KOLOA — Makeup of the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) board of
directors came under fire at a community meeting Wednesday night.
another round of meetings held by KE and KIUC to explain the purchase,
transition and co-op operation of the island’s electric utility, one community
member suggested the current board resign to allow all electric customers to
elect a new board.
Tony Allen said he was originally in favor of the KIUC
purchase of KE, but then he started seeing “red flags” as he learned more about
the sale and the appointed board.
He feels the appointed board should
resign in favor of an elected one, that sealed financial information about the
sale be unsealed, and that the deal should be re-negotiated if
The deal smells of a backdoor, back-room, manipulated agreement,
George Blanchard echoed Allen’s concerns about board makeup,
saying other cooperatives have had problems with democracy and having
everyone’s voice heard.
He said there should be no state Public Utilities
Commission approval of the sale until a reasonably fair set of by-laws is in
In response to various community concerns with the KIUC original set
of by-laws, a revised and restated version was available for those attending
the community meeting at the Koloa Neighborhood Center Wednesday.
all the rest of the speakers at the gathering, including business and community
leaders, expressed support for the co-op’s purchase and operation of
Lambert Kaimina’auao, who pointed out he was one of only a few Native
Hawaiians in attendance at the meeting, likes the possibility of residents
owning the electric company.
“We can control our own power,” he said. Co-op
ownership of the electrical utility can be a good thing for the island, but
needs the support of the local people.
“People; we are here to work
together,” said Kaimina’auao, who suggested at least one Native Hawaiian sit on
Steven Hunt, a former county Finance Department supervisor now
working for Bank of Hawai’i, voiced his support for local ownership of the
He said those in favor of something don’t always show up at
public forums such as these.
Robert Evanson, O’ahu manager of Solar
Engineering & Contracting, read a written statement from Paul Lucas, of
Kaua’i’s Solar Engineering & Contracting company, saying, among other
things, that $270 million KIUC is paying for KE could buy a lot of alternative
Within 15 years, the world’s supply of oil will diminish,
according to industry experts, he said. Further, Kaua’i having the highest
electric rates in the nation should encourage aggressive development of a
residential solar water-heating program. Instead, according to Lucas and
Evanson, KE’s demand-side management program, Energy Wise, is a joke around the
Regarding the purchase of KE by KIUC, Evanson said someone told him
it may be like buying a telegraph machine when the telephone is about to be
But Teddy J. Arroyo, owner and operator of Arroyo’s Plumbing
& Solar, a participant in KE’s Energy Wise program which offers rebates for
solar systems to certain homeowners who qualify based on amount of energy used
to heat water, thinks the KE program is a good one, and hopes the co-op will
If the program isn’t working as well as it should, Arroyo
feels KE and KIUC would be willing to sit down and discuss how to improve
Margy Parker, executive director of the Po’ipu Beach Resort Association
and its 128 member businesses who pay $6 million a year in electric bills, said
the PBRA supports KIUC’s quest to buy KE.
Having local control, and a local
voice, would mean a lot to her members, she said. “They have a huge vested
interest.” They cannot operate without electricity, and they’d like to have
more of a say, she added.
Bob Mullins, a Po’ipu resident and businessman
who was a former commanding officer at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range
Facility and administrative assistant to Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, spoke in
support of the co-op.
He pointed out the countless volunteer hours the
board members have devoted, without compensation, to sealing the deal to buy
“No good deed ever goes totally unpunished,” he said in response to
folks who have raised concerns about or opposition to the co-op plan.
Haviland, president of the Koloa Community Association and a homeowner and
business owner in the Koloa area, also supports the proposal, and asked the PUC
to give timely approval to the purchase.
The sale gives island residents
their best chance at having low electrical rates and a local voice, and is one
of the best things to ever happen on Kaua’i, Haviland said.
Lyle Otsuka, a
Native Hawaiian who had to leave his home island of Moloka’i because there were
few jobs available there, hopes the KIUC’s purchase of KE will lead to greater
career opportunities for Kaua’i’s young people.
Otsuka, general manager of
Embassy Vacation Resort Po’ipu Point, which has both timeshare and hotel units,
said that whenever the island has the chance to save money, in this case on
electric rates, it should be done.
He has talked to several hotel guests
and timeshare owners who are from areas on the Mainland that have electrical
co-ops, and they rave about the absence of rate increases, and about having a
Joan Heller, who hadn’t planned on speaking at the Koloa
meeting, changed her mind, telling of her experience of not being able to get a
rebate on a solar system bought elsewhere and installed by a contractor which
does not participate in the KE Energy Wise program.
In response to
community wishes, another round of community meetings is scheduled for
Wednesday, June 7, at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Waioli Hui’ia Church hall in
There are two Web sites with information on KIUC: www.kiuc.org,
and kauai.net/kiuc. The first site was established by the co-op itself, while
the second site was built by sale opponent Ed Coll.