LIHUE — Some Kauai County councilmembers say the county doesn’t have the authority to tell the federal government what to.
“I try to refrain from introducing resolutions when it entails telling the federal government or state government what I feel they should do, from an elected county official standpoint,” said Councilman Ross Kagawa. “The people have the power, and individual messaging to officials from our local residents is the most powerful means in communicating concerns.”
Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro agreed.
“I don’t like telling people what they can and cannot do,” he said. “For example, if First Hawaiian Bank wants to move, I wouldn’t write a resolution to tell them they can’t because you’re on Rice Street and part of the TIGER grant.”
On Wednesday, the Kauai County Council voted 4 to 3 to defer a resolution that would be sent to the United States Postal Service, requesting the Rice Street location remain open.
Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Mason Chock, Derek Kawakami and Mel Rapozo, council chair, voted in favor of the deferral, saying it will give the community time to submit testimony to the council.
Kaneshiro and Kagawa, along with Councilman Arthur Brun, voted against it.
In January, officials with USPS announced the possibility of closing the post office at 4441 Rice Street, citing parking and access issues.
The plan is to consolidate operations with the USPS Carrier Annex facility at 3230 Kapule Highway.
Following a public meeting last month, Yukimura introduced Resolution No. 2017-22 in an effort to keep the Lihue office open.
“Retail services are essential, especially in the town core, and to take the post office away is like removing the heart from Lihue,” she said. “It would be a huge setback to our effort to revitalize the Lihue Town Core.”
In October 2015, the county received a $13 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant, to revitalize Rice Street.
Because the Rice Street post office has been a staple in the community since 1939, it doesn’t make sense to close it right before the Rice Street Revitalization project begins, Yukimura said.
Moving services to Kapule Highway would be inconvenient because people who live and work on Rice Street and the surrounding area would have to drive to do business at the post office.
But if the Rice Street post office stays open, there could be unintended consequences, like increased price in stamps or closing of other locations on the island the council is unaware of, Kagawa argued.
“If we urge them to keep the post office open, what are the ramifications?” he said.
Kawakami said he supports the resolution because the potential closure is a step back in improving downtown Lihue.
“We have two federal agencies — one that is granting us $13 million to improve connectivity and multi-modal transportation. We have another federal agency that is contradicting that by pulling an essential service from the town core,” he said.
During the meeting, Kauai residents Matt Bernabe, Bruce Hart and Chad Deal spoke in favor of the resolution.
Deal, a member of the Kauai Board of Realtors, said the post office is an integral part of the Rice Street revitalization project.
“It’s a historic landmark for our county,” he said.
Just because he voted against the resolution doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to keep the Rice Street post office where it is, Kaneshiro said.
“There’s a lot of pros and cons on both sides with strong voices, and those are the voices that should be heard. We don’t really have skin in the game. This isn’t our decision to make,” he said.
The council has until March 23 to make a decision on the resolution.