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Saturday, January 22, 2000

Kauai talks
trash with mayor

The County Council says the
administration must get moving
on a new dump

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- For the first time since taking office more than a year ago, the Kauai County Council came down hard on Mayor Maryanne Kusaka's administration for its failure to get moving on building a new county dump.

The existing Kekaha Landfill will be full in four years, but it takes more than four years to build a new dump. The county is looking for a new site and seeking proposals, but is falling farther and farther behind the curve.

County Engineer Cesar Portugal's explanation: "We're always short of funds."

County Council Chairman Ron Kouchi, who made lack of progress on a new landfill the keystone of his 1998 election campaign, wasn't buying any of it. He reminded Portugal that the county raised property taxes this year primarily to erase the landfill's red ink.

Portugal admitted the administration had not forecast a 9 percent increase in landfill operating costs which arrived with a new contract last year.

County solid waste manager Troy Tanigawa said the county is burying 200 tons of trash a day at Kekaha, a figure that has remained pretty constant over the last few years.

But when asked by Councilman Randal Valenciano whether the county is meeting a federal guideline to reduce garbage headed for the dump by recycling, Tanigawa had to concede Kauai County isn't even close.

The federal guideline calls for a 50 percent reduction through recycling. Kauai's reduction is "in the teens," Tanigawa said. Luckily for Kauai, he noted, Hawaii has not gone the way of many states and made the federal guideline a state mandate.

Councilman Gary Hooser, a frequent critic of the Kusaka administration, said the county lacks the technical expertise to design and build a new waste facility. He said it needs a full-time, in-house expert on both landfills and recycling.

Even Councilman Billy Swain, normally a Kusaka loyalist, said, "You're falling behind."

Wally Rezentes Sr., Kusaka's chief aide, said everything would be better once a contract to develop a new dump is signed, probably later this year.

But he warned the Council that improvements in trash handling won't come cheap.

"You will see boldness," he promised, "but it will come at a pretty expensive price. The kind of change you're talking about is going to cost a major sum of money."

The Council put the topic on the agenda again for a meeting in two weeks.

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