City & County of Honolulu

Harris will reject
charter proposal

The change would combine sewage
and water operations

By Pat Omandam

Mayor Jeremy Harris said he intends to reject a proposed City Charter amendment that would merge the city's waste-water functions and the Board of Water Supply into a single agency.

In a statement this week, Harris said he does not disagree in principle with a possible merger of these large departments but believes it is a complex issue that must be carefully thought out.

The mayor said he had proposed a compromise to the merger resolution the Council passed this week, but Harris' proposal was rejected by Council members. He reiterated there are concerns about what effect the merger would have on repayment of all bonds and refinancing to obtain new bonds, the city's bond rating and several union issues.

And the city is concerned about how the merger would affect the 300 employees in its Refuse Division, he said.

"Because there has been no study of the proposed merger, we have no idea if it would result in any cost savings or improved operational efficiencies," Harris said.

The City Council approved by a 6-3 vote on Wednesday a resolution calling for the merger. Proponents say it would remove politics from sewage handling. The consolidation of city water and waste-water functions could reduce costs by as much as 20 percent, saving the city possibly $35 million a year, they said.

Council opponents of the measure, however, believe a thorough study is needed before the city asks voters whether to ratify the merger.

Councilman Jon Yoshimura said this week he wants additional time to look at the proposal. He said it is not a new idea and that the Council can wait until next year to make a decision for the 2004 ballot.

"We just have not done enough work to bring this proposal to the voters so they can decide whether or not to do it," Yoshimura said.

But Councilman John Henry Felix said the issue has been studied since 1970 and that there is enough information to make a determination. He said the city should be bold and have the political will to do what is in the best interest of its citizens.

City & County of Honolulu

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