LIHUE — Abandoned vehicles are on the rise on Kauai.
In fiscal year 2019, the Kauai Police Department had 653 vehicles towed, and currently has more than 270 pending complaints.
During fiscal year 2017, the department handled the removal of 404 abandoned and derelict vehicles, and 498 in fiscal 2018.
Kauai taxpayers paid more than $411,000 for the handling and disposal of these abandoned and derelict vehicles in 2017, and around $423,00 in 2018. This year, the county has already spent some $491,000.
Each vehicle costs at least a few hundred dollars to remove, but that number can climb to as much as $2,000, depending upon the vehicle’s condition and location, according to KPD.
Moreover, these figures do not take into account payroll costs, and the time it takes for county personnel to deal with the matter.
“Our police officers, the abandoned vehicle coordinator, fiscal personnel, Finance Department personnel and other county staff all have a role, and spend time addressing this issue,” said KPD Assistant Chief Mark Begley. “We do not currently have a breakdown of those payroll costs.”
Proactive measures are being taken to help address the issue, including a bill for an act that the County Council’s Housing and Intergovernmental Relations Committee recommended for approval Wednesday. The proposed legislation would establish the same beautification fee for rental vehicles that residents already pay as part of their vehicle registrations.
This fee goes toward costs to remove abandoned and derelict vehicles. Residents can be charged up to $10 per year, but rental-car companies currently have a cap of $1 per year. This legislation would remove that cap.
The bill, introduced by Councilmembers Mason Chock and Luke Evslin, will now make its way to the full council for further discussion, and for potential inclusion in the 2020 Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative package and 2020 county legislative package — an avenue in which the council can propose bills at the state Legislature.
“The council needs to continue trying to help the police,” said council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa. “I’m happy to support any type of legislation coming from this area.”
The council Housing and Intergovernmental Relations Committee was not ready, however, to move forward with another bill for an act pertaining to abandoned and derelict vehicles that places the onus of the transfer of ownership on the seller rather than the buyer.
A new proposal may be forthcoming as councilmembers work with KPD and the county’s Finance Department to iron out more details. If they can come up with something within the right timeframe, it could also have the potential to move to the state Legislature if approved at a future council meeting.
“KPD and Chief of Police Todd Raybuck fully supported the intent of the bill introduced by councilpersons Chock and Evslin, and we are very grateful to them for taking that first step to address this issue legislatively,” Begley said. “But during further discussions and research, we determined that the language of the bill was not comprehensive enough to fully close the loopholes in the current law.”
Right now, buyers of vehicles are responsible for transferring ownership, but sometimes fail to do so, making it difficult for KPD to track the current owner of abandoned or derelict vehicles.
In the meantime, there are things residents can do to mitigate the issue. KPD recommends that people who are buying or selling a car “insist” that both parties meet at the county Finance Department Motor Vehicle Registration window to transfer the title in person.
“Both parties will be better protected from fraud, and it will help the county keep current with accurate records of vehicle transfers and ownership,” Begley said. “We believe that this practice will drastically reduce the occurrences of abandoned and derelict vehicles.”
Vehicle owners who need to dispose of their vehicles can visit kauai.gov/vehicledisposal to learn about the proper steps involved. Residents are allowed to dispose of up to three vehicles each year free of charge as long as they follow the instructions, which include filling out an affidavit and making arrangements to have the vehicle brought to the Puhi Metals Recycling Facility.
These bills will be discussed again at the next County Council meeting that starts at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the council chambers of the Historic County Building.
Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.