Prior to Wednesday's public confirmation that Lanai was being sold to billionaire Larry Ellison, state Senate President Shan Tsutsui asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to look into purchasing the island that could become "a major asset to the state."
In a letter Tuesday, Tsutsui said he was told that the residents were concerned "at the uncertainty that the potential sale represents." He added that the state and county invest a lot of money and resources already in the island and the government could help preserve and protect the island's natural resources and culture.
Tsutsui, who is from Maui, said he thought it was an option that should be "seriously considered and explored."
On Wednesday, just after Abercrombie's office confirmed the sale, spokesperson Donalyn Dela Cruz said that the Governor's Office did not get the letter from Tsutsui.
"If he's asking can the state buy it, I think it's a little too late for that," Dela Cruz said.
Contacted before the sale was confirmed, Tsutsui said he had heard from County Council Member Riki Hokama, who holds the Lanai residency seat, that residents were very concerned about the sale.
Tsutsui said he thought the state should consider looking into purchasing the island, which would allow residents more say in the future of the island, which has long been under private ownership.
If buying the island were an option, Tsutsui said, it would probably have to be done via borrowed bond money, and it would work similar to a mortgage payment.