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Oda: Something must be done to lower bills

When the line item on his electric bill for the fuel surcharge is more than the line item for actual electricity used on his Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative bill, something is wrong, said Dane Oda of Lihu’e and Honolulu.

“I had problems trying to figure that out,” and trying to figure out why the electric bill for his O’ahu home is around $100 a month, and the bill for his Lihu’e home approaches $350, said Oda, one of seven candidates vying for three seats on the KIUC board of directors.

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.

The three seats to be filled later this month are each for three-year terms.

Oda, 58, who served on the Kaua’i Police Department force for 10 years and was a manager with McCabe Hamilton & Renny Co., Ltd. (stevedores at Nawiliwili Harbor) for 23 years, has a single purpose in hoping to get elected to the board, he said.

Visit www.kauaiworld.com and scroll down to the online poll to weigh in on who you think is the best candidate in KIUC’s upcoming board election.

“Hopefully we can save and make enough money to reduce rates for members,” said Oda, who is one of three members of the Hawaii Paroling Authority who decides if convicted criminals are worthy to get their terms of incarceration reduced.

He has homes on O’ahu and Kaua’i, as it became clear with his state position and his son in law school on O’ahu that it was more prudent to buy a place over there than to rent for him and his son, he said.

Fiscal prudence is what he wants to bring to the KIUC board as well, along with answers to questions that have been burning for the past eight months or so, like “Why are local people leaving (KIUC)?” and “Why (on new KIUC vehicles purchased for supervisors) is there no indication that they’re KIUC vehicles?”

“They represent the people that own the co-op,” he said.

Another big question, with lots of people knowing the financial strength of the co-op, is why isn’t a more aggressive move to lower member rates being made? he asked. “Why not reduce, give back to membership?” he asked during a telephone interview while he was on O’ahu.

“We gotta be a little bit more frugal with how we spend our money,” he said.

Yes, there is a big debt to pay, the loans made to purchase Kauai Electric for $215 million, and the Kauai Power Partners unit after that. “If we’ve got the money, pay down the debt,” he suggests. Then, KIUC leaders can borrow money for improvements, investment in alternative-energy ideas, and more, he said.

While he knows there were detractors, he was in favor of the building and buying of the Kauai Power Partners generation unit off the road to Wailua Falls, Ma’alo Road. A centralized power-generation facility is good to have for the most populated areas of the island (Lihu’e and Kapa’a), with the facilities at ‘Ele’ele (Port Allen) and the Wainiha hydroelectric facility giving three sides of the island at least some power-generation capabilities, he reasoned.

And if there is money to be made on these efficiencies, pass the savings, the efficiencies, onto members, he added.

Oda said he wants to bring his management experience to the board, make sure the co-op stays profitable, keep it running, make decisions “based on information you hope is correct,” and look at renewable-energy sources if they are cost-effective and viable.

“We can’t just depend on fossil fuels,” said Oda, who also questioned whether or not he would be able to serve on both the KIUC board and continue his work on the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

His answer was in the affirmative.

But he doesn’t expect to be on the KIUC board for a long time, he said. “I don’t plan to make it my career. See how I can help, make some changes, then let someone else get in there,” he said of his strategy.

“Just get in, make some positive changes, then get out. Do what you can until it’s time to leave,” said Oda, who holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

He also sat on the Kaua’i Planning Commission and Kaua’i Board of Water Supply. He was nominated to run for a KIUC board seat by member petition.

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