Public safety equipment accepted, funds advanced

The Maui County Council accepted a donation Wednesday of a personal watercraft and sled and approved some funding for the Department of Fire and Public Safety’s budget shortfall this year.

Council members approved on first reading a bill to amend a portion of the 2013 fiscal budget to assist the Fire Department in its $380,000 shortfall for its fire/rescue operations program. According to information accompanying the bill from Budget Director Sandy Baz, the shortfall stems from overtime costs.

The funding for such premium pay within the department has been continuously cut by the county because of budget constraints, Baz wrote.

Funding to make up for the shortfall will come from $280,000 in savings in the department’s rescue operations program for helicopter services as well as $100,000 from the Department of Finance’s budgeted countywide costs, insurance programs and self-insurance, according to information provided to the council.

The bill advances to a second vote before the full council. If it gains approval then, it will be forwarded to Mayor Alan Arakawa for final action.

The council approved a resolution for the Fire Department to make up a $70,000 shortage in its administration/maintenance program and fire prevention program for this current fiscal year.

The needed funds will come from savings in Fire Department’s training program. No further council action needs to be taken on the item.

Information provided to council members said the shortfall came from unanticipated costs for the salary increases for the fire chief and deputy fire chief and other related costs. The fire prevention program also is short of funding because of higher-than-projected budgeted costs relating to premium pay.

Council Member Riki Hokama took issue with what he called last-minute requests to amend the budget shortly before the current fiscal year ends June 30. “It’s very irritating for me,” he said.

Hokama said that over the past three years the Fire Department has come to the council at the last minute asking for more funding, but he noted that at least for the first year it was for unintended issues.

Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White said he didn’t have a problem with the department coming back for more money, but the “issue is timeliness.” He asked that the matter be brought up couple a months earlier in the future.

Also on Wednesday, council members unanimously voted to accept a 2013 Yamaha FX High Output Waverunner and a Waterman iRescue Sled from the Will Smith Foundation.

The Department of Parks and Recreation will receive the donated equipment.

The equipment was expeditiously accepted for the watercraft and sled to be used at the Will Smith Water Safety Day event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Hanakaoo Beach Park in Lahaina. The event is intended to increase ocean safety awareness for young people and families.

Another personal watercraft was donated to the county by the foundation more than three years ago.

The foundation is dedicated to researching, assessing, funding and monitoring exceptional children’s charities, according to its website. It is named in honor of 8-year-old Smith, who died June 3, 2007, from internal injuries sustained in a head-on car crash near Ukumehame Wayside Park.