VIDEO: Arakawa Details Plans to Bring Maui Back to Prosperity
By Wendy Osher
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L75unTZ8xLM /] Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa announced plans today to “bring the county back to prosperity” during his 2011 State of The County Address. His vision includes plans to revisit events that return revenues to the county–among them, Halloween on Front Street, and the Taste of Lahaina.
“These are events which if done correctly, will give visitors a reason to come back,” said Arakawa. The county is also expected to welcome world-wide visitors as the Professional Windsurfing Association crowns its world champion at Hookipa Beach Park this fall.
Helping small towns in big ways:
Mayor Arakawa compiled a list of projects that he said will help the county’s small towns in big ways. The list includes plans to take over and extend hours of the Paia bypass road, break ground on 300 acres of park space at Maui Lani, and explore affordable housing options in Central and South Maui.
- On Molokai, the county is working to remove more than 3,000 abandoned vehicles from Hoolehua. “Besides being an eyesore these vehicles are dangerous as potential fire hazards and environmental threats due to chemicals leaking into the soil,” said Arakawa.
- Arakawa said the county is finalizing an agreement with Alexander and Baldwin so that the county can take over the Paia bypass road. “Our goal is to keep the road open as long as possible on a daily basis so that traffic is not backed up to all the way to Spreckelsville anymore,” said Arakawa.
- County crews plan also to put up more highway signs to increase visibility and awareness for visitors Makawao. “It’s a great town with a lot to offer and we want to make it easy for visitors to spend their money there,” said Arakawa.
- As for affordable housing, Arakawa said the county is working on projects that include the Kaiwahine Village in Kihei and the Hale Mua subdivision in Waihee.
- Mayor Arakawa anticipates ground to be broken on a 300 acre park space in Maui Lani within the next year or two. “This Central Maui Park will rival any park in the state, including Kapiolani Park on Oahu. I sincerely thank our county council and our state legislators – especially Senate President Shan Tsutsui – for their support of this project and helping to make this Central Maui Park become a reality,” said Arakwa.
- Alternative Energy/Solar Pannels: By the end of the year there will be more solar panels appearing on County facilities. “By doing this we believe we can lower our own electricity costs and stimulate several million dollars in local construction work,” said Arakawa.
First Steps in Meeting Monetary Needs:
With increased gas prices, widespread foreclosures, and a tourism industry that has been offering discounts to maintain visitor counts, Arakawa offered some solutions to maintain operations. His plans include natural attrition to recoup costs of employee benefits, calling on the council for funds to end furlough Fridays, and efforts to improve the county’s permitting system for construction projects.
“Our government no longer has the money, to be all things to all people. We must prioritize and decide what our most vital functions are,” said Mayor Arakawa.
Arakawa said that although things may seem bleak for the county right now, he said, “it is always darkest before the dawn.”
- Natural Attrition: “We must address employee benefits, costs of which keep rising year after year. Right now the county is paying $20 million a year to make up the deficit of these benefit packages. The only way to counter this is to eventually reduce the size of government through natural attrition,” said Arakawa. This means as county employees leave or retire at the end of the year, their positions will come under review and may not be filled.
- Calling for an end to Furlough Fridays: “We have asked the county council for the funds we need to end furlough Fridays. The county is no longer in a situation where we need furlough days and it has for too long limited the public’s access to our services.” Arakawa said analysis shows the county is not saving as much money as was once thought saying, “A water department employee who is unable to fix a pipe on a furlough Friday is paid much more in overtime to get the job done on the weekend.”
- Permit Process Improvement: Arakawa said a team has already implemented changes. Projects that are back on the radar include Marriott Hotel’s airport hotel project that has been on hold for more than 10 years, and rennovation of the Maui Beach Hotel. “Faster permits means more construction work which means more jobs. It’s that simple,” said Arakawa
Arakawa on Water Meters: “Maui has the water, now we need the method.”
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa also addressed the long standing issue of water meters, saying he has initiated an internal engineering analysis to identify the costs necessary to upgrade the piping system required.
“This way we will know how much it will cost to put in every meter. It is only after we obtain that crucial piece of information that we can figure out how to get water to people who need it, and in what amount,” said Arakawa.
Arakawa said hard questions remain, including just who will pay for what in the water system.
“All of these endeavors we believe will make Maui County a better place. Not just for us but for our children and their children,” said Arakawa. “I hope that you will all join me in making Maui County a prosperous place once again,” he said.