Ask The Mayor
Q: I work in Lahaina and have talked with many visitors who have a lot of negative things to say about their rental car experiences here. During the holidays, prices for rental cars were astronomical. I heard them talking about $1,000 per week. Are the rental car companies subject to any restrictions on price gouging? Also, I had a client recently who had lost their rental car keys. They were told by the rental car company that they’d have to bring them a new car as they didn’t have spare keys. They would also have to pay for a tow truck to bring the first car back to the baseyard. We have all been through tough economic times recently, and the last thing we should want is visitors going home with bad feelings of being ripped off. Can you do something to keep things fair?
A: The county does not have a department that handles consumer issues. However, the state Office of Consumer Protection handles complaints about rental car companies and other businesses. To report unfair or deceptive business practices, visit the OCP website at www.hawaii.gov/dcca/ocp. If you do not have Internet access, call the Maui office at 243-4648. The Web page contains links to “File a Consumer Complaint,” as well as information on identity theft, landlord-tenant issues and mortgage foreclosures. OCP has jurisdiction over a wide range of businesses and commercial activities, including motor vehicle rentals, door-to-door sales, solar energy devices, offers of gifts and prizes, refunds and exchanges, collection practices, towing, and fine prints.
Q: I’ve noticed that some roads in Kahului are in disrepair, especially Hina, Papa and Wakea avenues. I moved to Kahului in 1980 and never to this day have these roads been completely renewed as Lono Avenue was last year. Kahului roads are constantly being patched, and the condition can be very dangerous. Case in point: Drivers are always avoiding the rough rides by moving to the right shoulder and through the bike lane. Is Kahului a lower priority than Kihei and Lahaina?
A: We now have federal funding for Kamehameha, Hina, Papa and Wakea avenues to do complete reconstruction of the roadways and any sidewalks needing repair as well. In fact, we have one project for Kamehameha and Hina that we moved up one year in the queue for federal funding so that we can begin work this year. All districts get road work every year, and some get more than others in specific years as federal funds for those individual projects become available.
Q: Our issues have to do with two stoplights and the extreme and seemingly unnecessary delays in the lights changing during various parts of the day. The first is the light on Central Avenue and Main Street (at the Minit Stop). During daytime hours, especially from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there are severe backups, sometimes traffic backs up all the way to Mill Street. The second light is at the left turn from Kaahumanu Avenue onto Lunalilo Street at Central Maui Storage. During the evening hours and weekends, the light changes quickly. However, during the day one can sit waiting for several minutes when there is little or no traffic heading up into Wailuku. Again, we are not sure if these are county lights or state, but are hopeful you can either help or provide more information.
A: State Department of Transportation Highways controls the two intersections mentioned. The phone number is listed in the “Government” pages in the front of the phone book under State Offices, Dept. of Transportation- Highways Division, Maui District Office. In general, signal timing is set to change throughout the day. The roadway getting the majority of traffic during peak hours (morning rush, after school and pau hana times) will have long green through-times and shorter green times for the cross street. During some nonpeak times, and especially during late evening hours, the signals will easily accommodate traffic from the smaller streets and quickly stop traffic on the major roadway.
Ask The Mayor
Q: My question concerns the county’s graffiti control and removal program, particularly in Paia. Having lived in Los Angeles for 30 years before moving to Maui 11 years ago, I have seen the adverse impact of graffiti on communities and property values. My immediate concern is the increase in graffiti I have observed in Paia; there has recently been an increase in the size and scope of graffiti along Baldwin Avenue and Hana Highway.
A: Any graffiti vandalizing county property will be cleaned up by county staff. Private property owners are responsible for taking care of their own facilities. After being forwarded your inquiry, MPD officers drove through Paia, up along Baldwin Avenue and out to Haiku to assess the level of graffiti on both public and private property. They observed limited graffiti in alleyways in Paia town, a more conspicuous site at the former sugar mill, and some graffiti on one side of the second concrete revetment along Hana Highway. The officers also checked reports from 2012 and found there were a total of three cases reported in the Upcountry district, which includes the north shore area. There were seven cases of graffiti reported in Kahului in 2012, and three cases in Wailuku. No arrests were made. While it is often difficult to catch perpetrators at work, a unique MPD program targeting juvenile first-time offenders helps clean up the graffiti. Project P.O.I. (“Positive Outreach Interventions”) is a program co-funded by county and federal funds and offers young, first-time offenders the opportunity to voluntarily write a letter of apology and an essay about their involvement in the offense, attend a “second-chance” class with their parents, and participate in four Saturdays of supervised community service including graffiti cleanup, taro patch restoration in Iao Valley, rock-wall rebuilding at the ancient Hawaiian fishpond in Kihei, and yardwork for senior citizens. Their final class includes observing real-world court proceedings of adult offenders, followed by a graduation ceremony. After one MPD officer created an anti-graffiti project many years ago, the idea was folded into Project P.O.I, which saw its first class of seven graduates in 2000. There have been 735 graduates to date with 17 more graduating Wednesday.
Q: The county sewer pumping station No. 6, located on South Kihei Road next to the Kihei Fire Station, has a distinctly unpleasant odor emitting from it and has for years. What’s up with that?
A: This problem is being addressed as we speak. After an odor-control study was completed, funding was allocated for the recommended modifications to the pump station. A contract of $784,625 was awarded in late 2012 for the installation of a Granulated Activated Carbon air filtration unit, the rehabilitation of the wet well, and other architectural and mechanical improvements to the station. Construction is expected to begin April 1, with targeted completion in August.
Q: I was wondering if the trash pickup personnel could arrive and pick up a little later than they do now? Here in Kihei, they show up in my neighborhood anywhere from 5:45 6:30 a.m. and it’s a heck of a wake-up call.
A: The Department of Environmental Management, Solid Waste Division, handles residential refuse collection, which includes about 44,880 pickups every week in South Maui, Central Maui, West Maui, and all of Upcountry including Kula, Pukalani, Makawao, Paia, Haiku and beyond. Unfortunately, the time your trash gets picked up cannot be changed without impacting the efficiency of refuse collection along your route, as this would involve rerouting the entire route. The change would also impact the length of time it takes to pick up your route and cause increased fuel consumption. Each route is designed so that the trucks can collect trash, travel to the landfill to dump the trash, return to the route, continue collection and finally return to the landfill to dump the final load within their 10-hour workday. Each route is designed to handle a maximum of 1,000 pickups in a day.
Ask The Mayor
Q: Is the county going to do anything about the feral chicken problem?
A: Yes. The fiscal year 2014 budget proposal I will be submitting to the County Council in a few weeks will include money to address the issue of feral chickens in our community. Funds will be designated for the Maui Humane Society, which will be tasked with creating and administering a program to deal with the animal control issue that has been plaguing the island for many years. Ironically, a recent power outage near Kahului Airport was caused by none other than a wild chicken that came into contact with a transformer near the rental car facility. The power outage caused brief flight delays, manual security screenings and stair boardings on at least four planes while motorized jetways were inoperable. The loss of electricity, which lasted about an hour, also affected rental car companies, Kmart, the Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport hotel and other businesses in the area.
Q: I live in Iao Parkside in Wailuku, about 50 feet from the outfield fence of the baseball field. I often wake up to the sound of leaf blowers, riding mowers and power tools as early as 7 a.m. A state law was passed prohibiting the use of leaf blowers before 9 a.m. Why are county and state workers exempt from this?
A: The restriction on leaf blowers enacted by the state Legislature, HRS 342F-30.8, specifies that: “Government entities and agents acting on behalf of government entities shall not be subject to this section.” While I cannot speak to the reason the exemption was included in the legislation, I can assure you that I’ve asked our parks employees to be considerate of neighboring properties while complying with permit requirements that allow the public to enjoy county facilities. Our parks employees face tight time constraints when completing work on the fields before permitted users begin activities, which often start at 2:30 p.m. These permitted uses include soccer games, baseball games and other youth and community events. Parks staff work hard to mow the lawn, blow off the sidewalk, remove leaves from facilities, weed whack edges and water the fields – all before permitted activities begin. Parks maintenance staff begin work at 6 a.m. in order to complete all of these tasks in time. However, they wait until about 7 a.m. to begin the work that makes more noise. It is indeed a delicate balance, taking noise into consideration while providing county services and maintaining the county facilities the public needs and wants.
Q: When the State ID cards were issued at the Governor’s Liaison Office in Wailuku, handicapped and elderly people were allowed to go to the front of the line. Now that the ID cards are being issued at the County Service Center at the Maui Mall, is that still the policy?
A: As of Jan. 2, the state Department of Transportation and all county driver license offices began implementing Act 310, Session laws of Hawaii 2012, which affects the issuance of Hawaii State Identification Cards. Applicants are required to show proof of legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, legal presence and proof of principal residence address. While some applying for renewal of their State ID may be able to process their renewal through the mail, others may need to join first-time applicants in bringing their legal documents to a county driver’s license office for processing. In addition to State ID cards, the County Service Center at the Maui Mall administers a large number of county services such as motor vehicle registration, driver’s licenses and permits, commercial driver’s licenses, dog licenses, bicycle and moped registration, acceptance of refuse and water payments, and issuance of the initial disabled parking placards. Given the quantity and variety of services provided, we are unable to offer “front-of-line priority” at this time. However, the county has expanded the availability of State Identification services so that applications are now accepted at all seven of the county Department of Motor Vehicles and Licensing offices throughout the county, including Molokai and Lanai. For more information, visit www.mauicounty.gov/dmvl and click on the left tab, “State of Hawaii Identification Cards.”
Ask The Mayor
Q: Who makes the decision on which roads will get repaved? I noticed that Makani Road in Makawao was repaved last year. However, in my estimation the whole length of Makani Road at its worst was in better shape than 500 feet of any of these roads in Haiku – Kaupakalua, West Kuiaha and Kokomo. These roads are full of holes and are dangerous for drivers. County crews will fill the holes, but by the end of the day the filling is gone again. These roads need to be repaved properly soon.
A: The county Department of Public Works, Engineering Division, utilizes specialized software to help assess and prioritize the county-maintained roads that need repaving. Our annual funding for road resurfacing is further spread out among all the districts. Additionally, about 70 miles of our roadways are eligible for federal funding, and those roads also are prioritized to keep the $6 million to $10 million a year in federal funding coming back to Maui County. Makani Road was federally eligible, but Kaupakalua, West Kuiaha and Kokomo roads are not. The good news is portions of Kaupakalua Road are getting repaved this year, West Kuiaha Road next year and Kokomo Road is right behind them.
Q: Why is there a “ceiling” on the number of homes within each community/subdivision that can go solar? People may have the money to install photovoltaic, but my understanding is if they live in a subdivision that is already maxed out, they can’t go forward with the installation.
A: The county’s role with regard to residential solar systems is to issue electrical permits and to inspect the work for code compliance. The county does not have a “ceiling” on the number of electrical permits it will issue for solar systems. If you want to add solar PV to your home, you are faced with the question of how to provide backup power. If you want to have Maui Electric Co. as your backup power system, your system will be considered “interconnected” to MECO’s system and Public Utility Commission Rule 14H will apply. Rule 14H requires the utility to screen for issues that could affect reliability. Currently, residences on Maui installing average-sized systems of up to 10 kilowatts can draw up to 75 percent of the daytime load from PV before a formal interconnection study is required to add more PV. This is a significant step forward, compared to MECO’s circuit penetration levels a few years ago.
Q: I heard the flood bulletins that went out last week when we had all that rain. What’s the difference between a “watch,” a “warning” and an “advisory”?
A: The Maui County Civil Defense Agency works closely with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Honolulu and other agencies, such as the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, to issue weather and emergency-related bulletins. In general, a “watch” is issued to allow time to prepare for weather threats that are anticipated but have not arrived yet. “Warnings” are issued when a threat is occurring or imminent, and immediate action is needed to protect life and property. “Advisories” are issued when weather conditions may impact our lives in ways that are not a direct threat to life and property, but ignoring them may lead to hazardous conditions. For flood-related bulletins, the National Weather Service issues three types of area-specific notices: “flash flood watch,” which means heavy rain leading to flash flooding is possible; “flash flood warning,” which means flooding is occurring or will develop quickly, take shelter and/or move to high ground; and “flood advisory,” nuisance flooding is occurring or imminent.
To learn more, visit www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.