Trash bill filed, but prospects are uncertain

As promised, Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration submitted a proposed budget amendment Wednesday afternoon requesting four expansion positions for the Environmental Management Department that were previously denied by the Maui County Council to end the reductions in landfill and trash pickup services.

The submittal asks the council for an additional $239,257 to fund the four positions – a Molokai landfill operator, a Lanai landfill operator, a civil engineer and a Central Maui Landfill attendant.

“This is a chance for council to make things right for residents, who have had their trash left on the side of the road since these cutbacks went into effect,” Arakawa said Wednesday. “We told them we needed certain positions to keep the landfill open and not get fined by the DOH (Department of Health), and this amendment will make up the difference.”

But council members have said implementing the cutbacks was a decision made solely by the administration, and it is the administration’s responsibility now to restore the services.

“This is a problem manufactured by the administration. . . . The mayor has the ability to provide the services that residents deserve and expect without any council action,” council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White said Wednesday.

“A budget amendment is not needed,” he said.

White noted that the department received nearly $30 million for the current fiscal year, more than 99 percent of what it had requested. Council members approved two of the six expansion positions the administration had originally requested. Department officials have not budged, maintaining that all six positions are needed to “ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.”

“It is crazy to think that the administration cannot find a way to continue services uninterrupted, especially since they received a larger budget than last fiscal year,” White said.

The standoff between White and Arakawa does not appear to be cooling off anytime soon, and other council members said the community will continue to suffer.

Since Aug. 1, there have been no trash pickup services on county holidays, with no makeup pickup on the next day for many neighborhoods. In addition, landfills are closed on all county holidays, and normal operating hours have been shortened.

“I think both sides should bury the hatchet and do whatever it takes to get core services of the county back in full operation,” Council Member Don Couch told The Maui News. He had been the only council member in favor of approving all six expansion positions requested by the administration earlier this year.

The item now returns to the council for consideration. Couch said it was too soon to tell what would happen next.

“I don’t know what my colleagues are going to do, but I still think the positions are needed. I’ve always thought the positions are needed,” Couch said.

Council Member Elle Cochran said she agrees with White that a budget amendment is not needed to restore the county’s trash services.

“I don’t think the administration needs more money to put the services back. They can do that immediately with what they’ve got,” Cochran said in a phone interview. “We as a council have the fiduciary duty to be responsible for money being spent, our taxpayer dollars. There needs to be a solution here, and I feel it’s an administrative call. They made the call to cut services. They can make the call to put it back.”

On Tuesday, Cochran said during a committee meeting that she has requested an audit of the Environmental Management Department.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at