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Administration’s focus on service benefits county residents and visitors

OUR COUNTY

For the year 2019, one of my key initiatives I’ve sought to develop in our department heads and staff is a culture of providing excellent customer service to our residents and visitors.

I’d like to take this time to highlight how we’ve improved and excelled in our service to Maui County, and I can think of nothing better than to start with our first responders.

Within a week of my Jan. 2 inauguration, a fast-moving brush fire in South Maui triggered an evacuation of Hotel Wailea and threatened homes and hotels. Swirling winds fanned flames that burned 200 acres.

Overall this year, dozens of brush fires consumed 25,000 acres, more than six times the 4,000 acres burned in all of 2018. Thankfully, there have been no injuries or significant property damage, and I want to thank all of our firefighters, police officers, supporting county departments and nongovernment partners for their work in keeping our community safe.

One major service my administration has focused on has been helping prospective homeowners through the First-Time Home Buyers Down Payment Assistance Program. The program has assisted 61 families and individuals with closing their purchase of a new home and there are seven more that expect to close their home purchase by the end of this calendar year.

I’m also proud to say that there are at least 45 additional families that expect to find a home in early-mid 2020 using the program.

Looking toward the future, tenants will begin moving into the 81-unit first phase of the Kahului Lani senior housing project near the Kahului Public Library in February, with the second, 83-unit phase expected to begin construction next year. The new Maui Bus hub will be built nearby, with construction set to begin in the second half of next year.

I’m looking ahead to more housing development from projects like the Waikapu Country Town project (1,433 homes) and Pulelehua in West Maui (1,000 homes). My administration is in talks with a Central Maui landowner to purchase land for many more attainable homes. We also are moving forward with the 12-unit, low-income rental housing project at the former dormitories at the University of Hawaii Maui College, with plans for development of another 50 rental units.

Improving our county parks facilities and services is another desire of mine, which was highlighted by the long-awaited $21 million South Maui Community Park Gymnasium that opened earlier this month. This is a project that I have worked on since my time on the County Council a decade ago, and it truly was a special moment for our Kihei families as they stepped into their very own gym. I’m eagerly looking forward to all the sports tournaments and community events we will be hosting at this beautiful facility.

Other improvements we’ve made include renovating the greens and refurbishing the restrooms at the Waiehu Golf Course. The $220,000 project marked the first major grassing renovation at the municipal course since 1971. Response from golfers has been overwhelmingly positive, with some lifelong players saying they’ve never seen the greens in such good condition.

While many of these large projects build excitement and inspire new ideas, I have still looked for ways in how the county can meet our people’s day-to-day needs. A couple ways we’ve accomplished this include opening residential green waste at the Central Maui Landfill on Sundays and installing the first self-service kiosks for vehicle registrations in the state.

Finally, we continue to explore ways in how we can recycle all of our wastewater via irrigating golf courses, landscaping and agricultural areas. I know there was much debate over the Lahaina injection well case, but I believe receiving clarity from the Supreme Court will serve our people before we invest millions of dollars of public money in wastewater reuse infrastructure.

As the New Year approaches, I encourage our families to enjoy more freedom and space on the beach with the prohibition of Commercial Ocean Recreation Activities on Sundays and holidays starting Jan. 1. I believe a family that plays together, stays together.

I wish everyone a joyous holiday season and a safe, healthy and successful new year. Aloha!

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month.