Council-approved leases ensure good use of public assets

The Maui County Council has long sought to protect public facilities for uses most needed or sought by the community.

The council occasionally considers doing this via long-term leases of county property to trusted nonprofit organizations at a nominal fee.

For example, a pending resolution before the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, and Recreation Committee would authorize a 50-year lease to Na Mamo O Mu’olea for the management of 67 acres in Hana.

The organization desires to restore and maintain the property’s cultural, historic and marine resources.

A long-term lease is generally needed before a nonprofit can secure funding for capital improvements.

Authorization of any lease of county property is subject to judicious use conditions imposed by the council to guarantee that public interest is served. Research reports are generated by council staff and advice obtained from relevant executive-branch agencies prior to resolution adoption.

This arrangement encourages efficient public-private partnerships where county assets are utilized with maximum public benefit. While nonprofits can focus on fulfilling their charitable missions, the government can function in a supporting role.

The council’s role is sometimes obscured since nonprofit boards and their appointed staff take the lead in managing some facilities. For instance, many Maui County residents likely attend shows and other events at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku without even knowing it’s a county facility.

On Feb. 10, 2010, by Resolution 10-08 the council granted a 30-year lease to Maui OnStage to manage the Historic Iao Theater. The theater has since gone on to be an integral part of Wailuku First Friday town party.

The theater also continues to host events for the community, including plays, concerts, fundraisers, religious services and political debates, as it’s done since 1928.

The council granted a 55-year lease of 3 acres to Aha Kukui O Molokai, by Resolution 09-55 on June 23, 2009. The organization uses the property for canoe storage and related purposes on the Friendly Isle.

Canoeing-related activities foster recreational, social and cultural benefits in the community.

The Old Lahaina Courthouse, built in 1859, has long been operated as a historic site by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, under council-approved lease agreements. The courthouse is a tangible link to several eras of Hawaiian history.

Measured in years, the council’s most significant commitment of land is for the 5-acre J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku. Opened in 1973 and with a county lease secured since 1969, the Cameron Center now operates under a 55-year lease, pursuant to Resolution 09-56, adopted on June 23, 2009.

The Cameron Center is home to 15 social service agencies, rents meeting space to other groups and serves up to 40,000 residents each year.

I’m proud the council has ensured these county-owned properties will continue to serve worthy causes for years to come. My colleagues and I will continue to look for similar opportunities to make appropriate use of public assets.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani/Kula/Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.