Testimony Supports Keeping Water DirectorDecember 4, 2017, 9:06 AM HST · Updated December 4, 11:00 AM Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
The Maui County Council reconvened today after a marathon meeting on Friday which included testimony on a proposed resolution from the mayor, seeking the removal of Maui Director of Water Supply Dave Taylor.
Taylor was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 15, 2017, following the transmittal of the resolution to the council for consideration. The mayor’s resolution did not include an explanation, but Taylor told Maui Now that he believed the request mas made amid a disagreement with the mayor on how to manage the department.
Our request for comment from the Mayor’s office at the time was declined, but testimony on Friday included information that the two did not agree on a water source purchase issue. The county has plans to purchase the ditch system owned by Wailuku Water Company.
When the meeting resumed today, council members agreed to refer the item to committee for discussion so that they can hear from both Director Taylor and Mayor Alan Arakawa. The item is expected to be discharged back to the council for a full vote on December 15th.
Public testimony on Friday included multiple individuals who spoke in support of keeping Taylor at the helm.
Tom Cook, a local contractor, testified in support of Taylor, speaking highly of the Water Director and his organizational skills. “I was impressed with his total grasp of the entire department which was extensive and multi-faceted,” saying Taylor was able to discuss each aspect at length. “He knows the department inside and out,” said Cook, who had in the past, been considered for a post within the department.
Cook reminded the council that the Department of Water Supply used to be an autonomous agency–not subject to control by the mayor or the council.
“It was structured that way to keep it from being political. It is a public utility and should be outside of the political decision making process,” said Cook, who called the mayor’s proposed removal of Taylor, “political.”
“This administration has one more year before the community votes for a new mayor. The new mayor will have the option to retain Mr. Taylor. If a new director is nominated and approved, it would be a structured and professional transition for the department. This administration’s leave dictated by the mayor is based not on any wrongdoing, other than not agreeing with the mayor on a water source purchase issue,” said Cook.
“During his employment at the Department of Water Supply, Dave has worked with his staff and developed detailed spreadsheets outlining the time and money required for different project scenarios,” said Cook.
Cook said he watched Taylor testify before the council for budget review, during which he gave the body three options for funding. “One–fix things as they break; Two–keep the system working with some CIP upgrades; or three–implement the general plan goals and invest a significant amount of money over a period of years to replace parts, develop a necessary source for future growth, and build reservoirs and tanks required for Maui’s planned growth. These suggestions were linked to water rates and fees that the department required for their capitol improvements,” said Cook.
Curt Eaton, a licensed engineer with water department also spoke in support of Taylor, saying he is concerned about the affect on the department if Taylor is dismissed.
“I recommend that you keep Dave Taylor. He’s been good for our department,” said Eaton.
“As everyone knows, the water department is very controversial. Everything is an issue from lack of water source to understanding undersized outdated infrastructure, to water meter lists, and to meter fees and on and on… you’ve heard it for years.”
“What I have seen Director Taylor do is to educate–he educated staff, public, governmental officials–on the issues facing the water department, and what is required to rectify those issues,” said Eaton, naming the Upcountry water meter list as an example.
“The solution to the water list is to develop new source and improve a portion of the infrastructure so that water can be transmitted from the source to your faucet. The vocal, very minority blocks every attempt to develop water source, and at the same time, complain that they cannot get a meter. It is a no-win position that Director Taylor has,” said Eaton.
Eaton continued testimony saying that Taylor found solutions to a problem that has plagued the community for years. “[He] recognized that a lot of the people on the water meter list do not need a full compliment of fixture counts that a meter upgrade would provide. They just need a few extra fixture counts so that they can expand their home or add an ʻohana. Director Taylor started a program allowing customers to purchase just the number of fixture counts they need. This frees up the remaining fixture units for someone else to use. I would call it fixture unit sharing. And most important, it removes people from the meter list.”
According to Eaton’s testimony, Taylor has also educated the community in water demand versus supply. “He has educated us on the true cost for the county to provide water,” Eaton testified.
Eaton said Taylor has also made himself available to speak and to educate various communities, associations and various stakeholder groups, as well as for community planning efforts. “He went to Molokaʻi to explain the County’s water infrastructure issues. He suggested policies and implementation actions to address those challenges in the community plan. Recently he participated in public meetings regarding the West Maui Community Plan and to help explain existing water and infrastructure potential for for in-fill development.”