LIHUE — The Kauai County Council entertained a loaded agenda Wednesday that included a look at the schedule of islandwide road resurfacing and repairs.
Lyle Tabata, deputy county engineer, said they try to keep up with preventative maintenance to preserve roads.
“We have to do this in a practical way so we hit the highest needs areas first,” Tabata said.
The majority of roads have a life cycle of 10 years, he said. If the county can get to the road within the first five years and do chip sealing, it can extend the life of the road by at least five years, Tabata said. He added that if the county can get to the road again at the 10th year, it can extend the life of that road another five years.
He said the county spent $1.5 million to resurface 4.2 miles in 2018. Also that year, the county spent $3.2 million to pave 11.4 miles. In 2019, it has $8 million and is out to bid on projects.
Councilwoman Felicia Cowden said she gets questions almost daily about the roads and thanked Tabata for the county Department of Public Works’ hard work and recovery efforts after the storms last April.
“In 10 years we hope to touch everything,” Tabata said of the 300-plus miles of roads the county maintains. “We expect to take 10 years to get to it all. In year 10, we should know better. In year five, we should know better.”
Not everyone agreed with that outlook.
“In 2012, the backlog was $100 million; the bridge backlog was $100 million,” council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said. “Now in 2019, you’re telling me it’s $300 million.”
“Do we need to sharpen our pencils or something?” he continued. “How can it gain $100 million in six years?”
He asked Tabata to “put yourself in our shoes. It sounds like a lot of excuses.”
Tabata and Kagawa had a heated exchange after the vice chair’s comments, which ended with Tabata saying that the root of the problem is funding and Kagawa saying that he has already been given funding.
The subject of lack of funds and the backlog surrounding road upkeep was a common theme throughout the discussion, to which the possibility of lobbying the federal government and state for aid was mentioned, as well as the possibility of raising the fuel tax. Tabata later apologized to Kagawa for the heated exchange.
When asked where the county should be in terms of backlog for road maintenance, Tabata said, “I don’t think I can answer that right now.” He added, “We’re just embarking on this journey. We expect to take 10 years to get to it all.”
The county increased the GET tax a half percent, to 4.5 percent from 4 percent effective Jan. 1, to raise an estimated $250 million over 10 years, with the money targeted for public transportation improvements.
In other action, the council discussed the cost of the Hanalei River embankment erosion mitigation, which is estimated to be $391,925. Of that total cost, the county expended two grants for the project — one for 75 percent of the project cost from the National Resource Conservation Program for a total of $293,944 and the other for 25 percent of the project cost from Hanalei Traders in the amount of $97,981.
“The goal is to repair erosion at the property from the river,” Tabata said. It was estimated that over the course of the last 30 years, there has been a to 30 to 40-foot retreat of the stream bank onto the subject property.