Head of Water Supply welcomes inquisition over HOVE service
Video by David Corrigan, voice of Tim Bryan
Milton Pavao, head of the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply, says he welcomes an audit imposed by a statehouse resolution, and that his department has nothing to hide.
Pavao made his statement during a county Water Board meeting in Hilo on Tuesday, shortly after it was reported that the Hawaii House of Representatives passed a resolution to investigate the Ocean View – Kahuku water project ongoing in Ka’u.
The audit is being led by Ka’u Representative Bob Herkes, who wants to take a closer look at the semi-autonomous water department. In particular, Herkes is wondering why an Ocean View-Kahuku water system – which lies in his district – is still not finished after $6 million in funding has been given to the county for the project.
In early February, Herkes had this to say about the water situation in his district, among other things.
Herkes also issued the following statement when the plan to investigate was approved by the House.
“It is unfortunate that, despite efforts by many groups and individuals to obtain information on the project, many questions remain unanswered,” said Rep. Herkes. “The community is depending on the completion of this project, and there have been severe roadblocks and delays from the department. It is important to the taxpayers of this State and the residents of Kahuku on Hawaii Island to get satisfactory answers to these questions.”
The 2005 Legislature appropriated $6 million to Hawaii County for development of a water well and adjoining system with the storage capacity to fill stations to accommodate four water hauler trucks and other amenities. The money was released in April 2006 to the County.
The water well was completed about two years ago, but work on the storage tank has stalled. SSFM International was originally contracted to provide the design of the project and to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA). The department has since contracted with a different firm, Bolton, Inc. to prepare a new design and to finish the project. The new design differs significantly from the original design that was supported by the community.
The committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection heard testimony on HR136 from Mr. Loren Heck , President of the Ocean View Community Development Corporation, who also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Department of Water Supply in 2003. Mr. Heck’s testimony states, in part:
“Initially, the DWS met their deadlines to encumber the $6,000,000. In the years that have followed, The Ocean View Water Project has suffered continuous delays. Response to requests from the Ocean View Community Development Corp. for regular updates are irregular, with no reported ‘tentative’ deadlines being met. It is questionable if communication with outsourced contractors is clear or timely.”
The Department of Water Supply does not currently serve Ocean View. Further, Mr. Heck’s testimony reads:
“Ocean View Community Development Corp argued that by the fact that water-hauling companies were purchasing and delivering DWS water to Ocean View residents daily, we were customers. Furthermore, we were paying over ten times the general customer rate, covering the cost of a private truck delivery system which saved DWS the cost of delivering the water to Ocean View.”
The duties of the committee will be:
· To determine the status of the water well and overall water system project,
· To provide for an audit of the money allocated to the water system,
· To determine whether an amendment to the EA was required relating to the change in project scope after the EA was approved, and
· To determine upon what basis Bolton Inc. was retained and whether its contract with the department complied with the State Procurement Code under Chapter 103D, HRS.
The investigative committee will be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives exclusively from the membership of the House of Representatives, and it will be authorized to exercise its powers during the interim period between the 2010 and 2011 Regular Sessions. The committee is required to submit a report to the House of Representatives no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2011 Legislative Session.
Rep. Herkes has also sent a letter to Mayor William P. Kenoi, County of Hawaii to request that the Office of the Mayor and the Board of Water Supply address concerns related to the Ocean View water project. The letter is attached.
On Tuesday, Pavao said that it was unfortunate that Herkes pursued this course of action, because now it will cost time, money and energy for all involved. Pavao said he was angered by the suggestion that there had been a misuse of funds, considering that all the funds reside in Oahu, and that they are only released after a properly documented invoice is submitted.
“That’s politics!” said a member of the Water Board during the meeting.