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Funds for old, new jail; to purchase watershed all part of Ige’s budget

$17M also allotted for Maui hospitals

Funds for more guards at Maui Community Correctional Center, where a riot occurred in March; the purchase of West Maui Mountains watershed lands from Wailuku Water Co.; and the operations of three Maui County hospitals were among the items included in Gov. David Ige’s supplemental budget to be considered by the state Legislature next year.

Also included in the governor’s budget is $5 million for planning for a new jail in Puunene and $70 million for the Kaanapali phase of the Lahaina bypass. The governor on Monday released his supplemental budget proposal — additions to the base two-year budget approved last year.

Overcrowding at MCCC was a lead factor in the prison riot on March 11 that caused millions of dollars  in damage. Last session, the Legislature appropriated about $5 million in emergency funding for repairs.

This upcoming session, the governor proposes funding 15 permanent adult corrections officer positions at MCCC with a $560,000 appropriation. The positions would be to implement a pilot program to increase shift relief for essential positions to the health, safety and security of the facility.

Filling those positions could be problematic, however. At an August state Senate committee meeting on Maui, the Department of Public Safety reported a 22 percent vacancy in adult corrections officer positions at MCCC. In addition, there were 22 adult corrections officers on workers’ compensation/authorized leave and 55 others on federal family and medical leave.

The situation became so dire that corrections officers from around the state were flown in to help relieve the guard shortage at MCCC.

Maui County state Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran said the governor was dealing with what Public Safety Department officials cited as a cause of the March riot — a lack of personnel. However, the department is “having a hard time getting people to go through” the training process. The positions and getting them funded do not “mean they will be able to fill them,” he added.

Keith-Agaran said Wednesday that the appropriation will help in the long run, “if they can get all of them filled,” but not as much in the short term.

Ige also included $5 million for the planning of the Maui Regional Public Safety Complex. Overcrowding has been an issue for years at MCCC in Wailuku. With an operational capacity of 301 beds, inmate totals have reached nearly 500 in the past, with inmates sleeping on floors next to toilets. 

The final environmental impact statement released in the summer for the master plan of state-owned land at Pulehunui included the jail, as well as offices for state departments and commercial lots. House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke told The Maui News in October that the new jail site would be a high priority.

On the Na Wai Eha watershed, Ige requested $4 million for the land purchase. Keith-Agaran said the measure was meant to assist Maui County in the purchase of the watershed in the area of the “Four Great Waters” of Na Wai Eha — the Wailuku and Waihee rivers and Waikapu and Waiehu streams.

Former Mayor Alan Arakawa, in the waning months of his administration in October 2018, sent a request to the County Council for $9.5 million to purchase the ditch system and 8,764 acres of West Maui Mountain watershed lands from Wailuku Water Co.

A tentative deal for the purchase was announced in December 2016 but an appraisal of the land was not completed until Oct. 1, 2018. The assessed value came in at $11.1 million.

Wailuku Water Co. indicated that the sale was made because the company was running out of cash. No action has been taken on the acquisition by the county as yet.

The governor also included $17.3 million as an operational subsidy for Maui Health System, the Kaiser Foundation entity that operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital. The subsidy is less than the $19 million Maui Health System officials said in October that they would be requesting.

For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Maui Health System requested $26 million, Ige pared the subsidy to $20.5 million and the Legislature approved $22.5 million.

Keith-Agaran said Ige’s administration and Maui Health System officials still are having discussions but “this is going to be one of those tough issues.” He noted that the governor has focused on spending more money — about $40 million in the current and next fiscal years — to attract teachers in special education and Hawaiian immersion and for remote areas, such as East Maui, Lanai and Molokai. 

Keith-Agaran, whose district includes Wailuku, Waihee and Kahului, said he was pleased that the governor was working to maintain two important components of the community, making sure the “jail is functioning properly and the hospital remains in operation.”

West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey said Ige noting the $70 million for the Lahaina bypass in his supplemental budget remarks was an “affirmation” of his support for the project. He said the state Department of Transportation has “responded to the community” and made the bypass extension “a No. 1 priority.”

With the ocean washing over Honoapiilani Highway on the Central Maui side of the bypass, there also is an urgency to extend the bypass southward. There will be a competition statewide for new funds for new highway projects from the rental car surcharge added last session, McKelvey said Wednesday.

Another project in his district, an $11 million beach restoration of Kaanapali Beach, is included in Ige’s budget. McKelvey noted that most of the funding for the project — $5.8 million — comes from private contributions and trust funds.

As the project, years in the works, nears reality, McKelvey said there could be a hangup based on a renourishment project of Waikiki Beach. The process of sucking up sand offshore crushed crustacean life, like crabs.

“We are going to have to look at how it is happening in Kaanapali,” McKelvey said, adding that the engineer for the project was well-versed in the issue.

Ige’s supplemental budget includes adjustments of $62.5 million for the current fiscal year and $429 million for next fiscal year, or a 0.4 percent and 2.7 percent increase, respectively, from the original two-year budget passed last session. Total spending would be $15.7 billion for the current fiscal year and $16.2 billion for next fiscal year.

There is no change in the current year capital improvements project budget of $2.3 billion. Next fiscal year, the total budget would rise to $2.6 billion, up $1.5 billion.

“This proposal helps us to build on momentum already achieved in our high-priority areas, such as public education, affordable housing and homelessness, and sustainability,” said Ige. “This budget includes funding for programs that we know are making a real difference in our communities.”

“The state’s recently improved general obligation bond rating and lower interest rates make it a favorable time to invest in the state’s infrastructure,” Ige said. “Ultimately, the higher bond ratings free up funds that can be used for education, housing, homelessness and sustainability.”

Keith-Agaran said he has not looked closely at the governor’s budget yet and that briefings on the budget will begin the first week of January. The Legislature convenes Jan. 15.

“I don’t think this is going to be a year with a tremendous amount of money,” he said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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