Mayor calls for water rate hike

WAILUKU — Mayor Alan Arakawa on Wednesday called for water rate hikes of 5 percent across the board, noting repairs and upgrades that are long overdue for the county’s aging water system.

Arakawa proposed the rate hike during his State of the County address Wednesday evening at Baldwin High School Auditorium, where he also told an audience of at least 250 people that the state of the county is good, that tourism numbers are up, that unemployment numbers are down and that the county has the best bond ratings in the state.

The mayor added Tuesday that he met face to face with new Lanai owner and billionaire Larry Ellison to discuss Ellison’s plans for the island. Those plans include a state-of-the-art desalinization plant for community water use and a laboratory to develop computerized drip-control systems.

On the water rate hike proposal, the mayor said the county must continually invest in its water system in order to improve and maintain the valuable resource.

“Please remember that our current water system was put into service more than 80 years ago,” he said. “These are repairs and upgrades that have been long overdue, and it will be another decade of work just to catch up.”

He asked for the help of council members to assist the county in playing catch up on the water system.

Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa said after the speech: “I agree with the mayor, unfortunately.”

“Unfortunately, we are going to have to pay,” she said.

County Council Water Resources Committee Chairman Mike Victorino had the same sentiment, noting that he doesn’t like to increase fees but that “it’s needed.”

“I hate to, but it’s inevitable,” he said.

For more on the mayor’s speech, see Thursday’s Maui News.