Arakawa’s 2014 State of the County Address
By Wendy Osher
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa delivered his 2014 State of the County Address from the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center on Wednesday night, Feb. 5, 2014.
During his address, the mayor highlighted the county’s achievements in 2013, outlined plans for the coming year, and discussed issues presently facing the County of Maui.
“Our community is in a better place than when we first began this journey,” said Mayor Arakawa, who highlighted the county’s 4.6% unemployment rate–the lowest it’s been since 2008.
“Working together we have left the Great Recession behind where it belongs, in the past,” he said.
Looking to the future, Mayor Arakawa said, “we want more than just to recover, we want this community to thrive.”
Below are a list of key projects discussed in the address:
Road Rehabilitation vs Repaving
“While repaving a major road usually lasts for about 10 to 15 years, rehabilitation, which literally involves tearing up and removing the old road, lasts twice as long, from 20 to 30 years. Applying sealants will add another 5 to 7 years to those lifespans,” said Arakawa.
This year the list of road improvement projects includes Papa and Makawao Avenue. Kokomo and Hansen Roads are also slated for improvements with 80% of construction costs to be covered by federal tax dollars.
Water Infrastructure and Upcountry Meters
Efforts to replace an aging water infrastructure include the development of new wells in Central and West Maui.
The county is also working on reconstruction of the Waikamoi Flume serving the Upcountry area, which is about 50% complete.
“We expect to begin the process of issuing hundreds of meters for the Upcountry area in the next few weeks,” said Arakawa, who noted that it will take several months for the county to work its way through the applicants.
Parks Improvements and Expansion
In the Parks Department, the mayor said efforts are also being made to “raise the bar.”
“We are in the first phase of restroom improvements as our workers fix and repair 42 park restrooms across the county. You can already see many of these improvements at our park facilities in Kahului, Pāʻia, Haʻikū, Lahaina and Nāpili,” he said.
The mayor said lack of park space is another challenge that must be met. “The population of Maui County has grown with each passing year, but our park spaces have not developed proportionately,” he said.
“The county finally purchased 209 acres last year which will eventually become the Central Maui Regional Park. Once this park is complete, we will have space for everyone to play almost any sport,” said Mayor Arakawa.
Integrated Waste Conversion and Energy Project:
Arakawa said the Department of Environmental Management is also looking for more space for the Central Maui Landfill.
“Instead of enlarging the landfill,” he said, “we are looking to divert trash from it using our Integrated Waste Conversion and Energy Project.”
Earlier this year the mayor signed an agreement with the Maui Resources Recovery Facility, which he said “will divert about 85% of our solid waste from our landfill.”
“This means we will be able to limit the expansion of our landfill by converting our trash into a valuable asset,” he said. “Eventually we hope to make Maui County a zero-waste community, where we reuse and recycle instead of trash and bury.”
Addressing Wastewater Spills
The mayor urged the community to help the Wastewater Division by keeping grease and oil out of pipes.
“A majority of our wastewater spills over the last several years were from pipes that had burst because of pressure built up from oil and grease clogs. So far workers have prevented these wastewater spills from running into the ocean, but let’s not take any chances,” said Arakawa.
Responding to complaints about the pump station north of Kāʻanapali Parkway, the mayor said there is a construction contract in place to overhaul the station and put in a new odor control system.
“This new biofilter should eliminate about 90% of the odor from the facility, helping out both residents and businesses in the area,” said the mayor.
Below is additional text from the mayor’s State of the County Address including department highlights from this year:
“- A proposal from the Maui Police Department to bring back their solo bike officers. The goal of the solo bike patrol is to reduce deaths and injuries by aggressively enforcing our motor vehicle laws.
The agility of our motorcycle officers will increase traffic enforcement capabilities on our roads and highways and will also cost taxpayers less money on fuel and maintenance.
– We are in the master planning stages of setting up our 100 acre Central Maui Baseyard. Once complete we will be able to take the vehicles from our various other department baseyards, including water, fire, public works, environmental management, parks and others, and consolidate them into one area. For some departments this removes their vehicles out of flood and tsunami inundation zones, while others will save money from not having to lease property anymore.
– The Mitchell Pauole Community Center in Kaunakakai will undergo some much needed renovations and expansion. At the same time, Maui police who operate out of the civic center are looking for a new location to build a new Molokai Police Station. While the police force has grown with the Molokai population, their facilities have not.
Right now police do not have adequate security measures for processing arrestees, and female officers have to dress in a janitor’s closet because they don’t have a separate locker room.
– East Maui residents have been talking about having their own community center in Nahiku for years now, and we broke ground on the Nahiku Community Center last year. This year we will hopefully complete construction and the center will serve the community as a place for public gatherings, private functions and emergency shelter.
– We continue to expand our Maui County Solar Rooftop project on our county facilities, with installation of PV panels going up on 18 more facilities this year for a total of 39 countywide. Some of these new installations include storage and we expect substantial cost savings once those are complete. The projected savings of these panels are around $10 million dollars in energy costs over the next 20 years. Right now we generate 2.5 million watts of solar PV output on sunny days and overall, our community is generating about 30 percent renewable energy. It’s a good start, but we still have a ways to go before we hit our long term goal of 100 percent renewable energy.
– We continue to add more vehicles and bus infrastructure to the Maui Bus system to better address the public’s request for expanded services. This includes the 10 new large transit buses that we just added to our fleet recently. We have also gone out to bid on three more of the smaller, 25 person passenger buses and nine more paratransit buses. We have also added 10 more bus shelters bringing our total up to 18 countywide.
– We remain dedicated to affordable housing assistance for our residents in need of it. Over the last four years our affordable housing projects will have helped almost 200 residents and families either rent or own a home. Some of those projects – such as Kulamalu – are still in the design and planning stages and will need council support for further funding. We are also working with Pulama Lanai to develop affordable housing units for rent and sale on Lanai as well.
– We are still considering the idea of moving Sakamoto Pool from its current location, and expanding it to become a real Central Maui Aquatics Center. We would also like to take that extra space and expand the current War Memorial Gymnasium into a Civic Center, much like the Blaisdell complex on Oahu.
– We continue to move forward with installing GPS into five hundred of our county vehicles. So far the system has been a great success and saved the county money by monitoring the wear and tear on our vehicles and letting departments know of engine trouble by electronically sending out diagnostic reports. Data collected over the next several months will allow the Department of Management to increase vehicle productivity, reduce fuel consumption and limit the need for new vehicle purchases.
– And finally, the time has come to consider moving our county service offices out of the Maui Mall. This includes our Division of Motor Vehicle and Licensing as well as our Real Property Tax Division and Treasury Collections.
Currently the County pays more than $475,000 in annual rent for Maui Mall office space, and it increases by 4 percent every year. The mall was also recently purchased by an off-island investor, and we don’t know if their long term plans include our Service Center. If we find the right property, we can save taxpayer dollars and still remain an important resource in the Central Maui community.
We also continue to work with our Maui delegation in the state legislature to fund important projects. We especially thank them for finishing up the first two portions of the Lahaina bypass and releasing the funds for a new Kihei High School.
For our part, the county looks forward to developing a new Kihei gymnasium that will complement the high school and meet the growing needs of the South Maui community.
Although our legislative delegation has helped the county with many projects and funding, we ask that you stand tall with us once again as we join Speaker Joe Souki in asking that the state remove the current cap on the Transient Accommodations Tax, better known as the T-A-T.
If the cap was removed the County of Maui would receive approximately $37 million dollars in revenue – that’s $16 million dollars more than we currently receive – to help us cover the ever increasing costs of tourism. While the industry is our bread and butter it comes with a price to our infrastructure and services. Just last year Maui County saw 2.3 million visitors in our islands. Some needed to be rescued out of the ocean while others were airlifted off of mountain trails, but all of them had some sort of impact upon our roads, water and wastewater systems.
If the state keeps taking away the TAT the county would have no choice but to raise other taxes that would impact our residents instead of our visitors. Please help us avoid that situation if at all possible.
Finally I would like everyone to recognize our Maui County Councilmembers. We may have gone through some rough patches over these last few years but in the end they saw the community benefit and voted to approve several important projects, including the design of a new county campus in Wailuku and the purchase of almost 200 acres of land in Launiupoko for preservation.
Without willing partners in the legislative branch of government, the executive branch is limited as to what we can accomplish, and vice-versa. That goes for any body of government, whether you’re talking about county, state or federal.
Both sides must remember that what we do is not for each other, but for the public who voted us into office.
The Launiupoko project for example, will benefit this community generations to come. Prior to that, we also bought 65 acres of beachfront property at Paukukalo for environmental and cultural preservation.
You asked us to preserve our environment, and we did and will continue to do so. We are in the process of expanding our agricultural parks, creating community gardens so neighborhoods can feed themselves and exploring a forestation project above the new Kihei Police Station that will be fed from recycled water from our treatment plants.
We have this green momentum, so let’s continue to use it to preserve our aina and protect it from harm. Especially against environmental threats like the Little Fire Ant.
This invasive species will wreak havoc on our community if we are not vigilant.
We must do everything within our power to remove this pest from our islands and make sure that it never comes back.
I call upon the people of Maui County to carefully inspect any plant and imported plant products you buy and ask retailers if they were inspected for Little Fire Ants. If you suspect you have the LFA on your property please contact the State Department of Agriculture immediately for inspection and if warranted, eradication.
Little Fire Ant stings cause severe pain and can blind pets and other animals. They have been known to attack agricultural workers and our Hawaiian Seabirds, which nest on the ground.
We need many more agricultural inspectors and environmental invasive species funding to combat this threat. These state inspectors play a crucial part in preventing these ants from coming to our islands in the first place, and right now the state only has one inspector for Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
Maui County hopes that our state legislators have heard our cry for help and are paying attention to this potentially devastating problem.
Working together, we can stop the Little Fire Ant.
Working together, we can do just about anything.
Because there is no force that can stop this community when we put our minds to it. Not a bad economy, not natural disasters and certainly not invading insects.
In closing, may I just say that it has been an honor to be your mayor for the past three years. I was given this honor once before and it has been a Godsend to have this opportunity once again.
It would be an honor and a privilege to serve another four years, but this is not the time or place for that speech.
Instead, I would just like to thank my staff and department heads and all of our County workers for putting in the hours to make Maui County a better place.
Most of all I’d like to thank my wife, Ann, for standing at my side every day, at every event, some for hours on end. She is a patient woman who loves this community as much as I do.
Through it all she has always smiled and been the friendly face to my more serious demeanor. She really has been the best first lady anyone could ever have.
I am proud of everything this community has accomplished. And although we are doing well, Maui County has not reached our full potential yet.
But we will. Because we have the momentum, we have the energy and we will prevail.
So let’s keep our economy going. Let’s keep improving our infrastructure and keep planning for the future. I know that if we keep reaching for better and brighter goals, our momentum will carry us through.
Mahalo again, and God bless this place we call home, because it truly is the best community in the world.