Councilors fail to defeat parking rules change

WAILUKU – Three Maui County Council members failed Friday to defeat a bill to change parking rules to reflect current use of parking lots near the Kalana O Maui building.

The bill affects two areas. One is the temporary parking lot on the site of the now-demolished Wailuku Post Office. The other is parking stalls on the Kaohu Street side of the Kalana Pakui Building.

Council Members Riki Hokama, Mike White and Mike Victorino voted against the measure, apparently because of a pending council investigation of the Wailuku Post Office’s demolition. That was done early this year, without a formal budget amendment to do so, although it was obvious that the building was being torn down.

During Friday’s meeting, Hokama acknowledged that he was not supporting the measure to remove parking restrictions for the parking areas, in part because of the pending council investigation. It involves alleged misuse of county funds for the project originally budgeted for the building’s “rehabilitation.”

The measure that passed first reading calls for abolishing old parking restrictions at the post office site. Those rules only allow parking for certain county employees and people with disabilities.

With the post office gone, a larger temporary lot has room for more county employees to park.

But, as the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee prepares to investigate the matter, Hokama said he would not support the move to eliminate the parking restrictions, and he asked council members to defer the matter.

Council Vice Chairman Bob Carroll said the parking matter had already been discussed in committee.

“This is appropriate action at this time,” he said, speaking in favor of passing the bill.

Council Member Elle Cochran, whose Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee recommended passage of the bill, said she respected Hokama’s comments and supports the investigation of the post office demolition.

But she added: “I feel confident this (bill) won’t hinder (the investigation) in any way.”

After the meeting, Cochran told The Maui News that basically the bill would allow the Public Works Department to post appropriate signs to reflect the current usage of the parking stalls.

Victorino acknowledged after the meeting that he voted against the bill because of various reasons, including the upcoming investigation.

After the meeting, White’s office said the council member voted “no” based on a recent opinion by the Department of the Corporation Counsel stating that county lawyers could not assure how a council vote relating to the Old Wailuku Post Office could be interpreted in a court of law.

Mayor Alan Arakawa has apologized and taken the blame for the “mistake” over the post office building’s demolition, saying that while the community and council members knew about the demolition, the administration should have gone back to the council for a budget amendment to clearly label the funds to pay for tearing down the structure.

The parking bill will return to the full council for second and final reading Aug. 20.

The second half of the parking bill deals with abolishing a section in the County Code that only allows for two-hour parking for county workers in stalls on the Kaohu Street side of the Kalana Pakui Building during working hours. A council committee report says the parking restriction is no longer needed because “this area has been reserved for county vehicles for several years.”

In other action, council members approved on first reading:

* A bill to prohibit parking on both sides of Onaona Street in Wailuku. The measure stems from residents’ concerns about their driveways being blocked when cars are parking directly across the narrow street. The street’s width is less than the standard 44 feet for such roadways.

* A bill to allow owners of real property the option to receive their real property tax assessment notices through electronic means, including email.

* A bill amending the current fiscal year budget by adding a $130,750 appropriation for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program grant. The award is part of a much larger grant that was made available to the University of Hawaii by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The funds will be used to establish reconstruction guidelines and protocols to help with a quick recovery after a major coastal storm.

* A bill to prohibit parking on both sides of Front Street from Honoapiilani Highway, north toward Shaw Street in Lahaina. The bill will codify the authority to install signs and allow for more signs, as needed. Parking is being restricted because of safety concerns, council records show.

The bills need to be approved on second and final reading before they can be forwarded to the mayor for final action.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at