Ask The Mayor
Will the road improvements you mentioned in your State of the County address, specifically Hansen and Kokomo, have bike lanes? Cycling on Maui has become a main reason for many visitors to come to Maui. As a resident cyclist for 24 years, I hope bike lanes will be added to these two roads, especially Hansen Road, as it is the gateway to Upcountry and the north shore from South and West Maui.
A: In short: “Yes” on Hansen and “Not Yet” on Kokomo. Our Department of Public Works looks for opportunities to make roads safer, provide for more multimodal transportation options and create “Complete Streets” when it embarks on new projects, such as Hansen Road and Kokomo Road. Public Works researched existing state and county plans for pedestrian and bicycle paths, and found that Bike Plan Hawaii calls for Proposed Sign Shared Roadway for the entire length of Kokomo Road, and Hansen Road from Pulehu Road to Hana Highway. We plan to include bike routes on both sides of Hansen Road for the entire length of our project (Spanish Road to the vicinity of Hana Highway) by making improvements to accommodate bike routes within the right of way. These improvements can be incorporated into the plans for reconstruction without having to change the scope of work too much. Engineering staff also researched the feasibility of four-foot shoulders on Kokomo Road for bike routes on one or both sides, but either scenario would drastically change the scope of work, increase construction costs and delay the start of work. The issues that complicate matters include significant embankments requiring grading work; long stretches of retaining walls; and fire hydrants, standpipes and power poles that would need to be relocated. This does not mean that we cannot install bike routes in the future. We do have the option of creating a separate bike route project on Kokomo Road that could also qualify for federal funds.
Q: As the mayor of our county, I am sure that you are concerned about our keiki. Have you reviewed the “Pono Choices” curriculum? What are your thoughts on it? Is there a pathway for parent involvement, information or the right to not participate? I am a concerned grandmother of 10 grandchildren. Thank you. I know the Department of Education is a state department, but I thought that, hopefully, your voice and concern would have much more impact than mine.
A: I have not reviewed the curriculum itself, but according to the “Pono Choices” website, the curriculum is a DOE-approved, abstinence-based middle school sexual health education program. Pono Choices was developed by the University of Hawaii to address the serious public health issues of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, both of which are higher in Hawaii than in other states. The curriculum is described as an inclusive, medically correct teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention program based on Native Hawaiian values. According to Pono Choices staff, parents do have the right to opt out of the program for their middle school children. This opt-out clause is DOE policy, which allows parents to decline their child’s participation in a sexual health curriculum at a public school. While the curriculum is not currently available for review online, parents are invited to a “Parent Night” presentation at schools participating in the curriculum, where they can receive detailed information on each of the 10 modules presented in the classroom. Additionally, take-home ohana activities are designed to engage students’ parents or guardians in the lessons. For more information, visit www.cds.hawaii.edu/ponochoices.
Q: I have owned a small business for many years, but need to learn how to use social media to attract new customers. Does the county offer any free workshops or classes I can take?
Yes. The Maui County Business Resource Center, which is part of my Office of Economic Development, offers free and low-cost classes and workshops that are open to the public. Recent topics include business branding with online marketing, using Pinterest to win loyal customers, and building your own Facebook business page. To see each month’s calendar of classes, visit www.mauicounty.gov/MCBRC. You can also visit the center at Maui Mall across from IHOP (873-8247), or the Kuha’o Business Center on Molokai, located at 2 Kamoi St., Suite 600 in Kaunakakai (553-8100). Both centers are open Mondays to Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ask The Mayor
Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.
Q: Just thought I’d drop you a line from Starbucks on Dairy Road, where I’m waiting for Tire Warehouse to replace the tire that was literally ripped apart on Hansen Road this afternoon. It stranded me in a cane field pullout and took hours before I could get my car towed for repair, where all of this will cost me around $300 to fix with a new tire, etc. I cannot believe Hansen Road isn’t on the list to fix this year. What gives?
A: Sorry to hear about what happened. One of my staff members had a flat tire on Christmas Eve and had to change it in the rain so we are very sympathetic. The good news, however, is that Hansen Road is on the list of projects this year. I included that announcement in my recent State of the County address. Better yet, Hansen Road qualifies for federal aid, which means the federal government will pay for 80 percent of the project so we can rip apart the road and rebuild it from scratch. My hope is that the extra steps taken to completely rebuild the road will take it from one of Maui’s worst to one of the best. It was a long process to apply for federal funding, which took several years. Now that funds have been approved, we expect to start reconstruction work by fall or winter of this year.
Q: It is my understanding that the police station was completed well under budget, however no solar power was incorporated in the building. Is there a good reason why this renewable energy option was not put into this facility?
A: It was not for a lack of trying, and we haven’t given up yet. We installed the conduit for a ground-mounted photovoltaic system when the building was completed. However, it was rejected by Maui Electric Co. based on circuit loading. We reapplied to MECO under the latest rules seeking a 400-kilowatt system and expect a response n the next 45 days.
Q: The condition of Kokomo Road in Haiku is terrible. There are so many potholes and bumps that it makes your teeth rattle. When is this road going to be properly resurfaced?
A: You know, between this question and the one about Hansen Road I’m beginning to think no one listened to this year’s State of the County address. I’m kidding, of course, but in the address we did take the time to mention Kokomo and Hansen roads specifically as two roads that were going to have major facelifts sometime this year. That’s because both roads qualified for federal funding, which means we can totally rehabilitate the roads and make them better than new. If you want to see a good example of a rehabilitated road, please drive to Haliimaile Road from Baldwin Avenue and notice the difference from what it looked and felt like before. Federal funds are a great tool and we must use them whenever we qualify for them.
Ask The Mayor
Q: What can be done to enforce the “No Camping” ordinance at our county parks – specifically at the lower end of Kanaha Beach Park? There is a growing unsightly encampment just off Amala Place and Kaa Street that has been there for a year! There is garbage everywhere, a smoky open fire daily, stolen shopping carts filled with debris, old furniture, and a “No Camping” sign 50 feet away! Maui County has park rangers who patrol the area daily, but they seem to ignore this growing eyesore. Allowing these camps to proliferate creates a very negative impression on our visitors, along with obvious health issues and fire risk. There are community services available to help the homeless – unlawful squatter camps in our parks should not be tolerated. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
A: You’ve touched on a very complex matter, one that the county and about 40 Maui community and state agencies have been diligently working on for several months. Our park rangers conduct regular “sting” operations to help clear out homeless individuals and families from county parks, but it’s not as simple as it might seem. Since another major homeless encampment was cleared out late last year in Wailuku, several dozen people of all ages chose not to relocate to various shelters and instead moved to new locations near county beach parks. They are joined by numerous individuals and families who cannot yet return to local homeless shelters due to time limitations at the shelters, others who choose not to take advantage of shelters due to the facilities’ strict rules on alcohol and drug use, and some who are dealing with mental illness, substance abuse issues and a host of other challenges that make it difficult for them to join mainstream society. Our park rangers have issued numerous citations and cleared out encampments at Kanaha, Baldwin, Waiehu and Waihee, but the illegal campers often return shortly after the officers leave the area. Please know that we are aware of this serious issue and are working together with the agencies that can best help us provide care and services for those affected. Maui Police Department, which assists our rangers with citations and sting operations, says that the percentage of homeless individuals who are criminal offenders is actually very low. While we aggressively pursue arrest and prosecution for such individuals, we will continue to find workable solutions for the kupuna, keiki, parents and working folks who cannot get back on their feet financially. These members of our community deserve to be treated with respect and compassion even as we work to keep our parks safe, attractive and accessible for all park users.
Q: Why was the Kahului Wastewater Treatment Facility built at ground zero in a tsunami zone?
A: In the 1970s when the plant was built, the designers likely preferred the site because it was just on the outskirts of the new town center of Kahului. Had they built the plant closer to the urban core, we would be faced with the possibility of frequent odor complaints from wind drift. Placement of our wastewater facilities was and still is a tough decision, because no one wants a treatment plant near them, yet plants near the ocean are in a tsunami or flood zone. If we build a plant higher uphill, we incur increased pumping costs from pumping untreated wastewater uphill, which is the case in Kihei. Our Kihei No. 6 pump station, located at Kalama Park, basically collects all the wastewater from north and south Kihei and pumps it uphill to the wastewater treatment plant above the highway. This costs the county much more than if the plant were located downhill or at the same elevation. Economically speaking, our treatment plants are typically located near the shoreline because the lower elevations offer the lowest operational costs.
Q: I’m wondering if there are any plans to build a sidewalk from the Pukalani Superette area to King Kekaulike High School? It’s dangerous for kids and others to walk in the drainage ditch or in the overgrown grass as they do now.
A: I’m pleased to report that yes, a project to build a sidewalk in the area you mention is underway. Public Works Director David Goode tells me that the project has gone out to bid, so we should see construction start later this year. Thank you for inquiring. The safety of our children and teens as they are walking to and from school is of utmost importance.
Ask The Mayor
Q: I don’t understand why it costs an additional amount – in my case, an additional $8.64 – to register my automobile online. I would think that registering online would help cut the county’s expenses by cutting the amount of paperwork employees need to sift through by having to do more manual filing. Shouldn’t this be a free service?
A: The online payment service is provided as an option for customers to use to pay their vehicle registration, as a complement to traditional motor vehicle transaction methods, such as mailing in their renewals or paying in person at the Maui Mall Service Center or at satellite offices. Approximately 900 customers opt to take advantage of the online service each month. The processing fee that is charged when vehicle owners renew their vehicle registration online is paid to the vendor that operates our motor vehicle online renewal system. Customers are advised of the additional charge upfront, and an itemized receipt is made available for printing at the end of the transaction. While the vendor’s processing fee is slightly higher for credit cards than for e-checks, approximately 83 percent of the month’s 900 online-paying customers elect to use the credit card option, and 17 percent choose to pay by e-check.
Q: Last Saturday evening, the Kihei Villager bus did not operate, leaving many stranded, including some active-duty members of the military who were here on vacation. There was no explanation, information, warning or any other notice given. The bus was just canceled, no reason given. What happened?
A: Initial reports indicate that the missed route was due to a mechanical problem. However, our county Department of Transportation is continuing to look into the incident. Roberts Hawaii, which operates the Maui Bus under a contract with the county, coordinates all county routes and takes calls from the public. Riders who suspect a delayed bus should call Roberts at 871-4838 for updated information. We recently dedicated 10 new county buses, so equipment failure should be less of a problem.
Q: I was walking along the beach near Maalaea and found what I believe to be some sort of feces on the shore. I am concerned that this could be human feces from one of the boats out in the water but am uncertain. Is there a way to check?
A: Without a sample of the specimen you are talking about, it is difficult to know for sure. However, looking at the picture you provided, our Department of Environmental Management highly doubts that this was something that came from a boat or anything else that has a waste collection system. Usually waste that goes through a collection system does not make it through to the other side in solid form. There may be pieces of waste in the liquid afterward, but certainly none of that size. What you saw was probably turtle waste or, less likely, human waste that was directly deposited on the shore. Having said that, please note that Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13-221-30 states that “no person shall urinate or defecate other than at the . . . toilet facility provided.” Maui County also has a similar law for our parks and recreation facilities that prohibits the same actions.