A dry well: council, mayor will not control water board

Legislation proposing a charter amendment for the Nov. 7 General Election to have the mayor’s office and the Kaua‘i County Council manage the county water department has hit the skids.

During a meeting at the historic County Building Wednesday, the council received for the record a resolution proposing the shift, an action that essentially kills the proposal.

The council took that action after water board member Lynn McCrory reported the water department has adjusted priorities in its “Water Plan 2020” to find water for affordable housing projects the county would like to unfold on state lands across the island.

The adjustments mean developing sufficient water sources, installing pipes and building water tanks for the state housing units. The water plan is aimed at upgrading and strengthening the island’s public water system over a 20-year period.

McCrory said the water department has reprioritized its projects to meet Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s ambitious affordable housing plans for the island.

Baptiste has announced he would like to see more than 1,000 affordable homes built by developers with affordable housing requirements and self-help housing organizations in the near future.

Councilmembers recently voiced astonishment when county officials told them there wasn’t sufficient water on state lands to support affordable housing.

The council had proposed the resolution as a way to have water sources available when the county is ready to move forward on affordable housing projects, which are in demand by local buyers.

Lending support to McCrory at Wednesday’s meeting were water board member Bernie Sakoda and acting water department manager Wynne Ushigome.

The proposed charter amendment sparked criticism from Kaua‘i resident Richard Stauber.

He was upset the council introduced the resolution after Asing had declared publicly the council would not introduce any charter amendments in this election year. Doing so amounted to the work of “liars,” a depiction countered by councilman Jay Furfaro.

Furfaro said Asing spoke for himself, and cautioned Stauber when he called councilmembers liars.

Stauber said shifting the control of the water department to the mayor’s office and the council would serve only one purpose — the hiring of a new water department manager.

That position opened up this year when Ed Tschupp, looking for career advancement and a larger salary, left the water department to take over the county’s waste water division.

In other action, the council set a public hearing for Sept. 27 to discuss a bill to prevent horseback riding on an 18-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail from Nawiliwili Harbor to Anahola.

The resolution also proposes horses or equines not be allowed on a former cane haul road in Kealia that is part of the coastline project.

Rapozo said mixing horses and pedestrians and bicyclists on the path could lead to big problems.

“As I stated previously, the main reason for introducing this bill is my concern for public safety,” Rapozo states in the letter to Asing.

But equestrians have said they generally stop when they encounter people on trails, thus reducing the risks for accidents.

Rapozo said he has heard the concerns of equestrians and the public, and that he has walked the former cane trail where the horse path is proposed.

“There should a separate trail for equestrians and I am very hopeful that the administration will locate a safe equestrian trial,” he said.

The proposed horse trail would occupy 1.8 miles of a 4.3-mile segment of the coastal path that runs from Kealia Beach to Ahihi point.

The contracting firm Jas W. Glover won a county contract to develop the 4.3-mile segment.

The project is one of six phases of the coastal project in development at a cost of more than $35 million in federal funds and other funds, including the value of land donations and volunteer service.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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