Kekaha residents bandy landfill benefits

KEKAHA — Concerned citizens packed the Kekaha Neighborhood Center Monday night to begin a long-term discussion on how the residents should spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars they will receive from the county as compensation for the existing landfill outside of town.

Kekaha will receive a $650,000 upfront “host community benefit” for housing the soon-to-be-expanded landfill, and will continue to receive annual funding, potentially as high as six figures each year, based on how much tonnage of rubbish is brought to the Westside facility, officials said.

In trying to help the community decide how to allocate those funds, the county proposed the idea of a 13-person Citizens Advisory Committee.

The proposal, which designated eight spots for Kekaha residents appointed by the mayor and the other five for county professionals, was widely panned by the audience for failing to give the community enough authority in the decision-making process.

“Given the opportunity, the community will rise to the occasion to see to it that the host community benefit fund will be well expended,” Kekaha resident Jose Bulatao said yesterday. “I really think it’s the community’s role to make those decisions and I hope we get the opportunity to do so.”

County Councilman Mel Rapozo, who played a critical role in increasing the benefit from the $100,000 proposed by the mayor during the May budget approval process, agreed that Kekaha residents should have the final say in determining how the funds are spent.

“We imposed that nuisance on that community for many years. This is an opportunity for the community, and I think they should be allowed to go out and do a project that the community wants without any interference from the county,” he said yesterday. “I’d really like to see the bureaucracy taken out. The funds should be there for whatever the community wants to do.

“That was the intent, when we introduced the bill, to have the community make the decision without all the politics and bureaucracy. … I think the voting members should all be from the community. That’s my opinion.”

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto disagreed, saying the professional members of the committee, specifically a planning liaison and representatives of the Solid Waste Division, the County Council, the Mayor’s Office and the landfill operator, would lose interest in the process should they be stripped of their voting rights.

“The purpose of this is to have the right people to guide us through the process,” he said at the meeting.

After the committee is formed, it will devise a community survey to poll area residents for their ideas and proposals for the funds, and eventually allocate those funds.

However, the next step in the process remains up in the air while county officials work out the specifics of how the committee will be put together.

“The county is still in the process of determining the details on how the election process will work. We have developed a list of tasks to this end, and will be working on them over the next two weeks to make sure we have a sound process by which to select the CAC,” Solid Waste Program Coordinator Allison Fraley said in an e-mail.

The first cell of the lateral expansion, soon to enter the construction phase, is expected to reach capacity in October 2013, while a second cell, now in the permitting phase, would give the landfill life until January 2017. The estimated cost for cell one is $12.9 million and for cell two is $9 million.

That should give officials more than enough time to site a new landfill, a process that’s expected to take between five and seven years.

However, the county has formed plans for a third cell that would give the landfill 5.4 more years of use at a cost of up to $30 million should the new landfill process run long.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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