(BIVN) – Hawaii County Councilmembers were given an update on the organic waste program during a recent committee meeting.
The issue goes back to early 2017. As the new year began, the East Hawaii Organics Facility planned for Panaewa had the community concerned. When newly elected mayor Harry Kim said he was going to take a second look at the project – which was spearheaded by the previous administration – it came to the attention of the Council, which had previously approved the facility. The debate that followed exposed a rift between the county’s legislative and executive branches.
One year later: On February 7, Environmental Management Committee chair Eileen O’Hara summarized the events leading up to today.
“On February 16th, our mayor canceled a contract that had been let by the previous administration,” O’Hara said. “It was a ten year contract. After considerable back-and-forth between the council, the administration,
and the company, it was resolved by rescinding the cancellation notice in April. At that time, because negotiations were taking place between the company (Hawaiian Earth Recycling) and the County, a change-to-contract or a supplemental contract needed to be fashioned.”
Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela then gave an update on the county’s supplemental contract with Hawaiian Earth Recycling, or HER.
“This thick contract that you see before me,” Kamelamela said, turning to a thick binder of paper, “really takes a lot of work. As you can see by my two-page letter, there’s a lot of time that is spent to ensure that both parties – both HER and at the county – work together to make sure that we get the best contract term for both parties.”
Hilo councilmember Aaron Chung was alarmed by the need to put the project out to bid.
“Whose idea was that?” Chung demanded.
“It was an issue that was brought up because of the procurement code,” Kamelamela responded. “So it was important that the county does that. So, that is a substantial change.”
If Hawaiian Earth Recycling is going to operate the facility, then “why don’t they build it?” Chung asked.
“The issue of the construction of the facility modified, once we went in and we were changing the location,” the Director of the Department of Environmental Management, Bill Kucharski, tried to explain. “My understanding of when the original RFP went out, there were no funds available to pay for the facility. It was only after the original contract was signed that we have a cost the $10 million, plus or minus. Then, once we went in and we moved the facility – and we had the rescission and we returned – we had already allocated that money, county monies, that $10 million dollars, because we couldn’t sign the contract without having the allocation, and certifying funds are available for that contract.”
“Once those funds were certified,” Kucharski continued, “We are now in a position of not having put out for bid a design-build, and so now we have to do a design-bid-build, because we’re building this with county funds. Originally, it was the contractors’ funds that were going to be used and we were going to repay. At this point, we’re now in a design-bid-build. So, that was the primary reason for the change.”
“To me a design-build is more efficient,” Chung said. “We had a contract with these guys.”
“I’m gonna blow my mind if the price goes up, now, because we are coming in to build this thing,” Chung said.
Kucharski also revealed that the site for the East Hawaii facility will be somewhere in the Kea’au area of Puna.
“We currently have a contract with AECOM, who is looking at three separate sites,” Kucharski said. “Two of them in the Shipman Industrial Park, another one by the Keaau Transfer Station. They’re being examined for engineering suitability of these sites.”
“They will then grade those three sites to find a preferred site from the perspective of engineering,” Kucharski continued. “We have a second contract with SSFM to do an (Environmental Assessment) that is being routed for a
signature, and we should commence within the month. That EA will then take a look at all of the cultural, traffic, noise, all of the things that you’re required to do for all three of the sites as is required by the environmental statutes, by HR 343. We expect to have that decision done, and the report done, by the end of this year. Once we go through the process, if everything works as we hope it will – and nothing is certain with an EA – by January of next year we should have a site selected and the full EA process completed.”
“That then leaves 18 months for design and construction,” Kucharski said. “Design, bidding, and construction of the
facility in East Hawaii. And so that is the schedule.”
The larger environmental waste project looming over East Hawaii is the closure of the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill. On February 8, the final environmental assessment for the landfill closure was published. The document has come up with a Finding of No Significant Impact resulting from the project.