Since the County of Kauai’s “voice of the people” meetings first held in March, participants in each community have voted on their top three long-term and three short-term issues. According to some meeting participants and facilitators, issues have included road maintenance, drug abuse, youth activities, development and affordable housing.
It isn’t clear how many projects proposed by Ka Leo O Kauai participants the county is working on, but one “success” for Wailua Homesteads residents came Thursday when the county repaired Olohena Bridge.
The bridge was closed for several hours from 8 a.m. while roads crews replaced the wooden decking, coated it with a “roughened surface” and painted it white for visibility.
The Wailua Homesteads group made Olohena Bridge a priority at the Ka Leo meetings. At a meeting held July 2 at Wailua Homesteads Park, it was announced that the bridge would finally be repaired. Mayor Bryan Baptiste was also in attendance at the meeting. Because Baptiste is in Japan, and the county’s public information officer is out of town, the Mayor’s Office was not able to make a comment about the bridge on Thursday. The “Olohena Bridge Group” members included residents Pat Carpenter, Glenn Mickens and Dale Rosenfeld.
The group has been involved with the bridge issue since about a year ago, when the county’s Roads Division held a meeting for public input about its plans to close the bridge and replace it with a concrete one.
At the time, concerns included fire department and emergency service access, which would have to be rerouted during a bridge closure that could last several months. Since the group said it was unacceptable for it to be closed for that long, the project stalled.
Suggestions included using a road through residential lots once the Kulana residential properties are developed or tying in a “feeder road” through land owned by Bette Midler.
“Communication is so important and perhaps a year is what it takes for the wood to go down on the bridge, we really don’t know” Rosenfeld said. Rosenfeld said she traverses the bridge every day to go home and to work.
“Anything’s possible,” Sugano said in an interview Thursday morning regarding ideas for repairing and/or replacing the bridge.
The bridge now has an 8-ton capacity. Carpenter suggested adding more steel to the trusses to bring the bridge up to 25-ton capacity. The county could spend $20,000-30,000 in materials for such a bridge, Sugano said. “We’d have to budget for that, I need to take that up with the administration,” Sugano said.
However, the bridge would be deemed “substandard” by the federal government and ineligible for funding for repairs. Sugano said the current plan includes using funds from the federal Highways Administration to replace the bridge with a concrete one. It would then have to be two lanes, at least 34 feet wide, with 12-foot-wide lanes and five-foot-wide shoulders. In that area, Olohena Road is only about 24 feet wide.
“My opinion is to keep the roads narrow and not improve them too much, to keep the traffic down,” Carpenter said.
“I think it’s a stopgap for a year until we can figure where an alternate route will go,” Rosenfeld said.
“The next thing we’ve got to do is go ahead with the plan of replacing it, not just dropping it after they put the plywood on it,” Carpenter said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.
The Kauai Fire Department confirmed there were no incidents in the area Thursday while the bridge was closed.
Ka Leo o Kauai meetings are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in 12 different communities. Meeting participants list their issues and “homework,” research and calls, on pages filed and compiled by the Office of Economic Development.
The County of Kauai has two employees from the OED, Beverley Pang and Tim Bynum, acting as liaisons between the public and county. With the exception of recently-departed OED head Vida Mossman, who has volunteered to facilitate meetings in West Kauai for free, meeting facilitators are hired to make sure that participants communicate, stay on track and follow the meeting agenda.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 252).