Money for Molokai
Though the annual Maui County budget hearing took almost four hours, council members could still laugh as the community testimony came to a close.
Community asks county to fund important programs.
By Brandon Roberts
The gavel fell, and Maui County council members prepared to hear the Molokai communities’ budgetary wants and needs for the upcoming year.
This year, Molokai is slated to receive over $600,000 in county grants and around four million in capital improvements.
“This is a good budget for Molokai,” said Councilman Danny Mateo. “Molokai gets back a considerable amount in terms of county expenditures,” he said., adding that the friendly isle receives almost five times more funding than taxes paid.
Residents shared their mana`o with the county on invaluable organizations as well as requests for funding on community services at the annual budget hearing March 25 at the Mitchell Pau`ole Center.
Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) is one of Molokai’s grant recipients, harvesting much mahalo from many community members and the council. MEO provides the community with bus transportation, children’s Headstart programs, kupuna services and more.
“MEO is the premier, non-profit organization on this island that is truly about helping,” Mateo said. “I cannot picture this island without MEO.”
Exiting Molokai Planning Commissioner DeGray Vanderbilt proposed a five percent raise to MEO employees for all their dedication and community service.
“We still need to find funding for additional programs that are a benefit to the community,” Mateo said.
One such program Mateo is searching for extra funding is Ka Honua Momona (KHM), a loko i`a (fishpond) restoration organization. KHM was supported in the budget hearing by several residents, volunteers, and visiting Boy Scout troop 32 that worked with the organization at the Ali`i loko i`a.
Herbert Ho, a KHM volunteer, said “if we care for the fishponds, than the fishponds will care for us.”
KHM has requested $22,000 that was not included in the original budget. “Now I have to go to bat for these additional services and programs that are important to Molokai,” Mateo said.
The West Molokai Fire Station Community Action Council is dedicated to getting a station on the county capital improvement projects list (CIP). Over 40 members and homeowners attended the hearing to petition the council.
“The intention of the group is to get the West End fire station project on the capital improvement projects list,” said Steve Morgan, the council’s vice president.
West Molokai is the most fire prone area on island and has the most water rescue emergencies performed, which is also a service of the fire department. At one time, there was a station on the West End. Currently the nearest station is Ho`olehua, and the response time is close to half an hour.
“It is about more than just fire,” said Jim Bezill, a retired fireman and West End resident. “Human lives are at stake.”
County grants are allotted to non-profits like MEO and KHM; where as CIPs involve infrastructure and facility upkeep, like the new baseyard for the Public Works Department.
The development of potable water sources on Molokai is the largest CIP. The design, drilling, and construction will take over three years to complete and cost almost $4 million.
Kawela residents will get a new water tank, which the county describes as severely corroded and leaking badly. A larger weight room and new paint is in store for the Kaunakakai Gym, and be prepared for more county road resurfacing.
“Every councilmember understands how crucial community support is. They heard the plea and they can feel the reality, it is not just a story,” Mateo said of the council when faced with the people impacted by these programs. The Maui County budget will be finalized and enacted in late May or early June.