Bain: lack of trust in KIUC remains

Carol Bain, a Kaua’i Community College faculty member and advocate of open government, says the lack of trust between Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative directors and managers and some residents vexes her.

To that end, if she is elected to the KIUC board in this month’s election, Bain said she will strive to revise the board’s policies and bylaws to allow better public access to information on KIUC operations.

Bain has urged members of the board, who are not part of a governmental agency, to follow the state open-records and open-meetings laws. Board members say efforts have been stepped up to foster better communication between them and KIUC’s 30,000 members, noting that minutes of board meetings and answers to questions from residents are posted on the utility’s Web site, www.kiuc.coop.

If elected to the board, Bain also said she will strive to have KIUC leaders reduce their dependence on fossil fuels through the selection of an alternative-energy source or sources that could result in the slashing of electrical bills.

In following the actions of the KIUC board for the past three-plus years, since the former for-profit utility became a cooperative, Bain said board members have turned away from open governance.

Without public access to KIUC records, monitoring of KIUC officials and actions by its members, and the promise of having a democratic cooperative, are diminished, Bain said.

She said she is tired of seeing board members block public inquires into KIUC operations.

Because KIUC used $215 million in public funds to buy the utility from Citizens Communications Co. in November 2002, KIUC should follow state open-records and open-meetings laws, Bain said.

“I recommended that last fall, and gave them a copy of the state sunshine law statutes, and I strongly encouraged them to apply the sections as a guideline for their own policies,” Bain told The Garden Island.

She says the current records-disclosure policy of the board is too restrictive, and needs to be revised to a point.

“You don’t open personnel or private health records of personnel, or court records,” Bain said. KIUC is not required by the state Public Utilities Commission members to comply with state open-record laws, but doing so voluntarily “is essential to good government,” she said.

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of stories on the seven candidates for three seats on the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors. Members have been mailed out ballots, which include a voter guide. Ballots are due to KIUC headquarters in Kukui Grove Village West by 4 p.m. March 18.

If elected, she said she would bring to the board a “better understanding of open-governance policies,” which could would lead to more trust between the board and KIUC members.

Bain also wants to help KIUC members save on their energy bills.

Kaua’i residents pay the highest electric bills in the state. In 2002, while the rest of the state paid 10 cents to 15 cents per kilowatt for electricity, Kaua’i residents paid 24 cents per kilowatt.

Three years later, Kaua’i residents pay 27 cents per kilowatt, still the highest in the state.

She said the current cost of electricity is becoming a hardship for many households, and many people conserve where they can.

One way to reduce the high bills is to reduce the energy-adjustment charge, which makes up about half of the electrical bills, she said. The energy-adjustment clause allows KIUC officials to pass on higher costs of oil to members.

Setting up an alternate-energy project is another way KIUC leaders can reduce their dependence on oil imports, and cut electric bills, Bain said.

She said hydroelectric power, wind power, solid-waste-disposal technologies that create energy, landfill-gas-recovery and bio-mass technologies all are appealing. A bio-mass project would work for her, she said.

“I like bio-mass the best because of the idea of the island growing its own energy crops, including wood chips, certain types of grass,” she said.

Bain said she is positive that one or a combination of technologies will be approved by members of the board some day, out of necessity, and that she wants to sit on the board to steer KIUC in the right direction.

Alternative energy projects are the way to go, considering more than 90 percent of the power that is generated is generated through the burning of imported oil, she said.

She said her educational background, business experience and community involvement have given her the skills to be a productive board member.

Bain graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 1985 with a master’s degree in education communications and technology.

Bain came to Kaua’i that year, and in more recent years has taught communications and journalism courses at the Kaua’i Community College.

She is president of Kauai Worldwide Communications, and has served on the boards of the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival, the League of Women Voters of Kaua’i County, the KKCR Community Advisory Board, and the Kauai Products Council.

She is married to Ed Coll, and the couple lives in Puhi.

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