junked cars litter
Old vehicles clog roads andBy Trish Moore
cane fields, while critics slam a
long-delayed recycling site
LIHUE -- Justin Pimental checks the two dozen junked cars alongside Olohena Road for a passenger door for his 1986 Buick Skylark. At the same time, he shakes his head at the number of cars abandoned in cane fields and along roads throughout the island.
"So much junk. It isn't the Garden Island anymore," Pimental says.
Pimental echoes many Kauai residents who are frustrated about delays for a new auto-recycling center to handle abandoned and derelict vehicles.
The county late last month began accepting junked vehicles at the future site of an auto-recycling center in Puhi. But critics say the requirements are too stringent to be of any help.
For cars to be accepted, owners must turn in registration and ownership papers, obtain an affidavit from the Department of Motor Vehicles, schedule a drop-off appointment two days in advance, drain all fluids from the vehicle and tow it to the site at their own expense.
One week after the county began accepting vehicles, only one had been brought to the site.
"I can't see people taking their cars there under those conditions," said resident Glen Mickens.
County officials say they have identified from 800 to 1,000 junked vehicles along county roadways. Those numbers don't include vehicles abandoned in cane fields and other agricultural lands. Some estimate there could be 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles littering the island.
The Kauai Police Department is charged with the task of towing away derelict and abandoned vehicles. On other islands, this is the duty of the public works or finance department.
But since a temporary storage facility in Wailua was closed last April, there's been no place to tow them.
"We're in a Catch-22 situation," says police Inspector Mel Morris.
County administrative assistant Wallace Rezentes says relief is coming soon. The county last week put out a request for bids for a contractor to collect junked vehicles along roadways, drain the fluids and transport the vehicles to the future recycling site for storage.
Large landowners, responsible for dealing with cars dumped on their land, are also frustrated.
"It's been a very expensive problem," said Amfac Land Co. President Tamara Edwards. Amfac owns about 20,000 acres on Kauai, mostly sugar cane land.
Amfac's subsidiary on Kauai, Lihue Plantation, is in a "very, very severe financial state," Edwards said, and has been cleaning up junked vehicles on an as-needed basis -- only where they pose a hazard or where they've received complaints.
Kauai's junk vehicle problem began three years ago when the state closed down the old recycling site on its land near the airport because the contractor didn't pay the rent.
"That caught the county really with its pants down," Rezentes says. "You realize somebody else is controlling your life and that is the state of Hawaii."
Since then the county has been scrambling to get a new recycling site operational, but the delays have been long. The new site was projected more than a year ago to be open by last March.
Rezentes says that meeting state Health Department requirements has delayed the process and added to the center's cost. Originally, it was expected to cost about $400,000, but Rezentes says that may end up doubling because of Health Department requirements.
The county will be ready to put out a request for bids to construct the new facility "hopefully by summer," he says.