(BIVN) – As the standoff over the Thirty Meter Telescope approaches one month, state and county expenses are mounting. But only a fraction of the cost is known at this time.
During a recent Hawaiʻi County Council Fiance Committee meeting, it was revealed that the County of Hawaiʻi has already spent $236,000 in total labor costs related to Mauna Kea – just from July 1 to July 15. Total miscellaneous costs from July 1 to early August were $22,000, bringing the total to $258,000, officials said.
The numbers were noted by Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, one of the TMT opposition leaders, during a later news conference. “It’s been reported through the news outlets that the County of Hawaiʻi has spent $258,000 dollars on police officers to act as a private security group for these foreign corporations, and these private interests, that go against the will of the people,” Kanuha said.
“It is our taxpayers money that is going to this operation, and it’s important to note that these are only the numbers for Hawaiʻi Island,” Kanuha said. “And these are only the numbers from July 1st until July 15th. It’s also important to remember that all of the big actions that we’ve seen here on Mauna Kea have taken place after July 15th. The arrests of the 34, 35, 36 kūpuna; they weren’t made until July 17th. The SWAT team and all the Special Response Teams from the different islands, didn’t come in until July 17th. So those numbers are yet to be accounted for.”
The preliminary numbers provided by the Hawaiʻi County Finance Department did not include overtime. Those numbers will not be available until August 15, due to the way the costs are reported by the county.
“I’m guessing that our overtime amounts at 12-hour shifts it’s gonna be big,” commented councilmember Matt Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder, who requested the report during the August 6 committee meeting.
Kanuha said the government has “also yet to account for the numbers of the Maui Police Department as well as the Honolulu Police Department and all of their paddy wagons and all of the officers that have been flying in all of those special vehicles that are being shipped over. Those numbers … have yet to become public knowledge,” Kanuha said. “No matter where you stand on this issue this is something that we should all be concerned about.”
During the August 6 council committee meeting, Finance Director Deanna Sako assured the county that the state will be picking up all the costs related to the Mauna Kea situation.
Despite the ongoing government expenditure, law enforcement has been unable to clear a path on the Mauna Kea Access Road for TMT construction crews to ascend the mountain.
Kanuha, meanwhile, is directing attention towards another expense: TMT advertising.
“It’s also important to note that while we the people are left with the burden of covering these costs – that are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – TMT at this moment is going ahead and putting out there, hundreds of thousands of dollars in media campaigns; TV commercials and radio commercials,” Kanuha said. “So they’re not able to pay for their private security but they’re able to pay for all of the propaganda that goes out through the media, and the different media sources. And so we call upon our people and everybody in Hawaiʻi there should be a concern of all of ours.”
TMT uploaded one of the video messages to YouTube. It features Navigator Kalepa Baybayan, supporting a message of sharing Mauna Kea.