While there is much Kauai people disagree on, there is one thing we can all agree on: this island has an awful lot of abandoned cars.
We’ve always had them, and we likely always will. It seems they used to be in places not quite so noticeable, hidden away behind brush and trees down forgotten roads where few ever saw them or even knew about them. There are more abandoned cars hidden out there than we think.
But now, they are in prominent places where it’s impossible to miss them, and they are, simply put, quite the eyesore. Visit Hanamaulu Beach or Ninini Point Lighthouse and you’ll be greeted with stripped-down vehicles with no wheels, shattered windshields, even missing doors. Abandoned cars, anything worth money long since removed, have been along Kuhio Highway near the Lihue Airport; in front of Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea; near the roundabout by The Shops at Kukui‘ula; in the parking lot above Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal path, and in the parking lot at Kukui Grove Center.
The Garden Island recently received an email with a picture of an abandoned vehicle, thick brush behind it, with yellow tape attached and a placard someone taped to it that read, “Tell the county to do their job!”
So we’re not the only ones who have noticed.
Most people don’t expect immediate removal of abandoned cars, but it does seem they sit for a long time before stickers are placed on them, warning that the county will be coming to get them. Some are losing their patience.
We do urge the county to place a priority on removing those abandoned cars in these prominent places. Having them there just looks bad. It could create an impression that Kauai’s not concerned about abandoned cars, when we know it is.
We understand this is a monumental task. In fiscal year 2019, the Kauai Police Department had 653 vehicles towed. During fiscal year 2017, the department removed 404 abandoned and derelict vehicles, and 498 in fiscal 2018. As of August, there were 260 pending complaints in the queue for abandoned or derelict vehicles, according to the County of Kauai, and more are being added.
This all, of course, costs money. 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.
Kauai taxpayers paid more than $411,000 for the handling and disposal of these abandoned and derelict vehicles in 2017, and around $423,000 in 2018. This year, the county has already spent about $500,000.
While we hate to see yet more money funneled to this area, we urge the county to hire a second abandoned vehicle coordinator. It is something the county is working on and it is something we support.
Meantime, police are asking for the public’s help in holding accountable those who are ditching their vehicles illegally.
If anyone from the public sees someone dumping or leaving a derelict vehicle on the side of the road, please take a photo and/or video of it and it send to police.
Other remedies are being considered.
Earlier this year, the County Council’s Housing and Intergovernmental Relations Committee recommended for approval legislation that would establish the same beautification fee for rental vehicles that residents already pay as part of their annual vehicle registrations.
This fee would go 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.
Most people argue the county should simply bill the abandoned vehicle’s owner, which makes sense. But it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. 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 an abandoned or derelict vehicle. And some cars are so stripped down their VIN numbers have been scrapped away.
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.
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 Center.
So, let’s rid Kauai of the blight known as abandoned vehicles. Together, between citizens and police and county personnel, Kauai should be able to remove these vehicles in a timely manner.