KOLOA — Koloa residents battling dust from 11 project sites can now call one hotline number to report construction-related problems. The hotline was the central point in a plan presented by the newly formed Dust Management Hui, comprised of developers working in the area, at a meeting Tuesday evening at the Koloa Neighborhood Center.
In what was called an unprecedented move, eight individual developers decided to work together as a group to give the community a single source of contact to voice its concerns and questions. Though the process is not completely ironed out, the hotline number is operational.
Members of the Hui promised the crowd, which filled the room to capacity, that callers would get a response within 24 to 48 hours during the work week. This marks a change from the past few months, during which some residents waited up to three weeks to resolve a claim.
Richard Holtzman, president of Kukui‘ula Development Company, said the companies were trying to “go the extra mile” to surpass normal obligations and requirements in order to be good developers and good neighbors.
The development boom across the South Shore — Po‘ipu, Koloa and Kukui‘ula — combined with unusually dry conditions, has created never-before-seen levels of dust and noise for residents. With many projects up and running within the last month, the community began to push for a community-wide response to the problem from developers.
Holtzman acknowledged the frustration of residents, who complained of “finger pointing” and the “telephone shuffle” after contacting various contractors and developers. He said the sentiment was compounded by not knowing who to turn to or how to find resolution or mitigation of the problems.
Kukui‘ula’s method of handling complaints served as the model for the Hui’s use of a single hotline number. Prior to starting construction, Kukui‘ula dedicated one individual to be the singular source of communication.
Holtzman said he knows the hotline will not solve the issue of dust all better, and he predicted that everyone was still facing a tough couple of years, especially with the drought conditions.
But he promised the crowd that the Hui would do their best to be “responsible developers.”
Glenn Imanaka, director of safety, risk management and human resources for Goodfellow Brothers Inc., said there was a range of processes and resources among the members of the Hui. Pooling them and streamlining the process should service the residents more effectively, he said.
A large contingent of Goodfellow workers who attended the meeting were easily spotted in their orange work clothes.
Keith Suga, project manager at Po‘ipu Beach Estates, said they were there to listen first-hand to the concerns of the residents. Suga said they follow the rules and regulations on the job sites and understand that residents are still being affected by dust and noise.
Hartwell Blake and Louis Abrams of the Concerned Citizens of Koloa facilitated the meeting.
Don Cataluna opened the meeting, stating that the goal was to come up with a solution to the dust bowl problem that “we can all live with.” He reminded everyone of the respect needed to be shown to one another by sharing an anecdote about Albert Einstein who said that people were put on earth to help man.
Blake provided the backdrop for the meeting by updating participants on the progress of past Concerned Citizens efforts to solve community problems such as the Waita reservoir issue and the Po‘ipu-Kukui‘ula circulation plan.
He then traced the steps of how residents, “accustomed to the quiet enjoyment of their homes,” were being “denied that right” by 11 side-by-side projects happening simultaneously.
Meeting attendees were given 10 minutes to write their questions. Blake and Abrams then facilitated a question and answer period.
One of the first questions concerned health issues. Rodney Yama from the Department of Health’s Clean Air Division clarified that his role is to determine compliance with state rules regarding dust emissions, not air quality.
Yama said his job is “complaint-driven,” he said he checks on sites when he receives notice of particular projects.
He sends his report to O‘ahu, where they are assigned to a case worker and then to a deputy attorney general, whose concern is enforcement. Yama said his report is limited to the time period of his observation and cannot be generalized to define the project as a whole.
When the discussion seemed to bog down, Lambert Kaiminaauao addressed the group by saying that the discussion was focused on events that had already happened, while it should turn to adjustments that need to be made.
“We are asking them to do more than what they are doing now,” Kaiminaauao said. “They are going out of their way to do it.”
Resident Candy McCaslin said the meeting was a fantastic first step, though she was disappointed to hear that the Department of Health’s role was primarily regulatory.
Like McCaslin, Leslie Pool said the meeting was a move in the right direction.
“Many issues were overlooked; many other issues need to be addressed,” Pool said.
Abrams asked the community to continue to provide feedback on mitigation efforts.
He said the work of developers to find solutions was “much appreciated” and characterized the community’s support as “overwhelming,” and credited the residents with remaining calm on an emotional subject.
“That seems to be the style of Koloa, which makes it special,” Abrams said.
Cataluna closed the meeting by saying there should be measurable improvement within two weeks, along with another meeting.
The dust hotline number is 652-5518.