County needs improved spending oversight

Local residents can not afford to pick up the tab for the county’s irresponsible contract agreements.

Kauai County Council members and concerned citizens were rightfully shocked when Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s administration presented its severely overdue report last month on the costs associated with building an upcoming section of the multi-use path.

What the seven-member legislative body had understood would cost some $28,000 came back with a $338,500 price tag. The itemized list looked like a spoof of a VISA commercial:

• Propane tank enclosure:    $154,000

• Trash bins and enclosure:    $85,000

• Signs:                                 $1,500

• Parking lot expansion:        $29,000

• Six-foot aluminum fence     $24,000

• Landscaping and irrigation: $45,000

• Wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars without consequence: Priceless

These Kapa‘a Sands facility relocation estimates are tied to the construction of a 2,184-foot section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae. In addition to these costs is an estimated $100,000 for almost 5 percent of an acre fronting the condos.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said at a meeting earlier this month that the facility relocation estimates were “round” numbers, but were not to exceed $100,000.

Whatever mechanism was put in place, if any, to ensure this cap on the project was not topped was woefully ineffective, to say the least.

The council controls the county’s purse strings. The administration needs to respect this system of checks and balances. Since it apparently can’t, we support the chair’s effort to establish more stringent cost-control containment measures.

We can’t, as Furfaro said, simply hand over to contractors a county-paid platinum card from American Express. While Kauai has been pretty prudent in managing its finances over the years, we must keep tight reins on spending.

The multi-use path is a noble initiative that will preserve coastal accesses around the island and improve the overall health and well-being of many residents. But this project, like any other funded by taxpayers, must be undertaken with a frugal budget in mind.

We implore the council and administration to develop a more rigid set of standards to ensure the county maintains control of the price ceiling.

In the meantime, we hope the administration has truly negotiated a reduced price for the facility relocation work, as Deputy County Engineer Lyle Tabata told the council. We also hope the County Attorney’s Office heard Furfaro when he said that a “blank purchase agreement” is simply not the way to go.

As Councilman Mel Rapozo said, “The fact remains, the number needs to be here before we vote. To approve this open-ended blank check is not the way to do business.”

Even if these were lush economic times, we want our money to be spent wisely.

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