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Budget chairman: Closing golf course not an option

Panel has until June 10 to take action on budget

Arakawa

The chairman of the Maui County Council’s budget committee said Thursday that he is not looking to close the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course, but added that privatization could be an option.

Riki Hokama, the council Budget and Finance Committee chairman, said that shutting down the course is not one of his options, saying it doesn’t make sense especially since the county keeps buying hundreds of acres of land. The council, not the administration, will “set the parameters and the policy for the department to follow” regarding the golf course, he said.

Mayor Alan Arakawa first raised the possibility of closing the 87-year-old public golf course in his State of the County address March 9, noting that it is losing nearly $3 million a year and has lost $16.3 million over the past decade. In his $720.3 million proposed budget for next fiscal year, Arakawa called for shutting down the course.

Hokama’s comments Thursday came as his committee began its review of rates and fees in Arakawa’s proposed budget, including those for the golf course. Council members have until June 10 to take final action on the budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2018.

The golf course received support from other members on Hokama’s committee, as well.

Hokama

Council Chairman Mike White did not have a problem with the county needing to invest more money in the course, considering those expenses part of operating the facility. The course definitely needed a credit card system and a reliable internet connection, he said.

But White was “not too crazy” about getting a third party involved with the operations of the course.

Waiehu Superintendent Todd Allen said Thursday that the course’s fees are slightly lower and higher than other municipal courses in the state. Currently, residents pay $13 for 18 holes on weekdays and $18 on weekends. Seniors pay $8 and $12 and students pay $2 and $3, respectively. All costs are without a cart.

Allen said that a $2 across-the-board increase, except for students, could net around $128,000 more a year. If the course utilizes the internet for its booking and marketing, it could realize $53,000 more annually. Increased revenues could climb to $200,000 annually if the course is marketed properly.

On the credit card and internet issue, Allen said that the problem is with the course’s location and poor signal reception.

Hokama asked Allen and his department to submit a proposal to the committee by Monday addressing how the council could adjust the course’s rates and fees.

The committee Thursday also reviewed rate and fee increases for the Department of Environmental Management, which include a $3 per vehicle fee for residents dropping off refuse at the Central Maui Landfill and increases to commercial tipping and residential refuse collection fees.

The proposed trash dumping fee at the landfill pertains only to the Central Maui Landfill and does not include green waste. Residents currently can dump their trash there for free.

Department of Environmental Management Director Stewart Stant said earlier this week that the $3 per vehicle fee is “kind of a pilot project.”

Opponents of the county charging for dumping at the landfill have argued that the fee will lead to more dumping of trash in gulches and other places around the county. Stant noted that while dumping currently is free there still is dumping along Pulehu Road next to the Central Maui Landfill.

“We have appliances, cars, trash bags,” he said. “Even though the landfill is free, people are dumping trash on that road.”

If the fee is approved, Stant said that he would use some of the funds for a grant to have a nonprofit group pick up the trash.

Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura said that constituents have asked her if the $3 fee for dumping rubbish would allow the department to open the landfill on Sundays. Maui County Council Chairman Mike White, citing a previous report presented by the county administration, said it would cost $700,623 annually to keep the landfill open on Sundays.

It would be a “very significant cost increase,” he said.

Residential trash collection fees are up significantly in the mayor’s proposal — a 20 percent hike from $24 a month on Maui and Molokai to $30 a month. Annual trash collection fees for once-a-week manual or twice-a-week automated pickups will go from $288 to $360.

The fee schedule on Lanai is lower for once-a-week trash collection. Its rates would rise from $12 to $15 per month or from $144 to $180 a year.

The mayor is proposing to hike commercial tipping fees 22 percent from $81 per ton to $99 per ton at the landfill.

With these hikes, Stant said, the mayor’s goal is to get as close as possible to self-sufficiency and to reduce the burden on the general fund.

Solid Waste Division Chief Michael Ratte said in an email Thursday that the actual cost of refuse collection is $64 a month. Managing and disposing of waste at the landfill cost $114 per ton regardless of who is dumping the trash.

The committee was not able to complete a full review of rates and fees Thursday. Hokama said that the panel will take up reviews of rates and fees from the departments of planning, public works and water supply tentatively Saturday.

* Staff Writer Chris Sugidono contributed to this story. Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

* This article includes a correction from the original published on Friday, April 7, 2017. Maui County Council Chairman Mike White, citing a previous report presented by the county administration, said it would cost $700,623 annually to keep the Central Maui Landfill open on Sundays. The story incorrectly attributed the figure to someone else. The Maui News apologizes for the error.