Council amends Mayor’s FY22 budget

LIHU‘E — Wastewater solutions and police department recruitment were the Kaua‘i County Council’s focus of a decision-making session on the fiscal year 2022 budget on Friday.

Presented earlier this month, Mayor Derek Kawakami’s fiscal year 2022 supplemental budget features a $243.3 million operating budget and $24.8 million capital improvement project budget.

Late last week, the council met for a decision-making session to discuss the supplemental budget at hand and make amendments for the budget that will begin on July 1, 2021 and run to June 30, 2022.

Cesspool conversion programs

Included in the supplemental budget was a $150,000 addition for a Cesspool Conversion Study.

Councilmember Luke Evslin moved to have the name of the line item changed to “Sewer Expansion Assessment.”

The name change, Evslin said, stems from conversations with the Department of Public Works Chief of the Wastewater Management Jason Kagimoto and would give more flexibility during the procurement process of the study.

“The state (Department of Health) has identified priority cesspool replacement areas islandwide, but the county doesn’t really have any similar type of study looking at priority expansion areas for sewer based on county priorities like growth potential and ease of expansion,” Evslin said.

This study could lead to providing the county with a framework for sewer expansion and give homeowners reference material when planning to convert to a septic system or wait until there’s a county sewer system, Evslin explained.

All cesspools, which can collect and discharge untreated human waste into the ground, in the state are required to switch to a new system by 2050, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A DOH estimate pegs almost 14,000 cesspools on Kaua‘i.

In another approved amendment, the budget will reflect a wastewater conversion program within the county’s Housing Agency’s budget.

To do this, Evslin proposed moving $81,371 for the resurfacing of the Kamalani playground resurfacing project (which is already finished) from the Special Trust Fund for Parks and Playgrounds – Lihu‘e District then eventually moved those funds to the Housing Agency’s other services account for a wastewater conversion program.

Building permits cannot be processed on a property with a cesspool, “which is a contributor to the housing crisis,” Evslin said. “This has always been somewhat of an unfunded mandate for individual homeowners to comply with, until now.”

Annually, the state expects to be allocating $1.2 million in forgivable loans for individual wastewater systems. In conversation with Kagimoto, Councilmember Mason Chock, CHA Director Adam Roversi and state DOH Wastewater Branch, for this “pass-through program,” the county would need to manage this program with homeowners and contract the construction.

“At the moment, we’re the only county that’s been interested in it,” Evslin said. “(Officials) did say that if other counties did come on board in the future, we would split that money evenly.”

This program would start in fiscal year 2023, which begins July 2022, but the state wants the county to have a program running and be accepting applications by September of this year, Evslin said.

“This was all in the last few weeks, so that’s why we’re trying to get this going right now,” Evslin said.

Police Department officers

Councilmember Felicia Cowden, who chairs the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, introduced a proviso that would increase the maximum number of Kaua‘i Police Department temporary officers from eight to 12. The proviso was requested by KPD.

“It really won’t cost us more money,” Cowden said, nor does it increase the number of authorized positions, which is currently 162 sworn positions.

KPD has had issues in the past maintaining proper staffing levels. It can take 18 months to get a new officer out on their own after going through a written test, physical, psychological and background checks, training and shadowing.

This would allow the department to start the recruitment process for more candidates at a time.

The council will take up all decision-making items at its May 26 meeting, and voting on the budget at the second and final reading on June 2.

This article was updated at 8:22 a.m. to amend the correct of the Sewer Expansion Assessment study and add clarity.

  1. joan May 18, 2021 6:16 am Reply

    Thank You Luke, we are in that situation- should we change our cesspool now or wait to see if the county or other private entity might provide a sewer system here in the Koloa area. We cannot add an ADU until this is done. Sewer issues- are a big barrier to future affordable housing.

  2. curious dog May 18, 2021 2:51 pm Reply

    ALL new construction requires a septic system, paid for by the developer. An ADU is no different. Waiting for a county sewer system is folly if you want to get in on a hot rental market now.

    That said, converting an existing cesspool to septic for an existing single-family lot can be a hardship for anyone on a fixed income w/no savings. Homeowners who are house-rich but cash-poor require county assistance to make this change & the county should simply use the over-blown $150,000 cost of the study to hire a financial officer & attorney to figure out how to best fund an endeavor such as this. $1.2 M seems a good start for zero interest loans on matching funds for this conversion per qualified household.

    Those of us still alive in 2050 will be chest-deep in cesspool muck if we can’t figure this one out.

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