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Council Eyes Making it Easier and Cheaper for People to Ditch Junked Cars

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The Hawai‘i County Council wants to make it easier for people to get rid of abandoned vehicles.

It’s aiming to amend rules already in place that will help people get rid of stationary junk cars by establishing a fund to provide towing costs to get those cars to the disposal facility. Currently, the county covers the cost of disposal itself, but the additional fund would cover the roughly $600 to $1,000 towing charge, too.

Another change to the rule would be altering the distance a tagged car would need to be moved to no longer be considered abandoned. The distance now is 24 inches. The change would lengthen that distance to one mile after it’s been tagged as potentially abandoned. That change would circumvent owners of those cars from merely pushing the car a few inches up the road to un-tag it, so to speak, as abandoned and therefore no longer subject to being towed.

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“I think that will solve a lot of the problem,” Councilwoman Maile David said Tuesday. “Now we know a solution is coming down the road.”

The Council’s subcommittee, the Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management Committee, unanimously recommended the proposed change be approved by the full council later this month. It will go now before the Department of Environmental Management for review before it hits the Council later in September.

The fund that would pay for the towing is already established, funded through vehicle registration fees. Several million is in the fund now, and more precise estimates on how much the towing assistance program will cost will be estimated more precisely later. Officials said Tuesday that enough money is in there now to cover the program without concern.

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Councilors and about a half dozen testifiers said that abandoned vehicles and the health and safety problems they present is an islandwide issue. The bill was introduced by Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder.

Judy Hall, representing Puna Neighborhood Watch, said the program and changes will help remove junk cars and ease the financial burden on homeowners and homeowners associations, which usually have to bear the brunt of the costs.

“We need solutions,” she said. “Bill 200 is a move in the right direction.”

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Heather Garvey agreed.

“Please pass this bill and help improve communities as a whole,” she said.

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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