Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.
Dear Mayor Arakawa,
Q: The State is planning to develop a sports complex on 65 acres behind homes in Maui Lani. They received a conditional special use permit from the planning commission on March 25. After construction, the State plans to turn responsibility for maintaining the park over to the County. The County purchased 209 acres last September for the exact same purpose. Why aren’t the County and State getting together and building the proposed sports complex on the County land instead? It would benefit everyone concerned and free up the space behind the homes in Maui Lani for a less invasive public park. This seems like common sense to me.
A: If it were as easy as you suggest, it might certainly have been one quickly built park. However, not only are there numerous steps and challenges involving any large land development, it is much more complex when both County and State jurisdictions are involved. State projects, by law, have always been separate. County-funded projects, by County code, are also separate. Each entity follows its own procedures and protocols every step of the way for obtaining funding for acquisition, design and construction, as well as negotiating with the landowner and agencies involved. Even if the park may eventually be turned over to the County for long-term maintenance, County and State guidelines would likely add further complexity to a joint development, rather than simplify it. This could make the project even more costly for taxpayers, as well as take a lot longer to complete. Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui has worked with the County for years to propose a Central Maui project that the State is willing to foot the bill for. For Maui County residents, this is expected to provide us with much-needed recreational fields for a fraction of the cost. The public meeting held this week by the State will give residents near the proposed park a chance to learn more about the project and voice any concerns they may have.
Q: Every year the area between Puamana and Ma‘alaea becomes a frequent place of sudden fires and road closures. If the areas of dry brush (old, unattended cane fields, etc.) were “control burned” on either side of the highway before the dry season, wouldn’t it help lessen the occurrence of these fires? Just a thought by some of us on the West Side.
A: Yes, the Fire Department has conducted prescribed burn training in the area of Puamana above Honoapi‘ilani Highway. The week-long training was conducted in December last year with the assistance of experienced “burn bosses” from the mainland. Controlled or prescribed fires greatly reduce the potential for wildfires by removing hazardous amounts of vegetation on the property, which literally serves as “fuel” for the fire. The longer vegetation accumulates, the more destructive an eventual fire will be, burning hotter, traveling faster and having unpredictable results. Wildfires cause vast economic damage and lead to major inconveniences for the public. Because of these serious impacts, Fire officials will consider ongoing use of controlled burns, but not until all foreseeable hazards have been addressed and contingency plans have been developed. Safety is our first priority, thus proper planning must be conducted prior to any type of controlled burning. Another major factor that must be considered are the costs related to this type of operation, which must be budgeted for in advance. Overtime costs include personnel assigned to staff relief apparatuses, since on-duty personnel not utilized for this operation need to be available to respond to 911 calls.
Dear Mayor Arakawa:
Q: Will a traffic “refuge” lane ever be built for Ha‘ikū School? The other day I headed up to Ha‘ikū town just as school was letting out and got stuck in traffic behind parents picking up their kids. Even though a man was working to shout at parents to “Hurry up!” there was no way to drive past the school entrance. Cars started cutting in line, speeding up and driving in the opposite lane to continue up the road. If I had decided to do the same, there could have been a crash. This is a very dangerous situation; an accident is waiting to happen. And in an emergency, no one can get through. When and how can this dangerous situation be fixed?
A: The traffic scenario you describe is one that is difficult for the County to remediate due to extremely limited right-of-way in the area. For that reason, it would be difficult to construct a refuge lane. School officials are aware of the bottleneck, and will continue to explore options to alleviate the impacts of rush-hour traffic. Police have been asked to help monitor the area and to ticket irresponsible drivers; however, their resources are limited. The best solution is to avoid the area during school dropoff and pickup times and take Kokomo Road instead. Even though it may be a short detour, Kokomo will probably save you time and frustration.
Want to Ask the Mayor?
Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.