After a contentious start to the renewed Kauai County Council discussion of how the $650,000 awarded to Kekaha as a benefit of hosting the island’s only landfill should be allocated, concerned area residents and government officials used a lunch break to better understand each other, reaching a resolution yesterday.
Community members had complained during the first half of the council’s Public Works Committee meeting that they were being excluded from the planning process.
Mary Buza-Sims, president of the E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha (Forever Live On the Voices of Kekaha) community organization, said she felt slighted because “we were not invited to the table.”
“We’re not nobodies who can’t think for ourselves,” she testified.
Others, including prominent Kekaha resident Jose Bulatao Jr., Glen Mickens, KipuKai Les Kualii and Barbara Elmore agreed that the county should trust the residents to do what’s best for the community and “stay out of (it).”
Council member Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho chided the Solid Waste Division for failing to properly notify the community of past public meetings and for trying to rush the community through the process.
Only Kekaha activist Bruce Pleas spoke on behalf of the county, saying he had found the Solid Waste Division to have been strong facilitators.
“I feel very comfortable with them because they are almost a third party,” he said, noting he had “grave reservations” about turning the money over to a community association he felt might not represent the entire community.
After the council recessed for a two-hour lunch break, Buza-Sims, Bulatao and others stayed to hash out the differences with County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, who tried to reassure them that everybody involved was on the same team and that the administration was trying to meet all of their demands.
Fujimoto largely agreed to multiple requests and said he would prefer to just give the money to the community and let them figure things out on its own, but that “I have a fiscal responsibility to every resident in Kekaha.”
In the end, with council member Tim Bynum serving as mediator, the once-warring factions had agreed to temporarily suspend the process as previously designed and instead hold a public “meeting of the minds” on Nov. 19 to figure out what the next step should be.
By the time the council returned from its break the issue had largely been put to bed, rendering testimony from Allison Fraley and Troy Tanigawa of the Solid Waste Division unnecessary.
At an Oct. 6 meeting in Kekaha, Fujimoto, Fraley, Tanigawa and others said a 13-member Citizens Advisory Committee, appointed by the mayor, would conduct polling of Kekaha’s residents and allocate funds to projects it deemed worthy.
The CAC was designed to include both community volunteers and professional members including a planning liaison and representatives of the Solid Waste Division, the County Council, the Mayor’s Office and the landfill operator.
After an uproar over the makeup of the CAC and other details, the county acquiesced and began accepting applications from potential committee members, scheduling a forum for Nov. 19 and an election for Nov. 24. Those events are now suspended.
Before the Public Works Committee began its discussion of the Kekaha issue, council members took time to congratulate the work done in recent years by the Anahola Homesteaders Council, recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with one of only a dozen Environmental Justice Achievement Awards.
That discussion, as well as the Energy/Public Safety Committee’s deferment of a pair of issues relating to the upkeep of the Ka Hale Maka‘i O Kaua‘i complex, that houses the Kaua‘i Police Department and prosecuting attorney, marked the final day of committee meetings for the current council.
The county’s governing body will hold its ultimate meeting Nov. 19. Incumbents Jay Furfaro, Bynum, Daryl Kaneshiro and Bill “Kaipo” Asing will be joined in council chambers by newcomers Dickie Chang, Derek Kawakami and Lani Kawahara starting in December.
Leaving the council are JoAnn Yukimura and Mel Rapozo, both coming off failed runs for mayor, Ron Kouchi, whose reelection bid fell just short, and Iseri-Carvalho, whose term as the county’s prosecuting attorney starts next month.
• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org