OED applies for grant to resuscitate recycle plant

CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer

LIHU’E — Office of Economic Development administrator Gini Kapali is

scrambling to get the Kaua’i Resource Exchange Facility opened by July—four

years after the original completion date.

On Wednesday, the County Council

approved Kapali’s request for authorization to apply for a $50,000 grant from

the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to

facilitate the start-up of the facility.

Kapali told the Council the Clean

Hawaii Center grant would enable the OED to hire a staff person to prepare a

KREF operational plan, a business and market development training program, a

marketing plan, and a community education plan. The work is to be completed in

89 days.

Kapali said by bringing a staff person on board, the OED will be

able to gather data and draft a business plan.

“We don’t have any

information on the potential diversion from the landfill that may be

generated,” she said, “and we need this data to have some idea as to the level

of operation that can be expected.”

This is not the first attempt OED has

made to get the beleaguered facility operating. Originally scheduled for

completion in June of 1996, the county received nine project completion

extensions from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development

Administration over the past four years.

In 1992, EDA awarded the county

$2.2 million to construct the recycling facility with the understanding that

the county would shepherd the operation of the facility into a self-sufficient

reuse-related entrepreneurial and employment opportunity for the residents of

Kaua’i.

That has not happened.

Two separate Request for Proposals

issued from OED were unsuccessful in attracting any private contractors to

operate the facility. The second request did not even generate a single

proposal.

So Kapali’s office will assume responsibility for the facility

rather than be faced with having to reimburse the federal government, at least

in part, for the $2.2 million grant.

Kapali stressed to the Council that

the OED’s participation is for the initial start up of the operation of the

KREF and not intended to become an ongoing program.

She said direct

oversight for the facility will be provided by the Department of Public Works

as part of the county’s integrated solid waste management plan.

Kapali

offered no guarantees to the Council that the plan OED is proposing would

result in a successful long- term self-sufficient facility. But she said a

full-time staff person, paid from the grant funds and tasked with moving the

project along will, at least, see if a resource exchange center as originally

conceived is feasible.

A report prepared by OED staff specialist Greg

Sakaguchi stressed that economic development from the KREF may not be realistic

and any effort to make the facility successful would require “a substantial

investment in public education and awareness.”

Sakaguchi said that two

significant challenges to the project’s success are stimulating a constant

level of supply of material that would come into the facility from vendors, and

the other side is a consistent level of demand for their products.

KREF is

located on Ahukini Road next to the Lihu’e Transfer Station.

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