LIHU‘E — County officials are estimating it’ll cost about $300,000 a month to continue emergency operations, support and other COVID-19-related procedures come the start of the new year.
At this time, some of these costs are covered by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, which must be spent by the end of the year. On top of that, the Hawai‘i National Guard is currently activated until the end of the year, and it’s unclear if or when these plans could be extended.
County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig and Kaua‘i Police Department Assistant Chief Mark Begley briefed the Kaua‘i County Council Thursday regarding COVID-19 efforts.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden, the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee chair, said she’s concerned about KPD being “unfairly” burdened.
Since Oct. 15, the county has reported about 23 arrests related to quarantine violations, a “significant increase over that period of time compared to the previous eight months,” Begley said Thursday.
Begley added that calls into dispatch and traffic collisions are slowly on their way back to pre-pandemic numbers.
Every day, about 22 Hawai‘i National Guard members are stationed at Lihu‘e Airport alongside 18 KPD officers and about five county employees. This force is tasked with ensuring incoming travelers have the necessary documents to either bypass the state-mandated, 14-day quarantine or have a compliant quarantine location.
In addition to that, there are about 10 guardsmen and three to six KPD officers performing physical compliance checks.
Dahilig went on to say that about $300,000 a month would be needed in county labor for quarantine-related types of work, call-center support and other operations in the future should no federal money come in. The county is working on several contingency plans if the guard is removed, one of which is bringing in members of the Kaua‘i Fire Department.
Cowden asked if the county has looked into contracting a private security firm, which Dahilig said could be a possibility, but then it becomes an issue of “quality control.”
“We need to balance the expectation that we are able to staff with just KPD and whether or not rotating other personnel who are able to handle the type of work with having first-hand knowledge of safety protocol (will work),” Dahilig said. “That is our primary focus.”
Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro suggested the county bring in temporary hires for this work. “I can see people getting burnt out,” Kaneshiro said.
Both Dahilig and Begley said they are monitoring overtime use, particularly overtime spiking, which would increase pension payments in the years to come.
In early October, a KPD spokesperson reported that the department has spent $1,090,150.17 on CARES Act overtime, and projected an additional $600,000 would be spent by the end of the year.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.