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South Maui Officials Tackle Hot Topics

Rep. Fontaine, Sen. Baker and Councilmember Couch discuss local issues with community members. “The county will not guarantee water for Kihei High School.”

December 15, 2011
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez , The Maui Weekly

The Saturday, Dec. 3, meeting was billed as a listening session with state Rep. George Fontaine, state Sen. Roz Baker and Maui County Councilman Don Couch before the Jan. 18 start of the next state legislative session. And for the 17 community members who attended the Town Hall meeting at Kihei Charter School, it provided an opportunity to speak their minds on a sunny December morning.

Richard Moss wanted to know if the issue of taxing public employee pensions would come back around in the upcoming session of the legislature.

Sen. Baker said she did not expect Gov. Neil Abercrombie to reintroduce the bill. "It was soundly defeated," she said. "I voted against it, and so did George [Fontaine] on the other side."

Article Photos

State Rep.George Fontaine (center) said he plans to introduce legislation that would add a fiscal note to any bill before it passes. The provision would require a report on what it would cost or save the state. Seated with him are state Sen. Roz Baker and Maui County Councilman Don Couch.

Rep. Fontaine concurred, saying, "Citizen participation was key to the defeat of the proposal last year in the House If there had been silence, it may have passed," he said.

Cheryl Zarro raised questions about the cost of land acquisition for the Department of Education (DOE) High School in Kihei.

Fontaine reported that he had been told the cost would be $120 million for the overall school, including purchase of the land, but that cost would be spread over 20 years.

Land acquisition for Kihei High School would be finalized at the end of year or in January 2012, Baker said. Fontaine noted that he anticipated the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be approved in June or July of next year.

According to Baker, the cost of the high school is being affected because there is no infrastructure, the site is on a grade, and there is no sewer, among other challenges.

"The other problem is the county will not guarantee water for the Kihei High School," said Fontaine. While he said he is trying to get some sort of guarantee that there will be water, he is being told, "Don't worry about it."

In response, Couch commented that the law commonly referred to as the "Show Me the Water" ordinance is currently in the Maui County Council's Water Resources Committee. "The committee is looking at tweaking the bill, then sun-setting it in two years," Couch said.

Joan Martin, who lives in the Pi'ilani Gardens apartment complex near the Kihei Roundabout, asked when that traffic flow project would be completed.

Couch was pleased to announce the roundabout is ahead of schedule, and he hoped it would be completed in March or April-four to five months before the first proposed completion date of August.

There was also good news on the fiscal side. Baker reported that the state had recently sold $1.4 billion in state bonds with 40 percent of the buyers being from within from the state and that the bond-rating agency Standard & Poor's had given Hawai'i an AA rating.

"This [the bond sale] shows that people in the state and investors have confidence in the state," she said. "It tells us that we can move forward even in this tough economy and we are in a good fiscal position."

Fontaine agreed and said he was "happy we are in good fiscal situation, but we still need to be cautious." He plans to introduce legislation that would add a fiscal note to any bill before it passes, requiring a report on what it would cost or save the state.

Hot button issues included vacation rentals and the placement of Maui Electric Company (MECO) power poles along Pi'ilani Highway.

Baker said that MECO was planning to hold a community meeting to "discuss alternative designs for the project" on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Kamali'i Elementary School Cafeteria.

Couch said that when it came to short-term rentals, "We're having a discussion on where to allow them and where not to allow them."

"We are working to make it really easy to get rid of the illegal transient vacation rentals," he said. "We are changing the rules to be succinct and easy to enforce."

The Town Hall meeting ended at 10:30 a.m. Then, for most of those in attendance, it was off to the Pi'ilani Shopping Center for an educational demonstration on how to navigate the roundabout and to talk story with Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Contact Sen. Baker at senbaker@capitolhawaii.gov, Rep. Fontaine at rep fontaine@capitol.hawaii.gov and Councilmember Couch at don.couch@mauicounty.us.

 
 

 

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