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County Council Discussion on Maunakea Reimbursement Moves Forward

April 8, 2020, 3:17 PM HST
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Councilmember Maile Medeiros David

Hawai‘i County Council continues to move the discussion of state reimbursement forward on costs incurred by the county to handle the protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.

On Wednesday, the counsel postponed voting the on Mayor’s request to a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to receive funds from the state during the five-month demonstration in 2019. The county is looking to get reimbursed for overtime costs, supplies, equipment and other expenses incurred by Hawai‘i Police Department and the Office of the Mayor.

Maile David, District 6, introduced a resolution and bill that addressed the reimbursement. The councilwoman requested that they postpone voting on the resolution until the amended MOA was confirmed by corporation counsel.

“We had an open-end on the MOA on when it (the agreement) could be terminated,” David explained.

While the Resolution contained reference to an end date, and a proposed amendment to the bill changed the $10 million to the actual amount of costs and expenses as of Dec. 31, 2019 ($5,342,262), David said, the term of the MOA was basically open-ended.

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David said the postponement allows the administration to make all documents presented to the council consistent.

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There was concern from other council members that the postponement would hold up the process. Council Chairman Aaron Chung explained the resolution and bill’s urgency because HPD is running out of money.

“I just want to move quickly in getting money back to the county of Hawai‘i,” Chung said.

David reassured that the postponement wouldn’t cause a delay.

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The council unanimously approved the resolutions postponement. The bill was also approved and will go before the council for its second and final reading at the next council meeting.

The discussion surrounding the reimbursement was controversial after the council unanimously voted against a resolution that would have transferred the financial burden of 2019’s protest to the state.

County administration presented the resolution before the council in December. The measure would have brought back $10 million from the state in the form of a grant to cover Maunakea-related costs.

One sticking point was that the agreement included a stipulation to keep Hawai‘i Police Department officers on the hook for response to demonstration-related activity for the next half-decade.

During the December meeting, the council was clear it wanted an agreement allowing for state reimbursement of the nearly $5 million the County had already spent just on police overtime, as well as other expenses.

However, this deal presented by county administration, wasn’t it.

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