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Mayor Alan Arakawa fields questions from West Siders

By Staff | Sep 1, 2011


WAILUKU — Mayor Alan M. Arakawa has been on the job nine months.

Although the county chief has an overwhelmingly full calendar, he opened his office on the ninth floor of the Kalana O Maui Building in Wailuku to answer questions from West Siders posed by the Lahaina News.

Thus begins a series of articles, with the mayor accessible to queries from a rainbow of community leaders young and old, like Pat and Richard Endsley, Aunty Patty Nishiyama, Joe Pluta, Ekolu Lindsey, Matthew Erickson, Nane Aluli and David Ferguson.

The Endlseys are disturbed by a long-standing West Maui problem: “Our immediate community issue is the Wahikuli and Kaanapali sewage plants emitting terrible odors. We did mention this to Alan months ago. We have had several visitors from California, and it is quite disturbing to drive in our neighborhood smelling foul sewage odor. What can be done to correct this?”

The mayor was forthright in his response.

“If they let us know when there are odors, we will have the department look at the odor complaints and try to work with it. Now there are some things,” Arakawa qualified, “that can be rectified simply, and some things will take a little bit more of an effort.

“But the odor complaints — we’ve worked with that for decades now, and it is not something that is just going to go away.

“The treatment plant was put in the wrong place to begin with,” he said matter-of-fact. “It should have been at least half-a-mile further inland. Because it’s right alongside the road, and all of the stations are right alongside the road, there are going to be some odors that we just cannot get rid of.

“We do use masking agents. We do camouflage some of the buildings. There are efforts that are being made, but it helps us every time someone brings in an odor complaint, because then we can put in additives to help mask the odors.

“The entire system itself is being improved. It has been constantly upgraded; so the upgrades to the system from what it was when I started working with it is tremendous. There have literally been millions of dollars spent in upgrading the equipment, but the fact is that wastewater systems will always have some odors associated with it.”

The mission of the county Wastewater Reclamation Division is “to improve and maintain a professional division that achieves the protection of the public health and environment through optimum performance of its facilities, utilizing an empowered and dedicated staff.”

Report offending odors direct to the Lahaina plant at 661-8460.

Another current hot topic is district voting. David Ferguson asked for the mayor’s position on this issue.

“I really don’t have a strong position on voting by district,” the mayor responded.

“There are plusses and minuses for any of a number of different methodologies. There are at least five to ten different methodologies being mentioned — everything from creating canoe districts to creating councils in each district.

“There’s even discussion about perhaps going down to a seven-member council,” Arakawa added. “Change our entire methodology, so that we have a professional managing director. All of the directors are long-term employees of the management, and the council and mayor become the executive board.

“There’s all different potential possibilities. There’s no sense in trying to speculate… there are just too many different alternatives.”

Joe Pluta had questions specific to his favorite cause: a hospital on the isolated West Side.

“Will the mayor have his director of planning assist us by initiating upzoning for the West Maui hospital?”

Arakawa was quick to respond.

“If Joe Pluta puts in a request to us, I would be more than happy to have any of my staff work with him, because I believe the hospital is a good thing. To this point, he has not put in a formal request.”

Pluta’s second request was more pointed, and the mayor was straightforward in his response.

“Will the mayor pledge designation of highest priority to all permit requests in this regard?”

Arakawa replied, “What we’re doing is we’re helping everybody through the permit system — to get through the obstacles in the permit system as much as possible; however, that does not disregard the system.

“I cannot say it will be the highest priority. If he contacts the Mayor’s Office, we will help.”

Next week, the series continues with answers to questions like the designation of Hui Road F, usage of reclaimed water and the mayor’s position on a move in the Hawaii Legislature to convene a panel to probe two executive agreements related to the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.