Feeling the Squeeze of a Tighter County Budget
Molokai commissioners may only meet once a month.
By Catherine Cluett
Perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures, but anyone who has sat through a Planning Commission meeting knows that the possibility of adding even an hour to the already interminable sessions is not something to take lightly. The Molokai Planning Commission is no exception.
During last Wednesday’s meeting, Clayton Yoshida of the Maui County Current Planning Division announced a proposal by the county to reduce the Molokai Planning Commission meetings from twice monthly to once a month. In light of a tightening Maui County budget, this cut would reduce air fare costs for Maui County officials like Yoshida to attend Molokai meetings.
“Our meetings are already five hours long,” said Commissioner Teri Waros. “If we only met once a month, would the meetings be 10 hours long?” She suggested the possibility of video conferencing as an alternative to Yoshida’s physical presence.
The concern of lengthened meeting duration was echoed by other commissioners, and Commission Chair Steve Chaikin suggested looking at other budget cutting alternatives before changing Molokai’s meeting schedule. “Maybe Clayton doesn’t have to come to every meeting,” he said.
“We need more time to consider this decision,” Chaikin concluded.
Yoshida said he would discuss with the county other options, such as video conferencing.
“Our ancestors have lived on these islands for thousands of years leaving hardly a trace yet we have been here for a generation and left two huge mountains of waste. Are we being as good stewards of the land as we can and should be?”
This was the question posed by Chaikin to Molokai Commissioners. The Commission continued its brainstorming session from last meeting to discuss ways in which Molokai could reduce its waste.
Ideas included a various incentive programs like a small refund for bringing your own bags to stores, education programs to inform residents about proper recycling habits, and a “take it or leave it” center at the landfill where people can exchange still-useable items. The suggestion by a Molokai resident during the last Molokai Planning Commission meeting to place recycling collection bins on different areas around the island was also re-iterated. There are still many items, however, such as oil, batteries, tires, and junk cars that are waiting on disposal answers.
Chaikin advised the Commission that the Molokai recycling center is looking for suggestions right now for new plan to complete by the end of the year. With this in mind, Commissioners asked Nancy McPherson of the Maui County Planning Commission to draft a letter on their behalf with their brainstormed suggestions for the recycling center.
A resolution to support recycling efforts on Molokai may also be written in the future.
Chaikin called on the expertise of Debbie Kelly, Projects Manager for the Molokai-Lanai Soil and Water Conservation and a member of the audience during Wednesday’s meeting. Kelly has been in charge of handing out recycling bags on Molokai to be used as shopping bags in place of plastic. Commissioners had commented earlier that distribution of the bags seemed to have stalled, and a large number of them are currently sitting unused.
“What can we do to make the bags more successful?” Chaikin asked her, suggesting that the landfill would be a good place to promote recycling and distribute bags. “There are a lot of people who think recycling is collecting cans and bottles and that’s it,” Chaikin
Kelly explained that Maui Disposal Co., operating the Molokai recycling facilities, gets paid to educate, and an education component is included in their contract with Maui County. “I think they should be made to do more educating because they’re not,” she said.
Kelly talked with Commissioners about some of the things she has been doing to promote environmental education and recycling on Molokai. These include asking cashiers to inquire of customers if they have their recycled bags with them and working with MEO’s surplus food program to incorporate the recycled bags into their program. “I just took 400 recycled bags for them to put food in, and next month, if people don’t use their bags, they won’t be able to get surplus food,” she said.
In addition, Kelly has submitted an application for a $5,000 grant that would pay for fuel costs for trucking companies to haul junk cars for free. She said the truckers would volunteer their time and so far, has only received a commitment from some companies, but the program would allow Molokai residents free removal of their junk cars. “On Maui,” she said, “residents have to pay $160 to place their cars in the landfill and on Molokai, it’s free.” But the problem is the County permit only allows the landfill to hold 200 cars. That leaves a lot of cars sitting in people’s backyards. She said if Molokai residents paid only $10 each to get their car towed, that would offset the cost of fuel and help out the program.
Civil Fines & Violations
Joe Alueta, representing the Planning Director of Maui County, presented Commissioners with a Council Resolution to clarify which government body hears appeals of civil fines and violations.
The item had been deferred from last meeting because of a lack of agreement among Commissioners about a proposed clause to be added to the ordinance. The clause would transfer the hearing of appeals for violation fines of certain natures to be heard by the Board of Variants and Appeals (BVA) instead of the Department of Water Supply.
Commissioner Lori Buchanan made a motion to pass the amendments without the adding of this clause because without a list of the types of cases this would authorize the BVA to hear, she said she did not feel comfortable adding the amendment. Other Commissioners concurred, and the motion finally passed.
The next Molokai Planning Commission meeting is Wednesday, November 12, at 12:30 p.m. at the MPC.