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Tuesday, January 18, 2000

Maui will
step back from

Mayor Apana says it's not his
idea to eliminate the park
maintenance contracts

By Gary Kubota


WAILUKU -- Maui County Mayor James Apana has proposed eliminating most private park maintenance contracts and hiring more public employees, adding an estimated $397,000 to the next fiscal year budget.

But he said this is not an indication that the county is moving away from privatization of services -- a concept publicly advocated by former Mayor Linda Lingle.

Instead, Apana said, it's to comply with a 1997 court settlement between the county and the United Public Workers union.

"This is not something we chose to do," Apana said. "It is something we have to do."

Lingle, now chairwoman of the Republican Party of Hawaii, said increasing the number of county employees guarantees more expenses and higher taxes.

"It sends the wrong message to the business community and to people who are looking to invest in Maui," she said.

Lingle said people want government to be smaller and more efficient.

But Apana noted the settlement was reached while Lingle was in office. "She went to court and they (Lingle officials) lost," said Apana, who became mayor in 1999.

Apana said he believes some county services are best done by government employees and some by private workers.

"If we feel we can farm it out and do it legally, and farming it out is cost-effective, we'll do it," he said. "I will not privatize just because it sounds good. I will not promote a union just because that's what the union wants."

Carl Sakaki, owner of Sak's Landscaping & Maintenance, paid off as many bills as he could last year. He expects to lose about $12,000 in income this year, as Maui County terminates his contract for services in Wailuku.

"We're going to lose some income, but you just have to face reality," said Sakaki, 54.

Maui County Parks Director Floyd Miyazono said he believes the county would be able to operate more efficiently in some areas when the change is made.

Under the old system, private workers were assigned to maintain specific parks, he said. Under the new system, roving crews will move as needed to the parks.

A number of the workers who maintained the parks under private companies would be hired by the county, Miyazono said.

Apana said he is considering forming public-private partnerships similar to the way the county has companies doing its property taxes and payroll.

One new area is in the development of a computerized geographic information system used in land use planning, he said.

Apana also is proposing to work with the UPW to develop community partnerships that would enable several nonprofit groups to maintain the county grounds.

He plans to hire 20 full-time and four part-time employees in phases by June 30. There now are 38 park maintenance workers.

Apana's plan is expected to cost an estimated $1.22 million in fiscal year 2001. But by eliminating some 89 private contracts totaling $823,000, the added cost would be $397,000.

The cuts do not include some $712,000 in contracts with Kalima O Maui, a nonprofit group that hires the disabled and economically disadvantaged.

A bill proposing the transfer of services was approved by the council's Budget Committee and is scheduled for initial review by the full County Council Friday.

The late Republican Mayor Hannibal Tavares began issuing contracts for the maintenance of bathrooms in county parks and later expanded services to groundskeeping. The practice continued under Lingle.

Lingle, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1998, sought to privatize refuse collection in 1996 by hiring a private contractor and transferring county refuse workers to other departments. But the UPW challenged the transfer in court, arguing that counties were not allowed to privatize jobs traditionally performed by civil servants.

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