Civil Defense Agency proposes a reduced budget

LIHU‘E — The county Civil Defense Agency asked the Kaua‘i County Council on Monday for a reduced operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

But depending on the outcome of negotiations to renew radio site leases across the island, the expenses for fiscal year 2013 might inflate the agency’s proposed budget and surpass its current fiscal year’s expenses.

The Civil Defense Agency administers and operates local, state and federal civil defense programs for Kaua‘i County, including planning, preparing and coordinating operations in response to disasters and post-disaster situations, Civil Defense Manager Ted Daligdig said.

For the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2011, and will end June 30, the agency’s budgeted expenses were $702,055. For FY 2013, the agency is asking for $690,295.

This scenario, however, might change pending lease renewals.

The county leases five locations island-wide to keep 800 megahertz radios ready for emergency responses.

The county was paying Grove Farm Co. $2,500 a year to lease one site. The contract expired, according to Karleen Abalos, a Civil Defense Agency public safety services secretary.

Under the budget submitted March 15 to the council by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., the contract with Grove Farm is forecast to cost $10,300, but it might triple, Abalos said.

By comparison, a site in Kalepa Ridge costs the county $2,500 per year, a site in Pu‘u Aunau, Moloa‘a, costs the county $2,400 per year and a site in Pu‘u Alanaku costs $11,600 a year.

Councilman Mel Rapozo expressed concern about the condition of emergency sirens around Kaua‘i.

Daligdig said problems that existed last year haven’t been fixed yet, but the agency is in process of taking care of them.

“That’s what we heard last year,” Rapozo said.

The backup location for the agency’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) also concerned the council.

Civil Defense operates in the same building as the Kaua‘i Police Department near the courthouse in Lihu‘e.

The Historic County Building used to be Civil Defense’s backup EOC. The building recently went through a long remodeling, and was back in operation last year.

Up until the island-wide power outage March 28, Rapozo said he was under the impression that Civil Defense’s backup EOC was still in the Historic County Building.

County Managing Director Gary Heu apologized to council members for not communicating to them in the last couple of years that the backup EOC had been moved. He said the backup EOC is operating out of Kaua‘i Fire Department headquarters, and if something were to happen, Civil Defense would have a place to go.

Storm response

Daligdig said the agency’s mission is to protect the lives and property of all people on Kaua‘i during emergencies. Since July 1, 2011, the agency initiated five flash flood warnings, with the most recent event March 3 to March 10, which resulted in a County Disaster Declaration and a State Disaster Declaration, according to Daligdig.

“We are awaiting approval from the federal government for a Federal Disaster Declaration, which may release federal funds to help support the disaster recovery costs,” he said.

North Shore resident Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana said that during the last storm there were pockets of isolation on the North Shore due to several landslides, including areas between Lumahai and Waikoko,  Waikoko and Hanalei, Hanalei and Princeville, and, for the first time, between Princeville and Kilauea.

She praised county and state workers for their responses to storm damages.

“Nobody can believe how fast that road was put there,” Ka‘aumoana said of a roadway built to connect Kolo Road and Kuhio Highway, allowing traffic in and out of Kilauea.

The hotels, Ka‘aumoana said, also did a “terrific job” in keeping visitors informed during the storm.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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