Council again pushes back vote on proposed KE sale

The Kaua’i County Council yesterday withheld a vote on the proposed $215 million Kauai Electric sale to the Kaua’i Island Utility Co-op.

The council, Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, administrative assistant Wallace Rezentes Sr., and William Milks, the county’s special counsel on the proposed utility sale gathered at a short 45-minute special meeting and executive session on the issue held at the historic Kaua’i County Building.

The meeting began shortly after 8:30 a.m. and ended before 9:30 a.m., and no decision was reached by the council.

Turk Tokita, a member of the interim board of directors for KIUC, called for action by the council.

The council scheduled the meeting so that lawmakers and county officials could iron out differences over the proposed sale. The council has not taken an official stand on whether to support or oppose the proposed sale of Kaua’i Electric to the co-op.

In a written statement, Tokita, a longtime leader of the Kaua’i Democratic Party, said KIUC has “an overwhelming majority of support from the community.”

He said 90 percent of those who spoke at a state Public Utilities Commission meeting on Kaua’i this year favored the proposed utility sale. The PUC must approve the sale before it becomes final.

“KIUC has the support of the Department of Navy at the Pacific Missile Range Facility and the (state) Consumer Advocate,” Tokita wrote. “And I say it is time for you to recognize this broad support. It is time for you to support KIUC and the people of Kaua’i.”

Tokita also lashed out at the Kusaka administration, which has opposed the sale. County officials cite numerous concerns, including those about KIUC’s projected revenues and the possibility that large electrical users could leave the grid.

He said the mayor’s office has spent nearly $500,000 of taxpayers money to review the proposed sale.

In return for the expenditure, a consultant developed a study, Milks was hired and has been criticized for his work and a “lot of time and effort has been spent opposing the KIUC proposal,” Tokita wrote.

“What has the county council gotten for all the taxpayer funds that have been spent to support this activity?” Tokita asked.

Critics of the proposal, however, and some county officials have praised Milks for his professionalism in representing the county.

Responding to the criticism, Rezentes said he has “had a lot of respect for Turk Tokita over all these years,” but that “I don’t think commenting on his opposition is warranted at this time.”

“All of us have to move forward to the future, and just leave it at that,” he said.

Rezentes said the $500,000 Tokita contended the county used to review the proposed sale was too high a price tag to place on the effort.

KIUC board chairman Gregg Gardiner said the co-op had 20 supporters at the meeting and was ready to present 350 letters to the council supporting the proposed utility sale.

Gardiner said the letters will be presented at another special council meeting on the proposed utility sale scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5.

For yesterday’s meeting and the Sept. 5 meeting, Milks was to consult with the council on questions and issues related to the county’s legal position and strategies and other matters related to the proposed sale.

For the sale to become final, the PUC must give its approval. If approved KIUC would purchase the electric company from Citizens Communications Corp. of Stamford, Conn.

A final decision could be made by the end of September, according to the PUC

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

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