Council OKs design funds for office building

WAILUKU – Design funds for a new office building on the site of the Old Wailuku Post Office received final approval Friday by the Maui County Council.

With the approval of the $1.5 million, county officials will be able to start the process of expanding the county campus in Wailuku.

“It’s about time,” Council Member Mike Victorino said, adding that he hoped the building will be up before his time in the council runs out due to term limits. He can run for only one more consecutive two-year term.

Council Member Don Couch thanked Budget Committee Chairman Mike White for moving the bills forward for the design funds, despite the ongoing investigation into the post office demolition.

The council measure did make clear that its decision to recommend the design funds does not mean it approved of the actions of Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration when it demolished the building without proper funding authority. The bill states that passage will not affect the council’s investigation.

In other matters, the council received several communications, including a bill and at least one letter requesting amendments to or a repeal of the new requirements in the circuit breaker tax credit. The program is designed to help prevent those with limited incomes from being property taxed out of their homes due to rising assessments.

The qualification rules for the program were changed by the council earlier this year to catch “cheaters.” The changes included that no one owning more than one property could qualify for the tax credit and that a homeowner’s gross building assessed value could not exceed $400,000.

Some residents, including members of the Committee for Equitable Taxation or COMET, say the changes went too far. The group that fought for the creation of the circuit breaker tax credit years ago has called for a repeal of the measure.

White’s office acknowledged Friday after the council meeting that the budget committee chairman is working on possible revisions to the tax credit. Those revisions could be placed on the Budget and Finance Committee’s Dec. 3 meeting for possible action before the tax credit’s application deadline at the end of the year.

Victorino also introduced a bill to repeal certain sections of the tax credit. His bill was referred to White’s Budget and Finance Committee.

Outside the meeting, Victorino said that there have been some “unintended” consequences from changes made to the bill. A family’s property taxes could go from $3,000 to $10,000 due to the new changes, he said as an example.

He anticipated that his bill would be heard in January but was aware of White’s possible revisions.

At the beginning of the council meeting, Victorino’s son, Shane, was honored with a ceremonial resolution to honor him for being an integral part of the Boston Red Sox’s run to the World Series championship.

Shane Victorino could not make the meeting, but father Mike and mother Joycelyn accepted the honor for their son.

“We are very humbled and honored to receive this,” Mrs. Victorino said.

Mrs. Victorino thanked the community for helping raise Shane. The council member also thanked the community.

Shane Victorino wasn’t always the fastest or the biggest but persevered over the years, he said. His son dedicates his life to community work, the council member said, and lives by the mantra that was taught to him: “You give more than you take.”

A ceremonial resolution also was presented to Waiola Church in Lahaina on its 190th anniversary.

Ordinances passed on second and final reading:

* A bill to clarify and strengthen animal control requirements, including expanding the responsibilities of people to treat animals humanely and to maintain discretion for animal control officers to determine whether a dog is “dangerous.”

* A bill granting Amy Wisthoff-Martin and Dan Martin a conditional permit to host and conduct weddings at an approved bed-and-breakfast in the county’s agricultural district at 138 Awaiku St. in Lahaina.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at