Road talks turn tense

  • Contributed

    Kauai County Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa

  • Courtesy County of Kauai

    County Department of Public Works Deputy County Engineer Lyle Tabata

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.

  1. I saw a Vampire once March 14, 2019 1:25 am Reply

    This story makes no sense. For a menial road repair, why do they need to consult with Ross Kagawa? Just pave the damn road and get with it. Checking in with a county council is all showmanship. On the part of the county council of course. It doesn’t make sense they making a useless county council for just this re-pavement of the roads. Do the county council hold any authority? No. Not with Ross Kagawa as Vice Chair. Make sense for any smart man. Start on the work.

  2. alien March 14, 2019 6:04 am Reply

    Sorry, Kauai these people do not know what the heck they are doing. Take a drive around the roads are pathetic. Resign already, Hire people who are qualified.

  3. kauaiboy March 14, 2019 6:15 am Reply

    There appears to be a quality problem with road re-surfacing on Kauai.

    We do not experience freezing temperatures which cause mainland road to expand and contract enough to damage roadways there, yet road longevity is much greater there.

    Kilauea Lighthouse Road experiences some of the heaviest traffic on island. This road is in such poor shape that drivers are swerving all over the place to avoid potholes. Inevitably there will be lawsuits against the County to pay for auto repairs.

    Alarmingly, pedestrians have become at risk because of swerving cars. God forbid that there is an accident, especially a fatal one. The cost to the County as a result of a lawsuit in this case would eclipse the cost of repaving the road, and doing it right.

    When the shopping center opens near the post office, things will quickly become even more hairy.

    We pay immense property taxes to the County. If you are a County engineer, get the job done right, and timely. If you are an elected official, make sure the job gets done, and done timely.

    Enough said. We are tired of all the excuses.

  4. Uncleaina March 14, 2019 6:17 am Reply

    Let me clear this up. The reason our roads are so terrible and the reason that they now want $130,000,000 to fix just a couple hundred miles of county road is GRAFT. People giving contracts to friends, skimming funds, lack of accounting, and just incompetent people in charge. Mr Tabata does a terrible job for us! His budget makes no sense- even when he tries to explain it. What is already happening is they’re collecting $2,000,000 per month from the tax increase but no one understands how to actually fix the roads. Ross you need to get the votes to replace these incompetent county workers. Find a person who has maintained THOUSANDS of miles of county roads like from Wyoming – those little rural counties make it work just fine and they get snow, trucks and even less tax money. Funny how quick you fired the accountant trying to make sense of our wasteful spending- can’t you fire these guys? And one final point- most of the heavily traveled roads are owned by the STATE! So we’re not even using these funds for our main roads. Terrible terrible leadership and personnel in charge.

  5. kimo March 14, 2019 7:37 am Reply

    Has anyone ever considered merging the County repair personnel with the State highway personnel? Seems like a lot of duplication and administration on Kauai.

    Also, if the GET increase is supposed to generate $250 M over ten years, why only $8 M out for bids this year?

    Too many bureaucrats waiting for their pensions to begin?

  6. RG DeSoto March 14, 2019 8:36 am Reply

    ‘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.” ‘

    So…just what the heck has the county been doing with all of the gasoline taxes it collected for the last 30-40 years? Tabata may be “just embarking” on the 10 year journey but in light of his projection of a 10 year life span for roads/highways he or someone in his place will have to “embark” all over again in 10 years.
    The county needs to cut back or eliminate spending on wasteful, ineffective social programs and use the money to fund it’s fundamental responsibilities–roads, parks, police, fire etc.
    RG DeSoto

  7. CoutnySpent March 14, 2019 9:59 am Reply

    This guys Tabata is a joke. The county of Kauai wasted 10 million on Eiwa street and it’s going to waste another 10 million on Rice stree for beautification or what they called revitalization.

    BEAUTIFICATION or REVITALIZATION are two PORK projects that was/is not needed for county of Kauai roads.

    This is not only poor leadership but a casu for concern because of fraud, waste, and abuse. Now the county wants to ask the FEDERAL government for money they blew on pork projects while the county has 50 million dollars in a savings account while raising GET taxes to pay for the projects he’s talking about but says there’s no money?

    What BS and who is he trying to fool?

    The county needs to replace this puppet master and get someone who wants to get the job done on an honest level instead of feeding friends and families millions with unnecessary PORK projects.

    Basically the county is saying they are three times in the hole while that explains how poorly he has performed. How can in 10 years with the former Mayor and admin, the county triples its roads repairs deficits?

    One can only imagine what an audit of the county DOT would produce. In fact I would challenge the county council and Mayor to call upon a federal audit of the county of Kauai’s DOT and highway division.

    County spent but the real question is on what and who got the contracts to overcharge phony PORK projects.

  8. manongindashadow March 14, 2019 3:56 pm Reply

    We need to find a better material to build our roads. Because our roads have sand or dirt on the base paved over with gravel and tar. Tar is an oil base product that will break down and float to the top on heavy rainy day. With all the heavy traffic it will break up and then a pothole is born.

  9. Charlie Chimknee March 14, 2019 7:03 pm Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    I’d vote for fixing the pukas on any county roads mauka of the K & K highways. Never mind stretches where road is good for 50’ or 100’ feet or more…just fix the pukas.

    Already this year we have 2 cracked windows on right side where most pukas are on the roads from big trucks.

    And 1 truck the 2 doors are literally falling off from the front of the door where the hinges are bolted to the truck.

    All 4 repairs are beyond our pay grade. Would the county use the road tax $ to pay the repairs …?



  10. Rev Dr. Malama March 15, 2019 4:59 pm Reply

    There is absolutely NO INTEREST NOR INCENTIVE for county employees to do anything….. it’s how it has always been! The only wahine on the Council is just as worthless as the rest of the puppets…. taking huge public funding and making excuses…
    War CRIMES….

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