(BIVN) – It has been 43 days since the scheduled start of construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, and for 43 days the opposition to the TMT has prevented heavy machinery from reaching the project site. All the while, government costs continue to climb.
Recently, the Hawaiʻi County Finance Department released the tally for July: $3.2 million, mostly in police overtime, for the first 15 days responding to the conflict on Mauna Kea. The numbers were made public during a meeting of the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee in Kona.
Puna councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, who first requested the information from Mayor Harry Kim’s administration, talked about the rising costs on Friday, outside a Hilo courthouse where 9 kūpuna who were arrested on the Maunakea Access Road went before a judge.
“For me, its just a few more costs we have to keep track of at a County level,” said Kanealii-Kleinfelder. “Our prosecutors have to be a part of this as well. And I’ve been waiting for those costs because we haven’t had that department involved. So this will be their involvement starting from here.”
As far as the over $3 million spent in one month, the Puna councilman says “we cannot sustain that. Its just gonna get bigger. It may slow down in how much its growing, but its going to get bigger.”
“The budget is wide open as we just walked into the first of July, so there’s a lot of funds to be used and pulled from as we continue on the process,” Kanealii-Kleinfelder said.
“The state and the Attorney General have offered to reimburse us,” he added. “There is no memorialized agreement, as was brought to light in our last meeting of the council. We need to get reimbursed for all those costs.”
In an August 20 letter to the Hawaii County Council, Governor David Ige wrote “the State has agreed to reimburse HCPD for overtime costs related to this effort,” and will also be “paying for associated costs to deploy HCPD in furtherance of this objective, including food and water, equipment, portable waste facilities and solid waste collection.”
However, Governor Ige wrote that “the State will abide by this agreement to support HCPD’s enforcement efforts so long as HCPD remains committed to maintaining control of the pertinent roadways.”
“It was conditional,” Kanealii-Kleinfelder said, “only if the County continues to be present and continues its enforcement of the roads, then the reimbursement can happen. It really locks us in to being there. There’s not an option. But again, that was not a signed agreement between the County and the State. That was just a letter from the Governor.”
“We’re gonna keep asking questions,” said Kanealii-Kleinfelder, who added that he was happy to see a large crowd come down to the courthouse to support the kūpuna. “We need to be very careful how we are spending money. And we need to be very awake when it comes to how we treat our indigenous culture from this island.”