Giving thanks for county’s dedicated public servants

Our County

Mayors and County Council members come and go — but our civil service employees are always here. Their duties may vary, but what binds them is that they are public servants.

Over the years many of them have done great things for Maui County, and I would love to express thanksgiving for each accomplishment. Since space is limited, here are a few highlights:

Department of Public Works. There are about 1,000 road miles out there countywide and Public Works has patched, repaved or rebuilt almost half of that over the last eight years. They have also had some very tough jobs dealing with everything from landslides in Kipahulu, flooded culverts in Kihei and collapsed roads in Haiku. Their crews work day and night to get the roads open again and everyone owes them a debt of thanks.

Department of Water Supply. This is another department that works 24/7 to keep water flowing into homes and businesses. Recently we had a waterline break along Wailuku’s Central Avenue that shut down water for many area customers. Our crews got service restored as quickly as possible, as they always do. More importantly, this department makes sure our water is clean and safe for everyone. Mahalo to you, DWS, for your service.

Department of Fire and Public Safety — also known as the Maui Fire Department. These men and women saved West Maui from being consumed by brush fires earlier this year during Hurricane Lane. Even when they’re not dealing with storm-fueled fires, they’re responding to more than 12,000 alarms a year on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Thank you all.

Maui Police Department. Our officers also played a large part keeping people safe during Lane by evacuating hundreds of residents from their homes to stay ahead of the brush fire, should the flames have gotten past firefighters. They also respond to more than 30,000 reported offenses annually, including a growing number of complaints involving our homeless population. Working with our Homeless Division, their assistance has been essential over the years. Thank you, MPD.

Department of Environmental Management. I don’t think there’s another department that has had to deal with more changes than DEM, and it has risen to the occasion. DEM is moving toward no injection well use (except for emergencies), as mandated by the federal court. Its Recycling Division has also had to deal with an increase in abandoned vehicles, due to China’s stricter stance on import materials. I am confident that DEM and its Recycling Division will continue to adjust and make any necessary changes in order to keep our environment safe. Mahalo for all of your hard work.

Department of Housing and Human Concerns. This department has been at the forefront to deal with the challenges of housing and homelessness in our community. It works closely with the Maui Homeless Alliance and all of its member partners to provide a “continuum of care,” including housing and shelter care programs. Recently the department helped to fast-track a 165-unit senior affordable rental complex project by Catholic Charities, which will break ground later this month.

Department of Parks and Recreation. Our county parks and open spaces have grown over the years from 160 to 600 acres. They have also led an aggressive parks improvement program to fix the conditions of our restrooms, community centers and other facilities. They’ve added specialty parks, such as dog and skateboard parks, that the community wanted. And they’ve been more proactive overall, asking the community what it wants first and using local voices to shape projects, like Wailuku’s Wells Park. Mahalo to all of our many parks workers, from the permit office to the folks in maintenance.

There are many more to thank and not enough space. They include our Finance Department for continuing to help Maui County earn a AA+ bond rating year after year and their hardworking Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing staff; the Department of Management for the construction of the Kulamalu Affordable Rental project and the new county service center; and the Planning Department for making sure that coastal erosion and rising sea levels are taken into account when looking at future projects.

Mahalo for making Maui County a better place over the years, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, is about county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.