Council to give water meter seekers more time

Two measures pass: One gives more time to mull decision; second extends the period to do necessary work

The Maui County Council on Friday passed bills giving people on the Upcountry water meter list more time to accept meter offers and complete projects before receiving meters.

The council voted 8-0 on both bills, with Council Member Tamara Paltin excused.

One bill gives applicants 60 days rather than the current 30 days to decide if they want a water meter. The second bill extends the duration of water meter reservations from two years plus two six-month extensions to a total of five years. It will give applicants more time before accepting water service since some may need to perform various infrastructure and other work first.

Council Members Yuki Lei Sugimura and Mike Molina, whose residency seats are in Upcountry, both advocated for passage of the bills Friday.

“This came from a recommendation for the water department because they know the challenges that the water meter list participants are having,” Sugimura said, noting the ongoing saga of the list, which spans years. “I support this.”

Molina thanked council Water and Infrastructure Committee Chairwoman Alice Lee for moving the bills along and said that the additional time for applicants “will certainly be helpful.”

In an email statement after the council meeting, Water Director Jeffrey Pearson said: “We’re glad to see the council extend water meter reservations from two years and two six-month extensions to five years total, without extensions. I would like to remind our residents that this affects not only Upcountry, but the entire county.”

Pearson added: “We do, however, also look forward to specifically serving our Upcountry residents by giving them an extra 30 days to respond to the DWS offer for water service from the Upcountry priority list.”

Council committee reports note that Pearson previously said that larger projects may require extensive analysis to determine whether water service should be accepted, so the increase from 30 to 60 days is necessary. A deadline of 60 days would help most applicants, he said.

Currently there are approximately 1,650 applications for an Upcountry water meter, the department said on Friday. Of those, between 80 and 100 properties this year will receive letters regarding eligibility for water service.

The waitlist was closed with 1,887 properties in 2013. In subsequent years the water department has increased staff to tackle the list.

The priority list was established in 1994 to control the expanded use of surface water in the face of droughts and calls for water restrictions Upcountry.

The water department had said that the bill would not affect existing applicants on the list since the most recent notices were sent in December and the 30-day deadline has passed.

The next batch of notices are expected to be sent this month and those applicants would have 60 days to respond.

Pearson had said that the acceptance of water service will be easier for applicants who need more time to complete their projects. There are situations when projects are nearing completion and applicants have no control over delays.

The department said that impact to others on the water meter list would be minimal.

Pearson said the five-year time limit was chosen because it was a reasonable amount of time to give applicants to complete most projects. If no deadline was provided, it would overwhelm the staff because applications would remain open indefinitely, he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.