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Innovative ideas for Maui County shared at national conference

By Staff | Aug 25, 2011

Elle Cochran tours METRO with Bruce Philbrick, manager of transfer station operations.

Last month, I traveled to the National Association of Counties (NACO) Conference with hundreds of other government officials from all over the U.S. This year the conference was held in Portland, Oregon from July 14-20 and included many interesting lectures.

I selected (from quite an extensive list of options) to attend the Environmental, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee; “The path to zero waste, make your land resources count;” “Parks, trails and preserves for local economies; “Smart communities and smart buildings, how they improve the economy, environment and experience;” “Beyond the beach, leveraging resources for sustainable coastal counties;” and “The ins and outs of solar financing.

I took a huge amount of information and fresh ideas away from these lectures and plan to apply as many of the visionary initiatives as possible in upcoming projects and proposals that come before the council.

One revolutionary technology that really caught my eye at the convention was “Intelligent Buildings” — a building automation system that is used to monitor utilities for optimal energy usage, operating efficiency, as well as occupant experience. It is a state-of-the-art network that uses great ingenuity to focus on efficiency and sustainability within buildings through closer monitoring and improved control. I feel strongly that we can and should utilize this type of technology for Maui County to cut down on waste and the higher costs associated with waste.

A closely related residential version of this, which is already being tested in Maui County, is called a “Smart Grid.” The Smart Grid is used to improve reliability and efficiency for residential users as it integrates distributed resources with generation, including renewable resources; involves the integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles; and can help with a faster turnaround restoring power after outages occur. I look forward to hearing feedback from customers taking part in this trial run and hope that we can benefit from these innovative technologies.

Before I left for Portland, I took the time to piece together a custom made “Tour de trash” like we have in Maui County, so that I could understand firsthand exactly how Portland, a leader in recycling, sustainability, public transit and bicycling, does what it is that they do. I visited METRO Central Transfer Station, Far West Fibers, Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and Schnitzer Steel Yard, which operates the Hammerhead Metals facility at Puunene. It was very inspiring and motivating to say the least.

I would like to see Maui County continue to move forward with our developing recycling programs and, as I think most would agree, it is clear that we have a lot of room for growth in this arena. I support moving forward with the short-term goal of having our own County MRF, and I plan to take up the curbside recycling item at my next Infrastructure Management Committee meeting on Aug. 29.

Upon my return to Maui, I attended several community events, including one at the Maui Drug Court, where I had the profound opportunity to speak with the graduating class of the program with their friends, family and representatives from Aloha House in attendance. I was able to share my story with the students in hopes that it would be a source of inspiration and hope as the graduates move forward in their lives.

I attended another speaking engagement that day at the 2011 Hawaii Drill Experience workshop put on by the Royal Hawaiian Guard. I was honored to be a guest speaker on the topic of “Sense of Place,” along with other cultural leaders in our community, like former Councilmember Sol Kaho’ohalahala, Wilmont Kahaiali’i and Grale Chong. I feel that my passion for community service has a lot to do with where I come from, and that my sense of place helps determine how my decisions are made. Without remembering why I am in office, which is to serve my community, I would not be doing my job — that stays with me.

An issue that has been very important to the West Maui community is the reversal of traffic flow on Luakini Street. On Aug. 1, my Infrastructure Management Committee; county Transportation Director Jo Anne Johnson-Winer and Deputy Director Mark Takamori; Darren Konno, county transportation specialist, Department of Transportation; Director David Goode, Public Works; and Lt. Hill of Maui Police Department conducted a site inspection of the bus transit station located at the Wharf Cinema Center on Luakini Street and met with community members, who were able to share their mana’o concerning the problems surrounding this issue. The site inspection proved very useful and will be followed up with discussion at the next Infrastructure Management Committee meeting on Aug. 29.

I had another site inspection — of the ocean floor — when I attended the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area’s Second Anniversary Birthday Bash at Airport Beach, where I was able to get up close and personal with “seeps.” Seeps are areas on the ocean floor where groundwater reaches the Earth’s surface from an underground aquifer. I observed huge sections of dead coral reef, other sections that have completely collapsed, and was updated on ongoing studies researching the cause of the reef degradation.

I encourage members of the public to join us at the upcoming Infrastructure Management Committee meeting on Monday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers on the eighth floor of the County Building in Wailuku, where we will discuss curbside recycling and reversing the traffic flow on Luakini Street in Lahaina. We would love your input.