Big Isle landfill
decision due
next Friday

How much of the Kona landfill
should be run by the county?

By Rod Thompson

HILO -- Circuit Judge Riki May Amano says she will determine by next Friday how much of the privately run Kona landfill should be transferred to the county.

Amano heard closing arguments yesterday from the county, United Public Workers union and contractor Waste Management Inc. on how to carry out a state Supreme Court order.

The high court ruled earlier this year that the county acted improperly in 1993 when it contracted the landfill operation at Puuanahulu, North Kona, to Waste Management.

Acting on an appeal by the United Public Workers, the high court said county workers had previously operated the county dump at Kealakehe, so they should also operate the new landfill at Puuanahulu.

Amano said the high court reviewed the Waste Management contract and found that it consisted of construction and operations. It is the operations that conflicts with the law, she said.

County attorney Mark Bennett and Waste Management attorney Richard Rand agreed.

UPW attorney Herbert Takahashi didn't. "There is no role for WMI in any way," he said.

As Takahashi tried to explain his reasons for that stance, Amano suggested he was taking a "microscopic view."

If Takahashi prevails, all of the workers at the landfill will be unionized county employees. If Waste Management retains some functions, its workers will continue to be nonunion.

But Takahashi framed the question in terms of efficient use of county money. If there are two sets of workers at the landfill, two sets of management will be needed to supervise them, he argued.

Bennett brushed that off, saying it would be absurd to say WMI couldn't have a secretary to handle landfill paperwork because the county also has a secretary.

Rand identified what may be a sticky problem for Amano: deciding whether environmental monitoring should be done by the county or Waste Management.

Rand said county workers had never done such monitoring in the past.

Takahashi argued that the monitoring is simple and there is no reason for county workers not to do it.

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