Committee amends waste fee proposal

LIHUE — A divided Kauai County Council committee on Wednesday approved a scaled down version of a proposal that would charge county residents variable trash collection rates based on how much they throw away.

By a 4-1 vote, the seven-member board’s Environmental Services Committee approved an amendment to Bill 2551 that would charge residential customers a monthly, flat $6 fee for access to the county’s five refuse transfer stations and an additional $4 fee, if residents opt to have a 64-gallon trash cart, or two 32-gallon carts, for weekly pick up. 

Households who opt to use the 96-gallon carts, or three 32-gallon carts, that are now available, meanwhile, would be charged the flat $6 fee along with an additional $12 fee — a monthly $6 increase from the amount residents pay now.  

“Fees are a way to give feedback to the user to promote recycling,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who introduced the amendment. “Just imagine how much greater our water use would be, if it were unmetered. We need to have this paradigm of feedback to users, and people will have the option to save and lower their fees.”   

Councilmen Ross Kagawa and Mel Rapozo cast the dissenting votes against the amendment. Council Chair Jay Furfaro and Council Vice Chair Mason Chock were present at the meeting but are non-voting members of the committee. 

Rapozo later cast the sole vote against moving the entire bill for final reading during the County Council’s next meeting on Wednesday.

“There will be a subsidy (for solid waste operations) and this does offset it, but I cannot support an increase at this time of any fee,” Rapozo said.

Under the county’s current refuse collection fee structure, residential property owners are charged the flat $6 refuse transfer station fee and an additional $6 fee each month, if they chose to use a 96-gallon trash cart.

The rate structure initially proposed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and his administration, called “Pay as You Throw,” sought to charge residential property owners the flat $6 refuse transfer station fee and an additional $6 fee, if they choose to use a 64-gallon trash cart, or an additional $15 fee, if they choose to use a 96-gallon cart.  

“Half of the funding to support the county’s solid waste program is through property taxes, so our goal is to provide enough economic incentive to get people to recycle,” County Engineer Larry Dill said. “I do agree … that if we divert waste from the landfill, that’ll save us cost from the landfill side, but on the other hand, that certainly has the potential to increase our waste diversion programs and that costs money, too, unfortunately. We’re trying to preserve space in the landfill to defer capital costs down the road, and there’s no clear answer here, but our goal, with this program, is to incentivize waste diversion.” 

Council committee members also voted down an amendment introduced by Councilman Ross Kagawa that would have charged residential property owners a flat $6 refuse transfer station fee and an additional $3 fee, if they chose to use a 64-gallon cart, or an additional $6 fee, if they chose to use a 96-gallon cart. 

“I think we all agree that people are paying too much and we want to reduce people’s costs — there’s no doubt about that — but we have different approaches,” Councilman Gary Hooser said.

All seven County Councilmembers will take up Bill 2551 on final reading during their Wednesday meeting, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building Council Chambers.

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