Makeup of co-op board questioned

KOLOA — Makeup of the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) board of

directors came under fire at a community meeting Wednesday night.

At

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

possible.

The deal smells of a backdoor, back-room, manipulated agreement,

he added.

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

place.

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.

Nearly

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

KE.

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

the board.

Steven Hunt, a former county Finance Department supervisor now

working for Bank of Hawai’i, voiced his support for local ownership of the

utility.

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

energy equipment.

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

state.

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

invented.

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

continue it.

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

it.

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

KE.

“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.

Rick

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

local voice.

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

Hanalei.

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.

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