$243,000 in grant funds stalled by unsigned contract

April 30, 2010, 4:32 PM HST · Updated April 30, 7:44 PM
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By Wendy Osher

The council’s budget and finance committee spent time yesterday debating grant funding for the Wailuku Main Street Association/TriIsle Main St. Resource Center.

Council member Michael Molina questioned reasons for repeated cuts noting a 10% cut in each of the last two fiscal years, and a proposed cut of 25% in FY2011.  Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla proposed an adjustment from the $182,000 funding proposed by the administration to $218,700 instead.

Molina suggested an additional $6,300, saying the increase would help to prevent job cuts.  He also raised issues brought to him over unsigned documents and release of funds. 

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Pontanilla said the issue would be addressed next month after the budget was finalized.  “I understand that the grant agreement wasn’t signed, and in order to get paid by this county… some signature is required,” he said.

Officials with the county’s Planning Department say they will not sign off on the document until it has been accepted and singed by the agency requesting funds.  As of Friday, April 30, department personnel said they had not received signature from the agency.

Kathleen Ross Aoki with the Department of Planning said language had inadvertently been left out in the past and was added to the 2010 grant document.  She described the changes as “standard grant language” saying, “it is the administration’s position to make the grant contracts more consistent.”

“By law we cannot process the grant without the grantee’s signature,” said Aoki.  The $243,000 in funding covers the period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.  “None of it has gone out,” she said.

The Department of Planning currently handles two grants, one for the Wailuku Main Street Association/Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center, and the other is a Sea Grant that is obtained through the University of Hawaii.

Wailuku town file image by Wendy Osher.

The mission of The Wailuku Main Street Association Inc. / Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center, according to the agency’s website, is to foster, promote, maintain and encourage the civic, social, commercial and cultural welfare of downtown Wailuku and other Maui County small towns. The organization was established in 1986 with dual goals of economic revitalization within the context of historic preservation.

Aoki who handled the grant application, takes on the Director post for the Planning Department on May 1, 2010, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Jeff Hunt.

Lanai councilman Sol Kahoohalahala argued that the issue of concessions should not be dealt with as a budget item.  “This was not the body in which these issues should have been brought up to begin with,” said Kahoohalahala.  “It’s real clear in the charter that when you have an issue with administrative departments, your issue is with the department not with the fact that we are looking at funding,” said Kahoohalahala.

Molina added, “If we’re going to be like this as government officials to criticize organizations to come and plead with us the council to look into a matter, then I think we should look at ourselves.  There is nothing in the law that says we cannot challenge the so called conventional wisdom,” said Molina.

In supporting the Chair’s recommendation, council member Gladys Baisa said, “It’s not a comfortable situation for us to be talking about this here.  I do hope that when we have this meeting, that it will be broader and focused on the whole issue of how grants are awarded to the non-profits after we have appropriated them in the budget,” said Baisa.

The chair’s recommendation was approved in a 7 to 2 vote.

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