Cemetery faces
cutoff of utilities

A dispute with trustees at
Honolulu Memorial leaves bills
unpaid and volunteers upset

People who go to Nuuanu's Honolulu Memorial Park to place flowers on the graves of loved ones should bring water as well because the cemetery's utilities are about to be cut off for nonpayment, City Councilman Rod Tam said.

Tam and Nuuanu businessman Vic Hejmadi say the trustees of the Honolulu Memorial Association have refused to pay the bills and have prevented efforts to get the troubled cemetery re-licensed since it emerged from bankruptcy more than a year ago.

"I'm tired of this runaround. I'm not about to take the heat," Tam said. "We cannot make excuses for them anymore."

Tam and Hejmadi are urging association members -- people who own plots and niches -- to demand the trustees pay the cemetery's utility bills and urge the state attorney general to get the trustees to step down.

Tam, Hejmadi and the trustees are scheduled to meet with the attorney general Friday.

Association members elected three other trustees a year ago, but the current board refuses to step down.

Trustee Bruce Matsui said the election is not valid because it was not called by the current board.

But Tam said that according to association rules, anybody can call for an election.

The nonprofit memorial association is responsible for maintaining the cemetery but has not been paying its bills for at least the past six months. The utilities were shut off before, but volunteers paid the bills, Tam said.

"I wish they would have told us," Matsui said. "We can probably pay some of those bills."

Tam said he has given the utility bills and notices to the trustees, but they have ignored them.

The association has a perpetual-care fund for maintenance. Matsui would not say how much money is in the fund, but he said it is not enough for long-term maintenance.

Hejmadi disagrees. He estimates the fund is worth about $1 million.

The park lost its license to operate as a cemetery when the majority stockholders gave up their shares in 2003 in a plan to transfer ownership to the association.

The former memorial park operator filed for bankruptcy in 2001, blaming the high cost to maintain the cemetery's landmark pagoda. It closed the park in 2003 after niche and plot owners protested a proposal to tear down the pagoda.

Since then, volunteers have been cleaning the grounds. But "volunteers have gotten tired of volunteering," Tam said.

Honolulu Disposal Service empties the park's lone trash bin once per week for free. Tam said he has been transferring trash from barrels scattered throughout the park's four acres to the trash bin every day, a task he can no longer perform because he has gotten busy with his City Council duties.

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