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County Defends Solid Waste Costs Following Release of Audit Report

March 9, 2016, 5:07 PM HST (Updated March 9, 2016, 5:19 PM) · 4 Comments
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Trash pile. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Trash pile. File photo by Wendy Osher.

County officials today issued a press release following a critical review by Budget and Finance Committee Chair Riki Hokama.

A press release issued by Hokama earlier today claims the administration’s estimate of Waste-to-Energy net cost is off by $35 million and is projected to cost $1.7 million per year more than what was presented to the council.

County officials responded today saying the County Auditor’s latest report states that the Maui County Solid Waste Division, which is in charge of landfills and trash pickup, is “generally consistent with other publicly-operated systems.”

“Although the audit noted that costs for Maui County landfills are somewhat higher, it was also acknowledged that the county operates more landfills than other counties with three on Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi, as well as a fourth in “remotely-located” Hāna,” the county press release stated.

County officials further state that the audit concluded that the request that the department made for more positions was “justified” because the division needed to “maintain acceptable levels of regulatory compliance.”

The audit also took a look at the county’s Integrated Waste Conversion and Energy Project. A press release issued by County Communications Director Rod Antone this afternoon states that, “Unfortunately the audit’s findings were skewed because the auditor refused to use the county’s evaluation of how much landfill space is worth. The county values each “hypothetical future landfill cell” at $30 a ton, adjusted from $25.50 a ton for a reasonable rate of inflation.”

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According to the county’s release, the auditor uses the value of $13.74 to $15.43 a ton to draw upon his conclusions. “Budget and Finance Chair Riki Hokama seized upon this to insinuate that the county’s IWCEP would therefore cost taxpayers money, instead of saving them money,” the county issued press release stated.

“The anticipated net costs will not exceed the annual or additional costs,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa. “In other words the county will not be paying any more than if we were doing this waste to energy project ourselves,” he said.

Mayor Arakawa continued saying, “We ask that Councilman Hokama consider this fact, since the county charges commercial operators $90 a ton to landfill their garbage. If the $15 price tag were accurate, wouldn’t the county then be ripping commercial customers off considerably if our landfill space was worth less than a quarter of what they are paying?”

“Landfills are not just holes in the ground,” said Arakawa. “They need to be engineered to be environmentally sound, not to mention safe for public use as well as staffed by qualified workers. The county asks that the council ponder the true cost of landfills, and what space there is worth, as they take a look at this audit.”

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