Mana March costs county

LIHUE — Recently, thousands of Kauai residents took to the streets of Lihue waving signs, shouting and marching in unison in an effort to convince the Kauai County Council to pass Bill 2491.

Organizers have since described the Sept. 8 event as the largest march in Kauai’s history — a collaborative group of concerned citizens fighting for their right to know.

So what does it take to put on such an event? And, just as importantly, who pays for it?

“All that was required in this instance was a parade permit from (Kauai Police Department) and proof of insurance that would cover the activities from the stadium, along the parade route and at the Historic County Building,” county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka told The Garden Island. “They paid no fees to the county for this.”

However, the event did cost Kauai’s taxpayers.

While the county has not yet tallied all of the costs related to the event, Tokioka said overtime pay to manage the two-hour road closure on Sept. 8 cost $5,627 — $4,602.26 for KPD officers and another $1,024.95 for Public Works Department personnel.

In most circumstances, KPD requires event organizers to hire off-duty police officers to provide traffic control, so that the costs are not absorbed by the KPD budget, according to Tokioka.

“We requested this of the organizers of the Mana March,” she wrote in an email. “They initially agreed to do so, but later  refused to hire the off-duty officers, questioning the legality of the process.”

With only a few days left until the march, Tokioka said KPD had “no choice” but to bring in additional officers for traffic control, as well as PW workers to drop off and pick up cones and barricades.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people took part in the march that ended at the Historic County Building. For the 16 KPD officers, who worked a total of 49 hours, the $4,602.26 breaks down to about $94 per additional man hour.

Mana March lead organizer Fern Rosenstiel said the county requested that Hawaii SEED, the group which obtained the parade permit, purchase a special form of insurance. However, because Hawaii SEED is a nonprofit, it was unable to do so, she said.

“I tried everything I could. We couldn’t get the insurance to hire the off-duty officers,” she said. “We don’t have the required type of insurance because we don’t have regular employees.”

Tokioka said that in the past other nonprofits have purchased workers comp when hiring off-duty officers.

“I’m not sure what is different about Hawaii SEED,” she wrote.

Rosenstiel said she did the best she could to work with the county from the beginning, and to make sure everything was pono. The objective was never to cost the county money, she said.

“We appreciate the County of Kauai working collaboratively to pull off the event,” she said. “If the county feels that it is not their responsibility to facilitate the event with police and county personnel, to successfully and safely implement the event, I am more than happy to start talking about costs, breaking them down and fundraise to offset them.”

Rosenstiel added that those who participated Sept. 8 represent many taxpayers, and that she notified KPD Chief Darryl Perry and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. of plans for the march back on Aug. 17.

“We didn’t get the approval to move forward with the road closure until a week before,” she said.

At the request of the county, Rosenstiel said she even agreed to change the date of the march from Saturday, Sept. 7 to Sunday, in order to address traffic and safety concerns.

“We wanted it to be safe and we wanted it to be effective,” she said. “I have been so open, so honest and so willing to work with the county. When has any other protest organizer done this?”

The Mana March is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to county costs related to Bill 2491, a proposed rule that would allow the county to regulate the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops.  

On July 31, more than 1,000 people turned out for a public hearing on the bill at the Kauai Veterans Center. With 53 KPD officers on duty for a total of 175 hours throughout the long day, the county spent more than $20,000 in overtime pay, according to Tokioka.

Another $2,500 of police overtime was incurred for council proceedings on Aug. 5 at the Historic County Building relating to Bill 2491, she said.

The Kauai County Council’s Economic Development (Agriculture) Committee is set to resume discussion on Bill 2491 Sept. 27, when members are expected to introduce several amendments.

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