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Murashige to complete Smith’s term

LIHUE — The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board of directors voted Wednesday to appoint incumbent director Calvin Murashige to complete the unexpired term of former director Allan Smith.

Smith resigned in November for a job as infrastructure manager of Syngenta Hawaii’s operation in Kekaha.

Murashige was one of three directors whose term is set to expire in March. By appointing him to the term that expires in 2016, only two incumbent directors will be up for election in March, guaranteeing that at least one new director will be elected.

“In this instance, moving an incumbent director into the unfinished term lets the membership decide who the new board member will be sooner than any other process,” said Board Chair Jan TenBruggencate in a press release.

Under the cooperative’s bylaws, board vacancies are filled by a vote of the remaining directors.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a $39.5 million operating budget for 2015, the third year the cooperative has kept controllable costs at or below the average rate of inflation.

Since 2012, the operating budget has increased an average of 1.6 percent per year, in line with the Honolulu Consumer Price Index over the same period.

The operating budget does not include the cost of fuel and purchased power, the single largest item in KIUC’s overall $178 million budget. The cost of commodities is estimated at $91.3 million in 2015, down nearly 11 percent from 2012.

The lower cost of commodities reflects the decline in the cost of oil as well as the increased use of cheaper renewable energy sources.

The operating budget reflects the elimination of six full-time positions through attrition, reducing the staff level from 157 to 151, a 4 percent decrease.

Other highlights of the 2015 budget include:

– $2.7 million in repairs and improvements to the Lihue Plantation’s old Upper Waiahi hydroelectric plant, which is now owned by KIUC.

– $2.5 million for KIUC’s Habitat Conservation Program to protect endangered seabirds, up 29 percent from 2014, reflecting the requirements of state and federal wildlife protection agencies.

– $2 million to retrofit 3,500 streetlights from high-pressure sodium vapor lights to energy-saving LEDs.

– $625,000 for ongoing work to move utilities underground along Kuhio Highway in Wailua. Total project costs for 2015-16 will total $2.5 million.

– $510,000 for two bucket trucks, three pickup trucks and one emergency generator.

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