County Council Update

George (Robbie) Robertson, one of the new members on the South Kohala Community Development Action Committee, accompanied by Counciwoman Margaret Wille and her fellow members on the County Council. (COURTESY PHOTO)

MARCH 31 IS IMPORTANT. On March 31 the Council’s Environmental Management Committee will hear a handful of Zero Waste bills and related resolutions aimed at “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Over the past decade, the Council has passed many resolutions urging the Mayor and the Department Environmental Management to pursue our County’s Zero Waste policies. However, resolutions are not law. On the other hand, a “bill” once passed, is a county ordinance and it is the law.

The underlying purposes of the bills scheduled to be heard are as follows: First the intent is to divert all compostables from the landfill waste stream and instead make these organics available to make compost for our farmers, landscapers and residents. It makes no sense for farmers to be buying imported compost when the County is filling its landfills with organics needed to make compost. Besides, the major downside to filling our landfills with organics is that these materials create toxic methane fumes that the County must then contract to vent from the landfill and that put us at risk of State of Hawaii and federal EPA fines. Hawaii County has been in violation of the Clear Air Act every month for the past three years.

The second intent is to divert recyclables from the landfill waste stream and maximize their reuse and create jobs relating to recycling businesses.

Another intent of the proposed legislation will be to redirect a small portion of the trash from East Hawaii to the West Hawaii Sanitary landfill so as to hit the discount threshold of 300 tons of trash going to this landfill each day. We are now at about 285 tons per day. That change alone will net the County a savings of between $60,000 and $70,000 a month.

If you would like to support these bills and offer your suggestions, please call my office at 887-2043 to find out what time public testimony will be scheduled. If you cannot attend the March 31 council meeting, don’t forget to watch this session live stream or from the archive file available on the internet at http://hawaiicounty.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=1.

STATE LEGISLATION OF GREAT IMPORTANCE: House Bill 197 draft 2 concerns the amount of revenue the Counties will receive from the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) revenues. This bill would remove the current cap on the Counties’ portion. A number of years ago when that cap was imposed, the Counties were assured the cap would only be temporary until the economy improved, yet the cap has yet to be removed. If the Bill is passed and the Counties portion is specified at least at 44.8%, this would likely mean an additional $14 to $20 million in County revenues.

Bill 197 draft 2 passed in the House and has now been referred to the Senate. We need the Senate to approve this bill with a 50/50 split between the State and County. You can check on the status of HB197 at the State Legislature’s website at www. capitol.hawaii.gov. On this page simply enter HB197 in the search box labeled Bill Status/Measure Status.

NEW SOUTH KOHALA COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MEMBERS: I am excited to announce Diane Kanealii of Kawaihae and Robby Robertson of Puako area are the new members on the Action Committee.