Ask The Mayor

Q: The state is planning to develop a sports complex on 65 acres behind homes in Maui Lani. They received a conditional special use permit from the planning commission on March 25. After construction, the state plans to turn responsibility for maintaining the park over to the county. The county purchased 209 acres last September for the exact same purpose. Why aren’t the county and state getting together and building the proposed sports complex on the county land instead? It would benefit everyone concerned and free up the space behind the homes in Maui Lani for a less invasive public park. This seems like common sense to me.

A: If it were as easy as you suggest, it might certainly have been one quickly built park. However, not only are there numerous steps and challenges involving any large land development, it is much more complex when both county and state jurisdictions are involved. State projects, by law, have always been separate. County-funded projects, by County Code, are also separate. Each entity follows its own procedures and protocols every step of the way for obtaining funding for acquisition, design and construction, as well as negotiating with the landowner and agencies involved. Even if the park may eventually be turned over to the county for long-term maintenance, county and state guidelines would likely add further complexity to a joint development, rather than simplify it. This could make the project even more costly for taxpayers, as well as take a lot longer to complete. Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui has worked with the county for years to propose a Central Maui project that the state is willing to foot the bill for. For Maui County residents, this is expected to provide us with much-needed recreational fields for a fraction of the cost. The public meeting held this week by the state will give residents near the proposed park a chance to learn more about the project and voice any concerns they may have.

Q: Every year the area between Puamana and Maalaea becomes a frequent place of sudden fires and road closures. If the areas of dry brush (old, unattended cane fields, etc.) were “control burned” on either side of the highway before the dry season, wouldn’t it help lessen the occurrence of these fires? Just a thought by some of us on the west side.

A: Yes, the Fire Department has conducted prescribed burn training in the area of Puamana above Honoapiilani Highway. The weeklong training was conducted in December with the assistance of experienced “burn bosses” from the Mainland. Controlled or prescribed fires greatly reduce the potential for wildfires by removing hazardous amounts of vegetation on the property, which literally serves as fuel for the fire. The longer vegetation accumulates, the more destructive an eventual fire will be, burning hotter, traveling faster and having unpredictable results. Wildfires cause vast economic damage and lead to major inconveniences for the public. Because of these serious impacts, fire officials will consider ongoing use of controlled burns, but not until all foreseeable hazards have been addressed and contingency plans have been developed. Safety is our first priority, thus proper planning must be conducted prior to any type of controlled burning. Another major factor that must be considered is the costs related to this type of operation, which must be budgeted for in advance. Overtime costs include personnel assigned to staff relief apparatuses, since on-duty personnel not utilized for this operation need to be available to respond to 911 calls.

Q: Will a traffic refuge lane ever be built for Haiku School? The other day I headed up to Haiku town just as school was letting out and got stuck in traffic behind parents picking up their kids. Even though a man was working to shout at parents to “Hurry up!” there was no way to drive past the school entrance. Cars started cutting in line, speeding up and driving in the opposite lane to continue up the road. If I had decided to do the same, there could have been a crash. This is a very dangerous situation; an accident is waiting to happen. And in an emergency, no one can get through. When and how can this dangerous situation be fixed?

A: The traffic scenario you describe is one that is difficult for the county to remediate due to extremely limited right-of-way in the area. For that reason, it would be difficult to construct a refuge lane. School officials are aware of the bottleneck, and will continue to explore options to alleviate the impacts of rush-hour traffic. Police have been asked to help monitor the area and to ticket irresponsible drivers; however, their resources are limited. The best solution is to avoid the area during school drop-off and pickup times and take Kokomo Road instead. Even though it may be a short detour, Kokomo will probably save you time and frustration.

Ask The Mayor

Q: What’s up with the port-a-potties at Hana Ball Park? They have been overflowing and dirty, with no toilet paper. They seem like a health hazard to the kids who use the park, and to anyone who will be attending some of the large events that will be held in coming months. Do you know if any additional maintenance can be done, and whether any additional port-a-potties will be brought in for the Taro Fest?

A: Yes, increased monitoring has already begun, and our Parks Department had three additional portable toilets delivered to the Hana Ball Field on April 10. More frequent checks are being conducted at all of the port-a-potties there, with restocking of supplies to see if any adjustments still need to be made. When larger special events are held on the weekends, additional units will be brought in as is the standard procedure for events. We are also in the process of contracting a consultant to design a replacement septic system for the ballfield restroom. Once that initial contract is certified, the consultant will be issued a notice to proceed with engineering, designing and permitting. After design and permitting are completed, the project will be posted for formal bidding. After a contractor is selected and a contract is certified, a notice to proceed will be issued for construction and installation of a new septic system and absorption field. This system needs the same repairs as the Helene Hall system, so our parks staff requested a budget amendment from the County Council earlier this year so these needed repairs could be made as quickly as possible.

Q: I was happy to see that the section of Wells Street near the Wailuku Fire Station got repaved recently. However, the rest of Wells Street is still in bad condition and is heavily used not just by regular vehicles, but also by the firetrucks. Do you know if/when the rest of Wells will be repaved?

A: There are actually two projects for Wells Street. Our Public Works Department has recently begun making sidewalk improvements before starting the pavement rehabilitation project (reconstruction and resurfacing). Construction on the pavement rehab phase is tentatively scheduled to start in June.

Q: When will the Wailea road from the Shops at Wailea to South Kihei Road be resurfaced? It is very bumpy and uneven. I ride my bike along it and have fallen and broken equipment because of the bumps.

A: The county’s pavement rehabilitation project in Wailea includes Wailea Alanui from Okolani Drive to Wailea Ike Drive, and Wailea Ike Drive from Piilani Highway to Wailea Alanui. Public Works plans to post this project for bids this summer, and tentatively plans to start construction toward the end of this year.

Ask The Mayor

Q: As a local resident, I used to enjoy taking my young children to swim at the shallow beach fronting Mama’s Fish House. Now when I go, the parking is so confusing. There are blue cones in the stalls in the top lot that used to be designated for public parking. Can I move the cones, or do they mean that the stalls are reserved for the restaurant? Sometimes in the late afternoons, most of the beach stalls appear to be filled up with rental cars. I thought we’re supposed to have access to the beach, but parking is such a pain. Where are we supposed to park? Mahalo for all the info in your column, it’s very helpful.

A: The blue cones are placed there by the management of Mama’s Fish House to notify drivers that the stalls are designated for recreational shoreline access only; the rental cars in the stalls may have belonged to visitors enjoying the beach. The restaurant’s general manager said that while the establishment is not tasked with monitoring the beach parking area, the blue cones are put out as a courtesy to notify restaurant patrons and the public that those stalls are reserved for beachgoers. Some of the blue cones have been damaged by people driving over them, so the restaurant is in the process of ordering new ones. Beachgoers parking in the shoreline access stalls are asked to please move the blue cone to the side before pulling in.

Q: Recently, my wife and I were walking along the ocean walkway at Kalama Park and noticed fishermen cleaning their catch and throwing the entrails out into the water in close proximity to where families were swimming, surfing and bodyboarding. There are no posted signs or designated disposal areas that I know of. With all the shark sightings, I think this could be a contributing factor. Perhaps the county should look into “No Fish Cleaning” signs, a designated disposal area and/or a county ordinance prohibiting such activity. Thank you for attention to this matter.

A: The situation you described is an important example of how common sense should apply. I would not want to see the county have to put up signs or enact a fish-cleaning ordinance to regulate such traditional activities as shoreline fishing and diving. For generations, local families have put food on the table by harvesting from the ocean, and it is a common practice to give back to the ocean the “entrails” to feed other marine animals, such as eels and fish. However, in areas where other beach users are present, common sense should be applied by disposing of the leftovers in a way that will not leave blood or other fish material in the water nearby.

Q: When will work begin on the sidewalk along Old Haleakala Highway? Last we heard, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $988,000 toward this project in July yet to date I see no improvements at all. For the safety of the kids and the general public, I think this should be a priority. Thank you.

A: I agree, safety is a priority, and we have been moving steadily forward on this important project. After the governor’s announcement last year, we went through the official County Council process of accepting the funds from the state before proceeding to the design phase. The sidewalk project will be posted for bids Friday; construction is tentatively scheduled to begin this fall.

Ask The Mayor

Q: My compliments to both you and the council on a splendid bus system. Would you happen to know if the bus stop fronting the State Building in Wailuku is on the list for an official bus shelter? That old sawhorse bench is getting pretty run-down.

A: Yes, the State Building bus stop is on our list, and the design for the shelter has already been completed. However, numerous complications have arisen during the process of placing the shelter on the state-owned parcel. Our county Department of Transportation is doing its best to work with the state to make this shelter a reality as soon as possible. However, due to the complexity of the negotiations, it’s possible that the shelter will be constructed sometime during fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016).

Q: In a previous column, you mentioned that Amala Place by Kahului Harbor would be repaved sometime this year. Well, I had a bad experience there recently because the potholes in the road were so deep, I couldn’t even drive to VIP! It’s gotten worse and worse over the past months and has become terribly unsafe. Please, do you have an update on when this heavily used road will get repaved? Thanks very much, and thanks for providing an avenue to ask this question.

A: Yes, paving is expected to begin in about a month. You may have noticed the massive wastewater pipes that were being laid along the roadway and out toward Hana Highway in recent months. These were part of a wastewater force main project, which meant the pipe-laying portion had to be completed prior to the repaving. Wastewater division staff said the last component is a drain line that needs to be installed on Amala Place (which will help alleviate flooding and preserve the new road); then the paving can begin sometime in May. Until then, you can also drive to VIP via the airport if post-storm road conditions make for difficult driving conditions.

Q: I see a lot of water going “down the drain” when the water is being tested at fire hydrants. Is there an estimate as to how much water is being used for this testing? I am sure there are many that can use this water for agricultural purposes. Thank you for any suggestions on the usage of this resource that could be utilized, especially when we are in a drought condition.

A: Department of Water Supply technicians flush fire hydrants at dead-end locations for water quality purposes, but the amount of water that is flushed is different for each site depending on the location of the hydrant/standpipe in relation to the main line. Calculations were done to determine the flushing time needed to move the water from the main line to each hydrant/standpipe. The regulated flushing helps prevent the water from stagnating in the dead-end locations by scouring the inside of the pipe, removing sediments, including built-up silt and biofilms, maintaining chlorine residuals, and clearing the system of any discolored water. Unfortunately, it would be extremely costly and impractical to collect the flushed water in a tanker, which would require a tanker truck, driver, flagman and technician. This represents three vehicles, three employees and numerous additional work hours to flush one hydrant. The water also cannot be flushed onto an adjacent property due to the velocity of the water, which could damage landscaping or create other problems. As for the hydrants themselves, the department conducts a hydrant maintenance program that includes clearing brush/vegetation around the hydrant, cleaning the fire hydrant or standpipe, painting, renumbering hydrants, greasing the caps, operating the valves, checking for leaks, taking PSI pressure readings, and recording the date and time of the maintenance.