Noncompliance, safety issues lead to cut in services
County landfills will close a little earlier daily and shut down on all holidays, and trash pickups on holidays will be nixed with no makeup of the lost service beginning Friday, according to the county Department of Environmental Management.
Michael Ratte, acting Solid Waste Division chief, said Tuesday that plans for the changes are in place with signs posted and fliers distributed at all landfills, information put in the last refuse billing statements and the county website updated with new schedules and hours. Landfills will remain closed on Sundays, and there’s no curbside collection on Sunday.
The changes are:
* No refuse collection on county holidays; customers will have their refuse collected on their next regularly scheduled pickup.
* Closing the Central Maui Landfill an hour early at 2 p.m. (current hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.), Monday to Saturday. The landfill also will be closed on county holidays; it is currently open on an abbreviated schedule on all holidays.
* Closing the Hana, Molokai and Lanai landfills an hour and a half early at 1 p.m. (current hours are 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), Tuesday to Saturday. They will be closed on county holidays; currently, the landfills are open on five county holidays on an abbreviated schedule – Kuhio and Kamehameha days, the general election, Veterans Day and New Year’s Eve.
In a Viewpoint published in The Maui News on July 20, Ratte and Kyle Ginoza, director of the Environmental Management Department, explained that the department currently lacks the staff to address compliance, safety, engineering and operations issues that have cost the county $4.5 million in fines and violations since 2006.
Four positions sought to resolve the compliance issues and to reduce the fines were denied by the County Council, they said. Council members said that the department should have the ability to continue operations as in the past, but with more than $560,000 annually in noncompliance costs the status quo should not be the goal, Ginoza and Ratte said.
“(This) simply does not meet our goals from an environmental or regulatory perspective,” they said.
In addition, the council placed a priority on recycling by restricting funding solely for those services; the money could not be used for higher priority compliance and safety issues, they said.
“Without the compliance-related positions, . . . the division has no choice but to reduce landfill hours and refuse collections in attempt to address compliance,” they wrote.
Ratte and Ginoza also refuted claims that landfill operations received $337,000 more for operations; they said that figure included funds for union-negotiated wage and benefit increases and for residential refuse trucks. They said landfill operations actually received $400,000 less in the current fiscal year budget.
Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White told The Maui News on Tuesday that the department received everything in the mayor’s budget with the exception of three expansion positions. He noted that those three positions represent a small proportion of the solid waste management budget – $90,000 of the total $30 million budget.
“We gave them practically all they asked for,” he said. “I see no reasons for it. We didn’t cut their budget. We simply gave them the budget the mayor requested except for the three expansion positions. . . .
“We’re quite puzzled by their actions. We have no idea why they are cutting services.”
On the fines for violations, White lauded the department for doing “a good job” under Arakawa. He said that there have been only $140,000 in fines since 2011.
“I don’t see the ongoing threat of violations because they seem to be doing quite well,” White said.
The council member noted carryover savings by the department and that the department could have tapped funds set aside by the county for wage and benefit increases. Most departments made requests for those funds, with the Police Department drawing $1.6 million, White recalled; the Solid Waste Division made no such request, he said.
Communication with the administration has been difficult since Arakawa last month issued a memorandum that directed all county civil service employees and administration directors and staff to halt direct written and verbal communication with council members and their staffs. The directives channel communications through the mayor’s office and the managing director’s office.
White said he learned about the landfill hour and refuse collection changes from someone who picked up a flier at the landfill.
“We really need to get better communication, with that department in particular,” White said, referring to the Environmental Management Department. “That is a really silly way to run the government and certainly doesn’t help the working of the machine of the county.”
The council will be looking into the changes in the coming weeks, he said, but noted that the council can only gather information and set policy but not delve into department operations.
Still, he is not so sure these changes will take effect.
Last year, when the mayor proposed his budget, he called for shutting down community recycling centers, White said. There was a community uproar, and the administration backed off.
“Have to see if they are put in place,” White said of the landfill and refuse collection changes. “My guess is they won’t be.”
If the changes do go into effect, the lack of refuse collection will affect him personally. White said that he has one-time-a-week service – on Mondays, the day on which many holidays fall.
“We are all impacted by this,” White said. “We’ll just have to see if the administration follows through on this.”
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.