Rate increase concerns some on Molokai
The increased prices for water are to avoid a service shutdown
WAILUKU » Retired pineapple worker Juanita Patague said she and her husband would face some hardship if water rates increased by some 178 percent as scheduled in parts of West Molokai in September.
"We want to keep it the same," said Patague, 80.
The increase approved by the state Public Utilities Commission to stave off a potential shutdown has upset some residents on Molokai.
Walter Ritte, coordinator of the group Hui Ho'opakele Aina, said he feels the burden placed on ratepayers is misdirected and that the water utilities' owner, Molokai Ranch, should be held accountable for its plan to shut down water services.
"The increases are horrible. They're unprecedented," Ritte said.
Saying it was unable to sustain losses without approval of a luxury development at Laau, the ranch announced in March that it planned to virtually shut down commercial activities and the water and sewage utilities.
The state Public Utilities Commission said it was granting rate increases on Molokai to stave off a shutdown.
The commission granted a rate increase starting Sept. 1 for the ranch's Molokai Public Utilities to $6.04 from $3.18 per 1,000 gallons of water and Waiola o Molokai Inc. to $5.15 from $1.85 per 1,000 gallons of water.
Ritte, whose group opposed the Laau development, said the ranch's action was mean-spirited, and called for government officials to conduct an appraisal of the ranch's 60,000 acres of land.
He said his group plans to organize against the rate increase and persuade the county to move toward condemnation of ranch lands to make sure it meets its obligations for water and sewage services.
Ritte said if the county takes over the ranch's utility systems on Molokai, the burden will be placed on county taxpayers, including people on Maui and Lanai.
Retired pineapple worker Juan Trinidad said he would like to see the county take over the water service operated by Waiola at Kualapuu.
Trinidad said the county already has government services at Kualapuu, such as a county baseball park and recreation center.
Robert Uemura, a Kualapuu resident, said he thinks the county should assist in subsidizing ratepayers and to ease the burden of increases.
Patague said she pays about $19 a month for water, but she and her husband live on a fixed income of $1,400 a month.
About $400 a month goes for the mortgage, and more money is paid for medical bills for her 90-year-old husband.
Ritte's group was scheduled to hold a public meeting about the rate increase last night on Molokai.
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the state should hold the ranch responsible for its obligations and assist with subsidies to qualified ratepayers.
The ranch and Gov. Linda Lingle's administration were unavailable for comment.