What goes up …

LIHUE — Kauai County Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said he believes the seven-member board made a mistake two months ago when it passed the state’s first variable rate structure for refuse services, called pay as you throw, that’s based on how much people throw away. 

Higher fees and different options for waste receptacles, he contends, won’t reduce waste but could place a financial burden on cash-strapped residents once the pay as you throw program rolls out on July 1.

Now that there are new members on the County Council, Kagawa said he would like to revisit the recently approved fee structure. 

That bill is now headed for a public hearing on Jan. 14 after the board agreed, by a 4-3 vote, to consider the proposal. After the public hearing, the bill will be taken up by the County Council’s Public Works Committee on Jan. 22.

“I think it’s unfortunate that he (Kagawa) is proposing that because the law, as it’s presently set up, is designed to promote recycling based on experience throughout the country,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who along with Councilman Gary Hooser and Councilman Mason Chock Sr., cast the dissenting votes against the bill.

Under the bill’s proposed changes, the county’s base $6 refuse collection fee, which provides residents with access to the county’s five refuse transfer stations, would remain the same. But the additional monthly fee for those residents who choose to have a 64-gallon waste receptacle, or two 32-gallon carts, for weekly pickup would be reduced from $4 to $3. Their total monthly assessment, in turn, would be $9 instead of $10, if the changes are approved. 

Meanwhile, additional fees for residents who opt to have a 96-gallon cart, or three 32-gallon carts, would be reduced from $12 to $6. This would slash the total monthly assessment for these residents from $18 to $12, under the proposed changes.

County officials, however, say the proposed changes would generate less money for waste diversion programs than the existing pay-as-you-throw fee structure and may come at a cost to taxpayers. 

“We do not feel the proposed bill will allow us to reach our diversion goals,” County Solid Waste Program Development Coordinator Allison Fraley wrote in an email. 

The difference in fees between the two trash cart options in Kagawa’s proposal, she said, are not wide enough to motivate people to recycle more. 

The adopted pay-as-you-throw fees are expected to generate around $3 million in revenues. The proposed scaled-down version, meanwhile, would raise about $510,000 less than that.

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