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Solid waste still most pressing challenge for Big Island mayor

December 10, 2013
The Associated Press

KAILUA-KONA (AP) - Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi is looking back on his five years in office, saying that the lack of progress on the county's solid waste problem is his biggest disappointment since taking office.

He touts accomplishments including lower property taxes and a more unified county. Property owners are paying less in taxes than they did five years ago and the mayor has tried to make services more equitable across the island. Under his tenure, the $50 million West Hawaii Civic Center has been completed.

But the most pressing challenge remains. Kenoi told West Hawaii Today last week the solid waste issue is his biggest disappointment since taking office in 2008. He entered his second term last year.

As the Hilo landfill nears capacity, Kenoi is faced with finding solutions for the county's solid waste problems. There's very little council or public support to make the West Hawaii landfill the county's only permitted landfill. Not much has been done toward Kenoi's vow to have a waste-to-energy facility on the ground before he leaves office in 2016.

Other challenges the mayor faces include the county's cumbersome building permit process and mass transit, which some riders complain is too expensive.

Contractors say there have been improvements to the permitting process, but it remains bogged down by building code changes and an influx of permit applications for photovoltaic systems used to collect solar energy.

Kenoi defends the $2 fare for the county's bus system. "You can go 120 miles one-way for $2," he said. But some riders complain about high fares, buses breaking down and inadequate bus schedules.

"I'm very proud of what our team has accomplished. They truly have worked very hard," Kenoi said. "But thankfully we have three more years from now. I'll continue to be demanding on our team. The reason, of course, is that we owe it to the people and the community."



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