Ige’s budget includes airport, forest land money

Funds for Kahului Airport’s new tram, Maui County public hospitals, forest land and a lifeguard contract were the Maui County highlights in Gov. David Ige’s supplemental budget proposal unveiled Monday.

Ige proposed $5 million to operate the solar electric-powered tram that will be built on a rail system and carry passengers to and from the $340 million consolidated rental car facility under construction near the airport terminal.

“It takes our 75 bus (trips) an hour off the road,” Maui District Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said Monday.

A total of $39 million in special funds was allocated for the Kahului Airport and the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport rental car facilities, according to the governor’s news release. Moniz did not know how much of the money is for Kahului Airport but plans to meet with state Department of Transportation officials Wednesday on Oahu to “get more details on the breakdown” and other projects for 2018.

An additional $17.6 million and $2,000 in special funds are proposed for Kahului Harbor improvements. Transportation Department officials did not immediately respond for comment Monday on details for the use of the funds.

The state has long planned to relocate the harbor’s Maui District Office from the waterfront to the old Kahului Railroad Building across the street from the Maui Mall. The state had released about $11 million in 2013 to demolish the old waterfront district office building adjacent to Pier 3 and renovate the interior of the historic railroad building.

About $500,000 is earmarked for Maui and Kauai county lifeguards for protection of state beaches. Most of the money is believed to be going to Maui and Makena Beach Park, said Colin Yamamoto, battalion chief for Maui County Ocean Safety.

Coverage of the park costs $1.2 million annually for 10.5 lifeguard positions, Yamamoto said Monday. The state used to pay about half of the cost and the county would “eat the rest.”

However, the state recently agreed to pay for lifeguards’ fringe benefits totaling about $450,000 a year.

The benefits include workers’ compensation and medical and sick leave.

“Out of the whole state, Maui got the sweetest deal,” Yamamoto said.

However, if the Legislature does not approve the funds, “we just lost Makena,” he said. “We’re going to be in a very precarious situation because there’s not enough funding.”

About $3 million is allotted for acquiring 3,000 acres in Kamehamenui that extends from the summit of Haleakala to Kekaulike Highway, said Scott Fretz, Maui branch manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, on Monday. Upper elevations of the land support endangered species, such as the Hawaiian petrel and rare plant species.

The division plans to use mid-elevation areas for restoration of native forest that would restore watershed function and yield and provide habitat for indigenous species and forest products, Fretz said in an email.

“The tract of land is adjacent to the Kula Forest Reserve, one of the island’s most popular recreation areas, and would be a natural extension for those public benefits by extending hiking trails into the area,” he said. “The parcel is on the market and is potentially threatened (by development) or other uses that may preclude public trust benefits.”

Ige also proposed $2 million to buy two parcels near Wailua Falls that extend from the forest reserve to the ocean in the Hana Forest Reserve, according to DLNR officials.

The parcels would provide public access to the forest reserve and shoreline, which is currently not accessible, as well as connect the reserve to the ocean to provide ridge-to-reef management of the forests and streams, Fretz said.

Management benefits include hunting, hiking and shoreline access and protection of marine and coral reef ecosystems resulting from improved stream water quality flowing to the ocean, Fretz said. He said a set of adjacent unencumbered land parcels also could be incorporated into the forest reserve, providing added value as well as a second stream that flows to the ocean.

Other items proposed by Ige in his supplemental budget include $28.8 million to Kaiser Permanente’s Maui Health System as an operating subsidy as well as $6 million for facilities, repair, renovations and upgrades. The Kaiser subsidiary manages Maui County’s three public hospitals — Maui Memorial Medical Center and Kula and Lanai Community hospitals.

Another $8 million is proposed for new medium security housing at Maui Community Correctional Center in Wailuku. State Department of Public Safety officials could not be reached for comment Monday to explain what the funds will be used for.

Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran was not aware of any expansion work for Maui’s jail due to a lack of space. He said the money could be planned for renovations.

The governor’s supplemental capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2019, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2019, totals $1.5 billion, an increase of 215 percent over fiscal year 2019 CIP appropriations already in the two-year budget approved last legislative session.

Amendments to the biennial operating budget total $85.5 million.

The state Legislature, which will take up the governor’s budget, opens Jan. 17 and adjourns May 3.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.