(BIVN) – The cost related to state and county support of the Thirty Meter Telescope continues to rise.
The $1.4 billion TMT is permitted to build on Maunakea but unable to access the mountain due to the opposition that has overwhelmed the ability of law enforcement to ensure access for construction crews.
$3.8 Million In State Costs
This week, the State Department of the Attorney General began providing a tally of the state costs related to the ongoing standoff on Maunakea.
According to the AG, state agencies have racked up roughly $3.8 million in expenses, including $1.4 million for the Hawaiʻi National Guard (up to Sept. 21), $1.2 million for the Attorney General (up to Sept. 6), $558k for the Department of Public Safety (up to Aug. 15), and $601k for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (up to Sept. 3).
County Costs Up To $4.4 Million
The ongoing costs of the TMT standoff were the topic of discussion at the Hawaiʻi County Council on October 1, when the Finance Department provided the updated numbers. The total for Hawaiʻi County thus far stands at $4,427,978. Most of it is for the Hawaiʻi County Police ($4,185,039).
“I’m wondering why there’s no process involved here,” said councilman Matt Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder, “where a resolution or any kind of legislation will happen before we incur the costs of this size.”
“At what point does a police department have to come before us to ask for a budget amendment to increase their their salaries, wages, and overtime?” Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder asked.
State Reimbursement Expected
Finance Director Deanna Sako said that so far, only the Fire Department has been reimbursed ($150,354) by the state.
“Have we yet received a signed and agreed on MOA [Memorandum Of Agreement] from the governor’s office?” asked councilman Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder.
“It’s actually with the [Attorney General’s] office,” replied Sako, “and I believe the AG’s office is reviewing it and had just some minor changes so I think we should be receiving that hopefully later this week.”
“There’s gotta be some point where we sign that MOA,” Hilo councilman Aaron Chung said. “I’m very uncomfortable about this arrangement.”
Sako said reimbursement for police would come as soon as the MOA is finalized.
“My understanding is we probably will not be reimbursed for the other departments,” said Sako, “only for police on fire.”
“Can we try?” asked councilwoman Sue Lee Loy.
“We can always try,” answered Sako.
“My Jedi Mind says we gonna try,” Lee Loy waved her hand.
Council Questions Agreement Between Maui, Hawaiʻi Police
During the October 1 council committee meeting, an “inter-departmental assignment agreement” between the Maui County and the Hawaiʻi County Police Departments on July 16, 2019, signed by both police chiefs, was produced for discussion. The document stated that Hawaiʻi County “shall ultimately be responsible for said costs and expenses should the State Attorney General’s Office fail to pay for and/or reimburse” Maui County.
“I’m not in any way implying that we should renege on any kind of agreement,” said councilman Chung, “but you know, by its own terms, it refers to Hawaii Revised Statutes section 78-27, so that’s the authority for this agreement. When I looked at 78-27, it does provide for interdepartmental agreements, but the employer – which when I look through the definitions that are applicable to this, says that it has to be by the mayors of the counties – I don’t see anything that authorizes the police chiefs to do that.”
Daniel K. Inouye Highway Traffic Enforcement Continues
Hawaiʻi Police “assigned to be in place for the TMT protestor blockade and encampment on Mauna Kea access road continued the stepped up traffic enforcement efforts” which began on August 15, and on October 3 police reported 4,092 citations have been issued and 43 persons arrested for 71 offenses during that time.
“Right now we’re enforcing a small section of highway with more officers than I have in my entire district,” commented Councilman Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder.
“Regardless of which side of the equation you are on this,” said councilman Chung, “I don’t think too many people are really happy with the police presence up there. They’re kind of wondering, what’s the reason?”
OHA Provides Under $40k For TMT Opposition
Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope have gotten some help from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs during the standoff.
In a September 26 expense summary provided by the OHA staff, the state agency says it has provided a total of $39,052 to help beneficiaries.
OHA takes a neutral position on TMT, but a recently adopted resolution justifies the expense by stating “… that the OHA Board of Trustees expressly authorizes the OHA Administration to advocate for the rights, safety, and well-being of OHA beneficiaries engaging in peaceful protests of the state’s decades-long pattern of mismanagement of Maunakea, perpetuating their constitutionally protected Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices, and exercising their constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech and assembly, including but not limited to: the negotiation of rules of engagement; the establishment and maintenance of pu‘uhonua or safe spaces; the observation and documentation of actions by law enforcement, government, university or community personnel; an assessment and provision of health, safety, and legal needs; and any other actions as may be reasonably necessary or appropriate…”
OHA has provided $28,772 to Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu, ost of which has gone to providing and servicing “restroom facilities” ($21,689), and also tent rental and lighting ($5,403) and dumpster removal and landfill disposal ($1,680).
OHA has also provided $2,246 for legal observers, and about $8k for staff and trustee site visit expenses.
OHA also provided staff hours for digital and social media efforts.