharon Moriwaki.”And I couldn’t get an answer. They said, ‘Yeah it’s there but it’s not really us. It’s HIEMA, or maybe it’s Departtment of Health.'”
She has introduced a resolution pushing the DOT to come up with a plan to re-purpose at least some of the equipment. A hearing was held on Tuesday on what options are on the table.
“Because it is taxpayers’ money that bought this we’d like to see that it be used and re-purposed if at all possible because it’s a waste of money otherwise,” said Moriwaki.
DOT has submitted testimony saying “the current thermal screening camera equipment is specific to thermal screening and cannot be repurposed.”
DOT says the tracing cameras can be used for security and surveillance. “There are discussions to re-purpose the infrastructure… for increased airline efficiencies of having paperless/touchless ticketing.”
Moriwaki says it would be best if all the different agencies involved got together and came up with a plan.
“To bring together all the parties that may be able to examine what we have there in this equipment and see what is usable,” she said. “What can be used in other places? It’s repurposing.”
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Moriwaki adds that decisions need to be made soon because the contracts to maintain the equipment end on June 30.