Saturday, July 30, 2005

Kauai clashes
over landfills

The Council accuses the mayor
of stalling for political reasons

LIHUE » The Kauai County Council has accused Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste of playing politics with Kauai's trash problem.

Councilmembers said they are fed up that Baptiste's administration has not found a new site for the landfill, despite years of mounting trouble and thousands of dollars used to find suitable sites.

At yesterday's Council meeting, county engineer Donald Fujimoto and county solid-waste coordinator Troy Tanigawa testified that if there is no site for the landfill by the end of September, a new landfill will not be in place before the old one in Kekaha reaches capacity.

That would mean another expansion in Kekaha, months after the Council agreed to raise the elevation of the heap by 25 feet last year.

"Let me declare that this is a crisis," said Councilmember Mel Rapozo. "It's going to fill up soon ... and we don't have a new landfill in sight."

Rapozo said that it has been a stated priority of the Baptiste administration since taking office in 2002, but "I don't see the administration working hard" on this.

He was joined by other members of the Council urging "the administration" to pick a site, despite the potential political fallout of putting up a landfill in a community.

That is what stalled the previous mayor, who picked a site in a remote area of Hanamaulu but abandoned that plan when the community opposed it. The previous administration also funded a study to pick suitable sites for a new landfill, but it has yet to lead to definitive action.

Fujimoto said his department has been in contact with two large landowners trying to work out a deal for the 110-acre parcel needed to keep the trash problem at bay for another 30 years.

But Rapozo and fellow councilmembers said that it is past the time to talk. What is needed is action, and condemnation should be considered if the landowners will not agree, they said.

"Sure, it's politically difficult, but (the mayor) has to come up with a plan to do it," said Council Chairman Kaipo Asing. "Step up to the plate and make a decision."

The mayor, who was in Honolulu at meetings, issued a statement via e-mail that he understands how important an issue this is but that it is a "sensitive subject."

"No one wants a landfill in their back yard," he said, adding that the best way to alleviate the problem is to work with the landowners to find a site with "minimal impact on any given community."

County of Kauai

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