LIHUE — A new state law requiring removal of abandoned vehicles may prove difficult for the county and the Kauai Police Department.
“The new law to remove and dispose of abandoned or derelict vehicles within 10 business days will be a challenge and we may need to look at increasing staff to be able to comply,” said KPD Capt. Mark Ozaki.
There are a lot of abandoned vehicles on Kauai, including three that have been sitting at Kealia Beach — actually on the beach.
The KPD received reports of 1,119 abandoned and derelict vehicles in 2017. Of that, 834 vehicles were deemed to be abandoned, while 365 were deemed to be derelict.
An abandoned vehicle is any vehicle left unattended for more than 24 hours on a public highway, or is unlawfully parked on a public property. A derelict vehicle is a vehicle that has had major parts removed, sustained material damage, or has been deemed inoperable.
The new law states that abandoned vehicles on public roads are a widespread environmental disaster that can adversely impact human health and safety.
West Hawaii’s Rep. Cindy Evans, one of the law’s sponsors, said the bill was supported by the public and now, counties will have to figure out its best practices, procedures and oversight of notice to owners, towing, storage and disposal of vehicles.
“If this law is ineffective, the public will weigh in and county elected officials will have to determined what they can do to make sure this mandate is carried out,” she said in a statement to The Garden Island newspaper.
Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo said there will be significant costs involved to enforce the law.
“We weren’t advised (about the law), I wasn’t aware of it and I don’t know how we’re going to deal with the fiscal impact,” he said. “There was absolutely no communication to the County Council. It’s a Honolulu-centric bill, it’s an unfunded mandate that we will probably not be able to comply with without additional money and that upsets me quite a bit.”
The bill states each county’s mayor will have to designate an agency to carry out the law.
Ozaki said KPD tries to remove abandoned vehicles as quickly and safely as possible with the resources it has, but due to the high volume of complaints, it can take up to four weeks from the time the complaint is made for the abandoned vehicle coordinator to tow the vehicle. It can take 45 days to completely dispose of the vehicle.
However, Ozaki said, KPD will do everything possible to ensure compliance.
In written testimony regarding the measure, KPD Chief Darryl Perry said the deadline of 10 business days is unrealistic.
“We propose that the requirement of ‘disposal’ within 10 business days be removed and the time requirements to remove a vehicle from a public roadway be extended to 15 business days,” which is more realistic, he said.
Perry also said a vehicle is only considered “disposed of” when Puhi Metals Recycling Facility has been given permission to either destroy the vehicle or re-purpose it.
“Disposal takes place after notice is given to the owners(s) and the prescribed period of time lapses and the vehicle has not been claimed. Removal from a public roadway is not the same as disposal,” Perry said.
The process of disposal takes time, he said, and not only requires notification, but also relies on private entities such as tow companies and the recycling center, which KPD has little control over.
Perry also supported deleting language from the bill requiring legal owners be given 20 business days to claim a vehicle.
“This directly conflicts with the intent of the bill and the proposed 10 business days to remove and dispose of the vehicle,” he said.
KPD did support removal of language that required vehicles to go to auction, because often vehicles that are valued over $1,000 won’t fetch that much at auction, and going through the process is more costly than the money received from auctioned vehicles.
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.