Opponents of KIUC sale to stage protest rally prior to council meeting

Opponents of the proposed $210 million sale of Kauai Electric to the Kaua’i Island Utility Co-op are planning to stage a protest rally in front of the historic County Building at noon today.

The protest is set for one hour prior to the opening of a meeting of the full Council where the legislative body will consider whether to support the sale, and to debate other agenda items.

Last week, the council’s energy and public safety committee agreed with a July 31 decision by the state Public Utilities Commission that gave preliminary approval of the utility sale.

In response to the rally, the Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce has asked its 462 members to either e-mail or call council members to voice their support for the sale.

In an e-mail, Biff Whiting, an opponent of the sale, said the council is on the verge of making “the biggest decision in recent memory” and that “it doesn’t look good for our electric taxpayers.”

KIUC calls itself a co-op, but the group’s only members are those who sit on the board, Whiting contended. KIUC officials have said the board members represent the island community.

Whiting also contends the proposed $210 million sale price is $35 million higher than the appraised value.

During the rally, opponents will urge the full council to do its duty and “respect the wishes of the people by joining with the mayor in opposing this sale of Kauai Electric,” Whiting said.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s administration opposes the sale because of numerous concerns, including the possibility large users will leave the grid and KIUC’s proposed purchase of the utility solely with low-interest financial loans.

At a public meeting held at the Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall in late May, most of the 90 or so speakers voiced support for the project.

At the rally Thursday, a mock-up of an electric chair with spark-plugged headgear will be on display to demonstrate opposition to the utility sale, Whiting said.

Mamo Cummings, president of the Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce said business people aren’t likely to stage their own rally to support the KE sale because they will be running their businesses.

Two past Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce polls show overwhelming support for the utility sale, she said.

“We were at the (state) PUC (Public Utilities Commission hearing on May 22, and we had support as well,” Cummings said.

The PUC must approve the sale between KIUC and the Citizens Communications Corp. of Stamford, Conn., before the sale becomes final.

The PUC has given its preliminary approval of the sale and is expected to make a final decision on it by Sept. 17.

Besides the county, two other intervenors in the sale, the state Consumer Advocate and the Navy have reached a stipulated agreement supporting the sale.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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