LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday unanimously approved two bills intended to clean up — literally — the grounds of the Lihu‘e Civic Center.
Bill 2412 prohibits consumption of “intoxicating liquor” within the parking lots and grounds adjacent to the Historic County Building. The prohibition also includes possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage.
Bill 2413 states “no person shall urinate or defecate within the boundaries of the parking lots and grounds to the Historic County Building, County Annex and Lihu‘e Civic Center unless in a portable toilet or restroom.”
The bill exempts those with a medical condition verified by a licensed physician. Anyone convicted of violating each of the new ordinances “shall” be guilty of a petty misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000, plus be incarcerated for up to 30 days.
Councilman Dickie Chang said he was wondering how the council would let the general public know the new law was just passed.
“I’m just concerned that many people may not be reading the paper or watching the news,” he said.
Councilman Mel Rapozo said he would expect signs would be created and posted in the area.
“Obviously if there is no notice, no warning, there would be no prosecution,” he said.
Chair Jay Furfaro said he agreed with Rapozo that signs with proper notice should be posted and that he would look into it.
The bill related to alcohol states signs informing the public of the prohibition may be erected. The bill related to urinating and defecating do not address it.
Most judges, however, may agree that not knowing the law is not an excuse to break it.
The concern about giving proper notice — seldom brought up at a council meeting — may confirm a suspicion by some community members that the bill targets the few homeless people who hang out in the area.
Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens sent written testimony to the council, in which he says he had twice expressed in previous meetings his opinion of what both bills were about.
“Even though Chair Furfaro was good enough to give me a lesson in Hawaiian language and culture I still maintain that the purpose of these two bills was to mitigate the issue we have with the homeless people who are the major problem in this area as defined in the bills,” he said.
Mickens said the over 500 homeless on Kaua‘i need help; many are physically or mentally sick and in need of a doctor’s care.
“We cannot ignore them and expect that this problem will disappear,” he said.
Kapa‘a resident Ken Taylor said the law should read that urinating and defecating is not permitted in any public area, not just in the Historic District. The way the law is written gives the impression it is OK to do it elsewhere, he said.
Some community members have questioned the redundancy of the law. According to county officials, current state laws may interpret relieving oneself in public as open lewdness, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fourth-degree sexual assault or criminal property damage.
What’s a portable toilet facility?
As long as “shall” means “shall” — a recent opinion by the county attorney found that “shall” sometimes means “may” — the ordinance is clear: No urinating or defecating will be allowed unless in a portable toilet.
The ordinance defines “portable toilet” as a “temporary, portable toilet facility.” It does not specify what a “facility” means.
That said, a portable toilet can be purchased online for relatively cheap.
The Hassock portable toilet costs $35.99 online. It is made of black and gray polyethylene, 14” inches high, and weighs seven pounds, “when empty.” It has a molded seat, a removable inner bucket, “with handle for easy disposal,” and an inner lid with a toilet paper holder. It also comes with an initial supply of chemicals.
A rougher portable toilet, the Reliance Luggable Loo resembles more what it is, a bucket with a lid, and can be found for less than $20.
But perhaps the most bang for the bucket, no poo intended, is the Fold to Go portable toilet. With customer reviews giving it a full five-star rating, this model has a handle that lets people take it around like a suitcase. With a little digging, it can be found for as little as $29.99.
Furfaro said the long-term plan for the area includes putting restrooms, landscaping and picnic tables.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.