Merry Christmas from the Maui County Council

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

On behalf of the Maui County Council, I would like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!

This holiday season has a different meaning to each of us, but I know we can all agree that it is a special time to gather with family and friends in the spirit of giving to others.

Appreciation must also be given to the many organizations helping to bring joy to those who may need assistance this season.

Organizations such as the Street Bikers United who support Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, the Laulima Giving Program and the Maui Food Bank, just to name a few, all work to help our community. 

Most importantly, thank you to the many residents who support these organizations and, in turn, our friends and neighbors in need. It is this spirit of giving that truly makes Maui County no ka oi!

In council news, Dec. 15 marked the last meeting of the year, but important work is still taking place. On Nov. 29, an emergency proclamation was declared to provide relief to residents and visitors who travel on Piiholo Road Upcountry.

There are more than 400 dead eucalyptus trees situated on or near the county-owned right of way along the road. Hazardous weather conditions, especially high winds, have caused many of the large trees to fall onto the road, trapping residents from travelling to and from their homes. One resident miraculously escaped injury after a tree fell on his pickup truck, and others have shared accounts of near-misses.

Over the past eight weeks, Department of Public Works personnel have responded eight times to address fallen trees, many times on weekends or evenings, which has become very costly. As a result of the proclamation, the council received a request for an appropriation to remove 400 of the dead trees at a cost of nearly $450,000.

If not addressed, it is estimated that costs could far exceed this amount.

Experts from the Maui Invasive Species Committee point to the eucalyptus tortoise beetle and the eucalyptus snout weevil as a major cause of eucalyptus tree death. Eucalyptus trees are a non-native species and even healthy trees are susceptible to falling if the wind is strong enough.

The request for funding was referred to the Budget and Finance Committee and will likely be discussed early in the new year.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, the council also made a final decision on the mayor’s request to remove Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor. After much deliberation, the members voted unanimously to reject the mayor’s proposal to remove Taylor and have him return to work.

Although the mayor oversees the daily administrative operations of the county, it is my hope that he will use Taylor in most effective manner over the next year and not put him back on leave. 

Directors who are qualified and effective are critical to the smooth operation of many essential functions that we at times take for granted. This is one reason why in the last election, voters allowed the council to place additional qualifications to become a department head. 

As a result, the council on Dec. 15 passed on first reading, additional qualifications for the director of Public Works and director of Environmental Management. New requirements include holding a bachelor’s degree and having specific managerial and budgetary experience. 

These two positions are the start of 11 director positions that the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee will review to determine if additional requirements are needed.

Much more work is ahead of us, but for now, enjoy the holiday season!   

* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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